By Syd Field

Dell Publishing, ISBN 0-440-57647-4 - pub. date 1979, 1982

First off, let me say that not all writing books are for all writers, and this is one of those books that will only appeal to some. It is not, however, only appropriate for screenwriters and screenwriting hopefuls. I hold the firm opinion that the smart writer will look outside books aimed only at his specialty if he wants to learn - and if you want to write novels, and if you're having problems with plotting them, this book will give you superb tools you can use to plot your novel.

The key element in Screenplay that makes it such a terrific reference is what Field refers to as the paradigm. He can call it a paradigm. You can call it a plot diagram. Either way, if you follow his advice and create one, you'll find that all the stupid, trite, overused, predictable things you were putting into your novel and hating will fall away, leaving you with something that is fresh, and new, and surprising.

You'll need to do a bit of basic arithmetic to change the screenplay paradigm into a novel paradigm. Just remember that the average novel is between four and six-hundred pages in double-spaced typed manuscript form. Figure your plot points (you'll find out what they are in the book) to fit at the appropriate spots in a work of that length instead of in a work that can't go longer than one hundred twenty pages, and you'll be set.

Go ahead and read the whole book. The other sections are interesting, and the whole thing is entertaining and well written. However, the "screenplay paradigm" is a gem that is worth much more than the price of the book on its own - one that has helped me figure out where I was going wrong on two novels now, and that has helped me restructure them so that they worked to my satisfaction, and my publisher's. If the part of writing that drives you craziest is plotting, you owe yourself this book.

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