Screenwriting Tips, You Hack: 150 Practical Pointers for Becoming a Better Screenwriter

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Screenwriting Tip #99 Voice-over usually feels like scaffolding. You know – something you left in there when you were constructing the first draft, but really should have torn out after it served its purpose.

Screenwriting Tip #120 Always remember that funny trumps everything. Your script could be written in crayon with your name spelled wrong on the cover, but if it's genuinely funny, none of that matters.

Screenwriting Tip #156 The easiest way to write kick-ass protagonists is to make them incredibly good at what they do.

Confused at the outline stage? Stuck in the swamp of Act Two? Don't know who your protagonist is or where she's going?

You might feel like a hack. But don't worry – you're not alone. Even the most experienced writers feel like this at times. Sometimes we just need a few short pointers and reminders to set us on the path again.

Xander Bennett worked as a script reader in the trenches of Hollywood, reading and covering hundreds of mediocre screenplays. After months of reading about heroic Sea World trainers, transgendered circus detectives and crime-fighting chupacabras, he couldn't take it any more. Xander started a blog called 'Screenwriting Tips, You Hack', a place designed to provide short, witty tips on screenwriting for amateur writers all the way up to journeymen scribes.

This book is the evolution of that blog. Dozens of the best tips (along with many brand-new ones) have been expanded into bite-sized chapters full of funny, insightful, highly-usable advice. Let Xander's pain be your gain as you learn about the differences between film and television structure, how to force yourself to write when you really don't want to, and why you probably shouldn't base your first spec script around an alien invasion.
Get valuable advice from inside the system, written by a former script reader. Go step-by-step through the entire process of writing a screenplay, from concept to first draft to polish to marketing your script. Expanded tips offer real examples of what works and what doesn't, written in a witty and conversational voice.Advice for all levels of screenwriter, from absolute novice to seasoned spec writer.A focus on Hollywood film, while also featuring extra advice for television and writers outside the US.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 1 edition (September 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0240818245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240818245
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.5 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces

Customer Reviews


 on July 4, 2013
By Pepp Erfield
I am not a professional screenwriter, just one who wants to give it a try. Reading these tips may sound too obvious for the “masters” of screenwriting but yet they are the minimum tasks or advices to follow to get your screenplay written properly. Good for starters.

Honestly, very useful!

 on June 29, 2014
By Mimi
Are you working on a screenplay or a novel, right now? Then you will find this useful. It’s not high-flown theory. This witty (sometimes snarky) book is a collection of 150 truly useful tips. (I suggest reading in brainstorming mode….Whenever something in Xander’s text triggers a good idea in you, go write it down.)

Hark all ye Hacks

 on October 15, 2013
By cynosurer/Tim Lane
Some great tips. Some are duh moments but duh moments we are often guilty of. Those little ‘kicks in the pants’ helps. Then there a those things that are perfectly acceptable in other writing forms but are screenwriting fails. Nice little ‘heads up’ all round. Enjoyable read even if you never plan to write a screenplay.

one of the two books you’ll need to write good words.

 on December 7, 2012
By Michael
The other one is Writing Movies for Fun and Profit by Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant. Both riddled with good advice that isn’t smothered in McKee flavored gravy and sprinkled with Save the Cat. ( I actually like the cat book)

awesome, but not as an ebook i guess

 on December 27, 2012
By June Amarillo
i got this on my ipad

One of the Best screenwriting books out there!!!!

 on June 1, 2013
By A. Crites
Xander Bennett is honest, and approachable and clearly interested in providing useful information to interested writers.. His advise is to the point and has helped me navigate my way to a complete first draft. Thank You, Xander!!!

Five Stars

 on October 5, 2015
By Christopher Valle
Such a helpful book

Good extension of the blog

6 people found this helpful.
 on November 19, 2011
By Jonathon D. Burns
Want to be a screenwriter? Yeah? Have you sold anything yet? Yes? No? Regardless, you’re a hack. Just ask Xander Bennett, author of one of my favorite blogs, Screenwriting Tips You Hack (yes the book and the blog share the same name). I’ve been reading Xander’s blog for about a year now and it’s by far one of my favorite blogs (ranking up there with Scriptshadow). Each day Xander posts a new tip. They’re usually only a few sentences long, but they’re quite useful, such as, “`Wise beyond his years’ is a character description cliché – and not a very useful or informative one.” Xander is able to infuse humor into his short tips, and reading his blog may quickly deflate the ego of any amateur writer before proceeding to provide practical advice.

outstanding reference book for screenwriters

 on December 21, 2011
By Robin Landry
Xander Bennett’s book Screenwriting tips, you hack, is just what a screenwriter needs when they’re first starting out. One of Bennett’s tips is, to read at least 10 scripts. I wonder how many people decide to sit down to write a screenplay when they’ve never really read one. That would be as crazy as trying to write a novel when you’ve never read one. Bennett points out that there are a lot of scripts you can find online to read.

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