The Perfect Screenplay:
Writing It and Selling It
By Katherine Atwell Herbert
215 pages, $16.95
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Review by Patricia Fry
Veteran script analyst and writer, Katherine Atwell Herbert wrote this book for the aspiring as well as the experienced screenwriter who dreams of making it in Hollywood. Perhaps you know Herbert by her other books: "Writing Scripts Hollywood Will Love" and "Selling Scripts to Hollywood." Surely, you’re familiar with some of her work for "Trial by Jury," "Murder She Wrote" and "Quantum Leap."
Herbert writes that she has good news and bad news for scriptwriters. The good news is that there are plenty of agencies and companies seeking good scripts. The bad news—the competition is stiff. But all is not lost. This book shows you the way to writing and marketing success. You will learn how show biz works, why it’s important to understand the business of screenwriting, how to handle the competition, where to find an agent and the importance of networking. I like Herbert’s style, and her sense of humor is evident in some of her clever chapter titles. For example, "Before you type FADE IN, This May Interest You," "Stop Going to the Refrigerator and Start Writing" and "Is it a Screenplay if No One Sees It but You?"
Readers will find Chapter Four particularly interesting as Herbert lets Georges Polti, Lajos Egri, Joseph Campbell and Artistotle speak to you on the subjects of developing your premise, creating the structure for your screenplay, story-building and moving from premise to screenplay. Herbert also helps new writers to establish a story that makes sense and that is believable. She shows you how to move a story forward and she suggests visualization as a means to create a script that actually works. As she points out, books are for reading, scripts are eventually viewed.
Have you ever wondered how to format a screenplay or a script for TV? Not only does Herbert describe each part of the script and what it should include, she illustrates the format for a feature film and a sitcom, for example.
Do you need some additional schooling? Would you like to join a group or enter a contest? What steps must you take in order to locate and land an agent? You’ll find the answers in "The Perfect Screenplay: Writing It and Selling It." From how to develop characters to how and when to write a treatment—it’s all in this book.
I found this book to be well-organized and easy reading. It’s divided into four basic sections; "The Introduction" (your life as a writer), "About Writing That Script," "Looking Like a Pro" and "Destination Hollywood." It is loaded with information, examples and resources. In my opinion, if you are an emerging scriptwriter, a struggling screenwriter or you would like to try your hand at this craft, this book could make the difference between the success and failure of your project.
In her "Epilogue," Herbert states, "Becoming a screenwriter is an exciting adventure in the truest sense of the word. Like an explorer in the jungle, undertaking such a career requires skill, talent, courage and perseverance. Like an explorer, you have to blaze your own trail, you live with little safety, and you will make wonderful discoveries." I recommend letting Herbert’s book guide you through the process.