TURN & BURN Book Review

I review books sparingly on this site and only started doing so at all about a year ago. Reading carefully through hundreds of pages is a big time commitment that often takes weeks after I initially receive the review copy (as opposed to the avg. 90 min feature films I usually review). While all of these books have dealt with film history in some manner, this week’s page-turner presented itself as a screenwriter’s self-help volume, the kind you might find from Syd Field or Michael Hauge. But while CJ Walley does indeed tackle the mechanics of storytelling in screenplay form in Turn & Burn: The Scriptwriter’s Guide to Writing Better Screenplays Faster, he also delves into the pitfalls many budding screenwrights fall into trying to make it into an often cutthroat industry and how to rise above them.

Walley isn’t particularly famous, with a handful of credited short films and three feature films to his name, but he’s not a forum troll wannabe preying on the anxiety of aspiring screenwriters either. The advice he dispenses, including the titular “Turn & Burn” approach to story structure (Yearn, Turn, Burn, Earn, Learn) is borne from literal years of getting it wrong and making nearly every mistake in the book. And they literally are in the book as every chapter documents Walley’s mistakes in areas of concept building, crafting characters and launching his career.

You won’t find much on formatting or any technical matters really because the author places relatively little importance on them. What’s emphasized is the importance of the writer letting their enthusiasm and love for the craft of writing show through their work. Walley himself admits to being dyslexic and is very open with the struggles he had to face, going into some quite dark places in the book’s latter half; an uncommon occurrence in a genre where authors tend to present themselves as all-knowing gurus.

While I don’t intend to aim for a screenwriting career like most of the book’s intended audience (my passion is Film Editing when not sharing my thoughts on film with you fine folks), Walley has crafted an invaluable and uplifting book that can serve anyone pursuing a creative career. The film industry often takes a tad too much pleasure in pushing the idea that you must absolutely suffer to produce any meaningful art and considering the happiness Walley claims to have found as a professional screenwriter, dispelling this myth is worth giving this book a read.




Turn & Burn is published by Bennion Kearny and is now available from all major booksellers

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