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07/29/2008 - BOOK REVIEW: YOUR SCREENPLAY SUCKS ? 100 ways to Make it Great
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"BOOK REVIEW: YOUR SCREENPLAY SUCKS - 100 ways to Make it Great"
Author: Will Akers
Book Review by Matthew Terry
Published by: Michael Wiese Productions
ISBN: 9781932907452

Okay, I'm starting this review to note that I'm jealous. Why? I could have written this book but, sadly, I didn't. For the sake of screenwriters out there, though, I'm glad SOMEONE did. It's about time.
In all my years of teaching screenwriting and reading and critiquing scripts I've come across all the items that Mr. Akers talks about in this book and then some. I'm extremely happy that it is all right there, in print.
How does the book help? Well, it lays it all right out there for you. Basic. To the point. Mr. Akers takes you from the idea stage to the "Hollywood is going to LOVE ME" stage in 100 easy steps. Okay, maybe "easy" isn't the best word. Anything worth working on, and working towards, isn't usually easy and that is one of the reasons why this book works so well. It's not a quick fix to screenwriting but a process: a well defined deconstruction of the process.
Every quarter I get a writer in my class who assumes that screenwriting is "easy." Sure it's not writing "War and Peace" but it's also not "easy." But in the 8 sessions of my class - it's difficult to define what makes screenwriting so difficult. What I like about Mr. Akers book so much is that he takes the difficult and gives you ideas on how to make it easy. When I critique screenplays I always hope that I will provide the writer with a: "Ooooh, THAT'S what you're talking about!" moment. Mr. Akers' book is full of them.
Another reason why I like this book so much is that Mr. Akers is honest with the reader. Especially in the section about Hollywood. Every quarter I struggle mightily against what I refer to as the "Lotto Mentality" when it comes to screenwriting. Those in the class who think that all they need to do is churn out that script about their mother's hysterectomy and Hollywood will come calling and money will fall like manna from heaven. Honesty is a good thing, especially when you are starting out - and too often there are too many books that just say what they think the reader wants to hear.
As for my issues with the book... Well, there are a few things that Mr. Akers did not touch on that I think are very important and I'll send those to him for the hoped for sequel to the book. Plus I would have loved more examples of what he was talking about and referring to. And, lastly, it would have been nice to have some sort of "coding" system as to what is EXTREMELY important and what is only VERY important. Certainly all 100 of these references are important but I think there were probably some that rise to a different level. Trust me, if you have typos and bad structure - just toss your script into a shredder now because it's not going to go anywhere. Where as, yeah having two characters named Jim and Tim isn't ideal and it MAY get your script tossed - it won't be tossed as quickly if you've misspelled ten words on the first page of your script.
Bottom line: Will Akers takes a straight-forward no-nonsense approach to the process of writing and fixing your screenplay. He cuts through the crap and gets right to the heart of what is wrong and simply tells you how to fix it. Fantastic book.

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