Most helpful critical review
Good, could be better.
on February 3, 2004
I think I might have thought more highly of this book if I hadn't tackled it right after I read "How Not to Write a Screenplay" by Denny Martin Flinn. Flinn's guide to the most common pitfalls in screenwriting is a wonderfully funny and instructive text that every writer should own. This book, while containing some helpful nuggets, offers a lot of advice that directly contradicts Flinn's. While Ms. Lerch obviously has no obligation to align herself with Flinn's advice, her comments often seemed counter-intuitive to me. Whereas Flinn instructs us to be as clear and succinct as possible, shaving away all unnecessary and confusing descriptions (i.e., don't write what the audience can't see), Lerch would have us add all sorts of superfluous character and location description, in the hopes of catching the eye of an already-exhausted Hollywood script reader.
I just have a hard time believing that this approach would really work. I've studied screenwriting with some of the best teachers in the business, and I've got to say that their tips generally fall into the "less is more" camp.
Having said that, the book is a quick, easy read, and there are many tidbits which do make sense, especially about ratcheting up the conflict in your script. By no means, however, should this be the only book on screenwriting you buy, but it can serve as a light after-dinner mint following a hearty meal of "How Not to Write A Screenplay."