The Ultimate Screenwriting Resources Page
The purpose of this page is to:
- Help you save time and money
- Invest in the right resources the first time
- Help you look and act like a pro
This is especially important in Hollywood where people make snap decisions about whether they want to work with you (or not) based on whether it seems like you are organized, efficient, and put together – it needs to be clear that you “get it.”
*Note: 1) Some of the products I recommend have affiliate links. That means that at no cost to you, if you click a link and make a purchase, I get a small commission. 2) I update this page when I find new, excellent products and services to recommend.
How Do I Choose Products To Recommend?
The variables I look at include: what I use, what pro screenwriters I know use, price, and the number and quality of the reviews.
However, as you know, quantities can run out, manufacturing processes change, and companies competing for our business develop better products.
So, if you find a superior product in any category, please let me know so I can consider including your recommendation on this list. We want to reward the companies who best serve our needs.
Also, to some of you, it may seem like I’m advocating conformity, but really I’m just trying to protect your time, money, and reputation.
Especially if you don’t live in LA and aren’t able to see what everyone else is wearing and doing, it can be hard to get a grip on the basic resources that are in common use.
So, keep your own style, follow your own instincts, and if you get one good idea from this page, that can make more of a difference than you realize.
Things You Don’t Need
Just as important as a list of things that you do need is a list of things that you will want to avoid.
I’m not going to put any links here because there are so many products in this “don’t buy” category and it doesn’t seem fair to single particular products or manufacturers out.
That said, there are two categories of things not to buy:
Anything That Literally Says “Writer”
Maybe it was a gift from from your beloved and well-intentioned Aunt Rose, maybe it’s just your sense of humor, but I don’t recommend wearing hats that say “writer” or pens that say “I’m a writer” or t-shirts with “writer” on them… in public.
Basically, it reads as trying too hard.
Here’s the thing to understand: you don’t need everyone to know you’re a writer.
You need other writers and people in the business to recognize you as an insider – and the way you communicate that is by using the subtle signals of the equipment and other resources on this list.
Not by plastering “writer” all over yourself.
Special boxes, covers, and gimmicky wrapping makes it seem like your script is not good enough. Again, it reads as trying too hard.
Quick story on this: I was at a party thrown by a well-known screenwriter, and a guest took him aside and gave him a large, elegant box – the kind of box you’d get a present in. Inside the box, the guest said, was a script and a bottle of wine carefully chosen by the guest to accentuate the script-reading experience.
The host thanked him, said he’d need to get this back to his office right away, and as he walked by I watched him stop by the kitchen, take the bottle of wine out of the box, put it on the counter, then toss the script (with a lovely cover on it) into the garbage.
Just use the standard mailers I recommend, and let the script speak for itself. This gives your script the best chance to end up in the “to read” pile rather than the slush pile.
Scripts are often emailed, but some people prefer to have a hard copy because it’s easier to read. Three-hole paper saves you the trouble of manually hole-punching and just looks cleaner and better.
Brads and Washers
Brads, aka “fasteners,” are used with washers to bind scripts. I prefer the solid brass version and if you only buy one size, get the 1” for TV, and 1.5” for features. Also, always use two brads – never three. Why? I don’t know. It’s just the Hollywood way.
Writers can be particular about pen brands, color, point size, and I’m no exception. I favor the Pilot G2 line which I’ll recommend below, but if you want to level up your pen game, check out The Pen Addict’s recommendations (https://www.penaddict.com/top-5-pens/).
PS. If there is one group of people who should always have a pen, it’s writers. It’s my rule to never have to ask someone for a pen, and further, to have a decent pen at the ready in case someone else needs one. It’s an easy way to make a friend and look like a pro.
When you print out a script for yourself, mark the script title on the binding like it’s a book. That way, you can arrange your scripts with only the binding showing and be able to find things quickly – that’s how the pros do it.
Cork boards and white boards help you visualize your screenplay. For more on this approach, see Save the Cat, chapter 5.
I favor the corkboard approach, but regardless, I recommend getting the largest size your space will take. As seen in this article, the wunderkinds at Pixar use storyboarding as part of their process. Here’s an example of the writer’s room at Community and their plethora of whiteboards.
I recommend having a quality pocket notebook and/or a quality full-size notebook in your bag. Top brands I recommend are Moleskine, Rhodia, and Whitelines, but the Amazon Basics and Mead Cambridge lines are solid as well. I favor hard covers when possible.
The computer is the screenwriter’s primary tool and I recommend protecting yours. I use this case because it has a more rigid exterior and a clamshell design that lets me use my laptop inside the case.
When I’m on the road, I keep one of these in my bag so I don’t run out of power even if all the outlets at the airport or Starbucks are taken.
Spills, theft, power surges, drive failure, and just plain old user error – you can lose your work in a lot of ways. So, instead of losing months (possibly years) or work, as a minimum level of protection, I highly recommend using a 2-part backup system.
First, I recommend that you store your writing in Google Drive. This gives you 30 days of “versioning,” meaning that every time you save, Google Drive stores a copy. This alone has saved me more times than I can count.
Second, get and use a backup drive. I like this drive from SanDisk because it has such a slim profile, it can just live in the USB port of your laptop and still fit inside your case. That way when you travel, even if you don’t have an internet connection, you still have a backup.
This is more for the advanced writer who could be pumping out new pages while on location. If you need this functionality, I recommend arriving with your own equipment that you’ve tested and know works.
Thank You Notes
Part of a screenwriter’s job is to foster connections and establish personal relationships.
One easy way to do that is to send thank you notes. In an age of digital communications in which emails can get overlooked or deleted, a small thank you note can go a long way in terms of making you stand out.
Typically, pros in Hollywood do not use business cards because they don’t need to – anyone who wants to reach them just contacts them through their representative. However, for emerging writers, a business card can be handy to make it easier for someone you meet to remember you and get in touch.
I recommend using Vistaprint’s Economy Business Cards and keeping your card simple with just your name, phone, and email.
Baby Naming Book, by Linda Rosenkrantz
Just about anything can be looked up online, but for names, I know many writers who like to leaf through a book and see what strikes them. This one is a classic.
Creative Whack Pack, by Roger Von Oech
In the event that you hit writer’s block, try this:
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, by Geoffrey O Brien
Though you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a book of quotations and Sorkinisms from President Bartlett of The West Wing, the 18th Edition of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations contains famous quotations from an endless variety of luminaries ranging from the ancient Egyptians to Thomas Jefferson to David Foster Wallace.
What Hollywood Is Really Like Books
Breaking Into Hollywood Books
If you want help, there’s someone in particular I recommend:
Ryan is a professional screenwriter with projects in development for Disney, Amazon, and Universal. Previously he managed the screenplay development company ScriptShark, provided feedback on thousands of scripts, and coached many beginning and professional writers.
Ryan uses the Good in a Room system for writing, networking, and pitching – so if you’ve already taken (or are planning to take) one or more of my courses, you and he will share the same strategic approach.
I’ve known Ryan for over 15 years. He’s a terrific writer and an amazing writing coach.
If you’re interested in working with Ryan, he’s offering a limited number of free 15-minute conversations to see if you and he are a good fit.