Screenwriting…advice from Joe Eszterhas.

Having read ‘The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood” by Joe Eszterhas [Basic Instinct, Jagged Edge, Betrayed, Flashdance], I posed this question to writers a while back, and got some interesting and varied comments. Some agreed, some didn’t.

Joe’s advice is to see good movies, but not too many movies. He writes that knowing too much about movies can clutter up your brain, and can be hazardous to your creativity.

“It’s okay to see movies, but it’s not okay to get caught up in movie trivia if you want to write good screenplays – that is, to become a film geek…”

He also writes that you should keep your writing to yourself, and not to expend the energy you’ll need to write by talking your story instead..

“I’ve come to the conclusion that your characters get angry at you if you speak about them…and stop you from giving birth to them on the page in revenge.”


“Put that energy into learning about real life and the loves, hopes, aspirations, guilts, failures and dreams of the human beings around you.”

Can’t argue with that last sentiment…any thoughts on the rest of it?

Interestingly, check out this piece written by Vasco Phillip de Sousa: Do script gurus hold the secret to making great screenplays:

On Writing: My Top Ten Tenets

I first posted these in 2010. They originally applied to screenwriting, but actually, they are useful for any kind of writing…

1.Do watch movies, but be selective, writing time is precious. Don’t waste time and money on crap!

2.Read as many scripts as you can, but read good novels too. Soak up the words and the craft of story.

3.Do pitch your ideas to trusted friends and writer colleagues, you’ll see the light in their eyes when you’re onto a good thing, and if not, get back to work on it!

4.Welcome all the criticism, even the most negative. I invariably respond with either of these two thought processes; WTF are you talking about? (after which I can usually justify my argument)  – OR – I take that point (after which, I have usually learned something).

5.Be interested in the experiences of other writers, you can learn from their accomplishments, and from their failures.

6.You will be disappointed by rejection. Use it to spur you on to do better. Hold onto your passion and don’t let the cynicism take hold, it will creep into your work.

7.Write what you know, know what you write. In other words, do the research!

8.Get comfortable with the alone time you need for your writing. It’s okay to be Billy / Minnie No Mates sometimes!

9.There are only so many books, courses and masterclasses you can read/ attend. Learn from the best of them and move on. Get down to the actual storytelling.

10. You are unique, so don’t try to emulate other writers. Find your own style.

Happy Writing!

Image Quote sourced from Facebook. Author unknown.