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.
--Xander Bennett, is a screenwriter and has been a Hollywood script reader. Frustrated by the quality of the screenplays he was reading as a script reader, he started his blog, "Screenwriting Tips…You Hack," as a snarky diatribe. The blog now delivers a tip per day and is the home of the online script reading service, Hack Notes. Bennett has written for television, videogames, role-playing games, and comics, and is the author of a 2008 graphic novel.
Aspiring and working screenwriters
Screenwriting Tip #99
- Get tips from a script reader from the trenches who can clue you into how to keep your first audience interested
- Easily digest chunks of wisdom sugar-coated with humor in short tips
- Expanded tips offer examples of what works and what doesn't, and walk you through the process of writing a screenplay
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 scripts (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.
"Bennett's pointers cover all aspects of the writing process, beginning with the mental preparation necessary before you ever put pen to paper, or, fingers to keyboard. He then leads us through the full arc of drafting, revising, polishing, and ultimately pitching and selling your screenplay. Like most screenwriters, Bennett is well-versed in pop culture, and his movie references are a geek's delight...Unless of course, you're too much of a geek, and you notice that his reference to Rocky III teaching us that there's no easy way out actually refers to Rocky IV. Hair-splitting aside, Bennett's easy-to-apply screenwriting tips can only improve your writing."--MoviePie
"I've never written a screenplay, but I still believe that Xander Bennett's Screenwriting Tips, You Hack, has made me a better writer. I'm not being facetious here; Bennett's book has given me a much better appreciation for techniques of screenwriting and helped me ask questions about how I write my still-non-screenplay work."--review on DGSwartz.com
"Screenwriting Tips, You Hack elaborates upon close to 200 tips from the popular micro-blog that's now under the umbrella of The Black List. These great tips are compiled into helpful chapters on outlining, characters, ideas, rewriting, etc., which makes the book great for referencing when you've hit a particular roadblock in your writing. It also features a ton of helpful real-life examples, from Top Gun and Forrest Gump to Groundhog Day and Breaking Bad. Bennett's experience as a reader definitely informs his effective prose, but the book is filled with suggestions as opposed to complaints. Screenwriting Tips, You Hack is definitely a book that can help you think about your script in a new way - or help you get started on your first script!"--AspiringTVWriter.blogspot
"The book is an informative and easy read, but what makes it special is that it appears that every point that can be thought of was thought of and presented. Not only is the advice given sound, there is also support of each point. The way it was written was part of its charm. I found it very amusing and I can honestly say that I learned a few things that I will employ in my future screenplays. If you are a screenwriter, this book is a useful tool with advice that you can take and see how it applies to you and how you write and produce. If you are not a screenwriter, you can learn a great deal about the field and learn a lot about the process. I highly recommend this book."--Newzbreaker.com
"At the top of the top, I found Screenwriting Tips, You Hack; A snarky, witty, to-the-point tip-of-theday written by Xander Bennett. If you're not familiar with Xander and his daily dose of screenwriting gold, you've been missing some of the simplest screenwriting instruction that the internet has to offer. There are some fantastic long form blogs that go into the weeds of writing or pull back the curtain on the process or chronicle the journey of a struggling writer - and I love all of these and still read them - but what I've really grown to appreciate about Screenwriting Tips is that it is short and to the point. In one sentence Xander can highlight a common mistake, provide and example and offer a solution. That's not easy to do. That's why his blog is a must read."--SteamMyScript.com
"Just got my complimentary copy in the mail. Great book. I'd say that even if I hadn't gotten mine for free. Screenwriting Tips, You Hack. 150 Practical Pointers For Becoming A Better Screenwriter by Xander Bennett. It's a VERY useful book. Not as useful as mine, of course, but damn close. Plus, it has an index, which mine does not! He was a reader in Hollywood for a good while. Long enough to know the ins and outs of the business, not long enough to go insane. I am requiring the book for my screenwriting students, and that is a VERY short list."-YourScreenplaySucks.wordpress.com
"Are you a screenwriter looking for a magic 8 ball of insider tips and tricks of the trade? Do you feel like a hack? Then you should check out Xander Bennett's hilariously insightful Screenwriting Tips... You Hack: 150 Practical Pointers for Becoming a Better Screenwriter. The book, an evolution of Bennett's infamous screenwriting tips blog, offers tweet-sized tidbits of priceless writing advice for writers at any stage in their career or writing process. "--TribecaFilm.com
Introduction; The Basics: Before You Put Digits to Keyboard; Structure: Learn the Rules or Get Off the Field; Grammar and Word Choice: Saying What You Mean; Your Protagonist: The Most Interesting Girl in the Room; Other Characters: Sidekicks, Sock Puppets and Straw Men; Rewriting: Why You Shouldn't Number Your Drafts; Common Mistakes: Don't Be That Guy; Productivity: Writing Equals Ass On Chair (So Buy a Decent Chair); Personalization: Write In Your Unique Voice, Unless Your Unique Voice Is Creepy; Extremely Specific Mistakes: Hey You! Yes, You; And The Rest: Loglines, Queries and Managers; Afterword: Why We Write