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4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on February 8, 2015
I tend to recommend this book to aspiring script writers. To me, this is a book that humorously delves into what mistakes to avoid and how to better approach writing characters and dialogue to make scenes more memorable.

Denny Martin Flinn is one who has read many screenplays and analyzed carefully what works and what does not. He is also the co-writer of the film Star Trek 6: The Undiscovered Country.

Of course there are books like "Story" by Robert McKee that many scriptwriters swear by, but I thoroughly enjoyed "How Not To Write A Screenplay" and was greatly appreciate its insights and advice.
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on January 13, 2009
My rating parameter is not based on comparison to other books, but to how much I personally enjoyed this one, and what I got out of it. I read this entire book through in one sitting, staying up until 3am, with a smile on my face the whole time.

The author is making an argument for READABILITY. The bulk of that theme is taken up by technical details in formatting. The rest is how to tell a great story.

Basically Martin Flinn is telling you how to get your script into the right hands by making as few mistakes as possible in its readability. Many aspiring screewriters fail to appreciate that the producers, directors and actors they are hoping to impress will not even be aware of their script until it has passed through many sets of eyes first. The first readers are people who do nothing but read screenplays all day, so you don't want a bunch of technical mistakes getting in the way of your story.
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on October 9, 2006
I found the technical merits of this book with regards to format and basic "dos" and "donts" to be very helpful. I am currently working with a mentor to polish off my screenplay and this book became one of my main resources.

As the author of five novels, it was difficult to cut down on my literary fiction. I had many questions regarding how to handle certain formats ie. timelines and plot points, without sacrificing story, that this book helped me out.

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on July 5, 2004
Well, just reading the first few pages was even very helpful, let alone the whole book! I have read some books that have a few helpful things in them, but that's the problem, "a few". This book is filled with stuff that you should NOT do. He tells you so much and it is very easy to read and has many illistrations from other famous screenplays. It will help you to write the right way and also gives you different ways to do it. This book is not a "should have", it's a "must have".
As I said it is very easy to read and very helpful. You shouldn't have problem reading unless per se, you are from Rotchester, NY or some place that has problems reading past the 3rd grade.
Basically, it's a great book and you have to read it.
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on April 28, 2004
This book is one of few I've read about screenwriting that isn't bogged down with a premium on overbearing structure. It simply suggests that, if we all are storytellers, one of the most valuable lessons one can learn is to tell YOUR story YOUR way and to omit elements you disliked in other stories you've read, seen or heard in the past. The book validates many of the triumphs you might have made in your own work while making clear (OK, sometimes ridiculing) areas where you may have missed the mark. While I would definitely call this book humorously sarcastic, I didn't find it cynical at all. I've given the book as gifts to many friends.
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on February 8, 2004
Until I read this book, I wasn't even sure I knew what I was doing when I wrote screenplays. This book made me realize just exactly what I was doing right and wrong, so my confidence in my own writing sky-rocketed! I would suggest reading The Screenwriter's Bible first, then this book. In addition, I suggest reading any script written by James Cameron and John Hughes. Flinn gives you a thorough understanding of all the "do's" and "don'ts" which no one else quite does. It's very helpful to know what not to do and what to do instead.
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on December 8, 2003
There are a great many screenwriting books out there but I found this one to be the most practical. If you want to get your script read and to move on past the readers at a production company this book gives you the tools to accomplish that. I found much of what is in this book to be invaluable. The writing is funny and the examples he gives only made my writing better. It is a very helpful book and I keep returning to it as I write. I am truly glad I found this book.
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on November 20, 2003
Compared to other screenwriting books I have read, this is decent, but falls short in two important respects.
First, the cynical attitude is no doubt honestly acquired, but the book makes for a very bad read for someone who is still struggling with their screenplay. The best how-to books both explain and inspire, this does not.
Second, the liberal use of actual (or slightly altered) bad screenplays (sometimes multiple pages of unbroken screenplay examples) make for (often) difficult (if not confusing) reading of the (sometimes) useful prose. The book feels like 1/3 advice, 2/3 filler. Some of the examples are needed to display the problem being discussed, most are either a trivia contest (how quickly can you spot which movie the example is from?) or dreck which adds nothing to the explanation given.
I recommend that you read the book, or something like it, before you send your screenplay out into the world. There is good advice here for rewriting, format and polishing. However, I recommend that you read THIS book only after you've written your screenplay, unless you're looking for an excuse to quit.
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on September 10, 2003
I'm another one of those people who has read dozens of books on screenwriting, still hoping to find whatever new information that hasn't already been covered twenty times before. Flinn's book is the real deal. Not only does he present information not covered in most other books, but he does so with the straightforwardness of a good friend and the expertise of a polished industry veteran. He even covers a pet peeve of mine in this kind of book: If this author knows so much about writing, why have I *never* seen a movie that he/she has written?
(I mean, come on... name one movie you've ever seen written by Syd Field.) Flinn makes it clear his experience lies in a background even more unsung and mysterious to writers, that of a studio reader. If ever the phrase "know your enemy" was more apt....
Proving that he can practice what he preaches, the author gives us a good read; smooth and descriptive from start to finish. You'll go through it as though the pages were greased. (Heck, I work five days a week and four nights a week, and I still sped through all 200+ pages in about 4 days, despite my schedule.)
Ultimately, If I were asked to suggest to an aspiring screenwriter only three things to read, they would have to be:
1) "The Screenwriter's Bible" by David Trottier,
2) Any script written by James Cameron,
3) "How Not To Write A Screenplay" by Denny Martin Flinn.
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on August 5, 2003
Haven't actually read the whole thing yet. But I did skim through it, and it doesn't look bad. It's actually pretty easy to grasp. By the way, he wrote Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country so if you liked that movie, you'll probably like this book. He wrote this book based on his expereinces as a script reader.
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