When I first started writing, the only source of help I had was a father who majored in English, a teacher that lived in the city and got me a book about the craft, and a subscription to Writer's Digest. Twenty years later, things are bit different and not necessarily in a good way. The internet has put a lifetime's worth of reference materials at our fingertips but hasn't provided much in the way of a rating system so we know who to listen to and who to ignore.
This is where I thank you for choosing to listen to me as I list the "5 Best Blogs for Beginning Screenwriters" on today's Tools of the Trade.
1. The Blackboard. Okay, the blog is actually Go Into The Story, but The Blackboard is the community behind it and this one - two punch makes this the standout resource for writers of all skill levels. The blog is about film, the community is about writing with a heavy emphasis on film and tv but I have found the tips and exercises very helpful for general fiction. There are threads covering every topic imaginable and the participants are extremely helpful. (Often contains mild profanity.)
2. Script Magazine. The digital-only magazine dedicated to writing for, and breaking into, the film business. It's the Writer's Digest of the movies and I have it delievered directly to my inbox. The posts are all very positive and encouraging, even when they tell you the odds are completely against you and you'll probably fail, it's written with a tone that makes you think you are the exception - the one who will make it. I especially like that they have regular columns written by industry professionals. It's a magazine, it's a blog, it's solid foundational knowledge. (Rare use of profanity.)
3. The Publication Coach. I started reading Daphne Gray-Grant's blog about the time I started writing my blog. It's short, informative, and covers a wide array of subject matter but all of it relating to writing or being and interesting writer. I don't always find every post relevant, but the blog is so good I check in every day anyway - even though it has nothing to do with screenwriting. In the interest of full disclosure, there was a recent post about me - but that came about only because I was already a fan. (No objectionable content.)
4. Doug Richardson's Blog. Doug is a great story teller. He puts you right there. I read this blog as much to absorb his grasp of style and pacing as to learn about his escapades in Hollywood. But the stories are really very good and you feel like you are right in the mix with studio bosses, agents, hangers on, and even Sean Connery. I like that Doug came from the outside and broke in. I like that he shares his experiences in such an entertaining way. He never tells you how to write, never tells you that "you can do it, just work hard." Instead, he writes like you're a pal, an equal, and so you are left feeling that he knows you are going to make it - no need to talk about it. (Most posts contain some mild profanity. Occasionally uses of stronger profanity.)
5. Bamboo Killers - the blog of Emily Blake. Emily has done script notes for me. She's a straight to the point, no holds barred critic of everything and that was exactly what I wanted. She isn't cruel, but she doesn't sugar coat anything. Her blog is just like that - "Here's the way it is. Either do it or go home." She was an English teacher in the darker places of LA before breaking in. Her story is inspiring and while she takes a lot of heat for being "negative", her pragmatic view of the industry is refreshing and important grounding. Too much negative is bad, but if you don't have a "voice of reason" then you won't be prepared for the rejections when they come. She wants you to succeed, but not to waste anybody's time. This blog was on hiatus for several months but now she is posting new content again each week. The archives are a treasure trove of information about the experience of breaking in. (Frequent use of strong profanity.)
There are some other great blogs out there - you'll find a list of additional blogs at each of the sites above - but these are the best place to start for a new screenwriter who doesn't want to be led astray.