find Arkangel Shakespeare mp3s through a library or file share, while grocery shopping or walking your dog listen for story arcs, character development, dialogue by the greatest storyteller in any language
skim "how to write a screenplay" nonsense for a few minutes in a bookstore; after reading a few screenplays you'll learn as much about formatting as you need to know
focus upon Art
proper format is only as necessary as punctuation and grammar has been in this comment - your readers will love your story whether you follow formal standards or
if you misuse EXT./INT ...don't use -- DAY --NIGHT ...not a big deal
if you are unfamiliar with Shakespeare, you --> : (
All of the blue books by Bill Martell. For a long time they were out of print and passed around in Hollywood as haggard photocopies. Originals would go for over $100 on ebay. But now he's released them as ebooks on Amazon, and they are about as good a masterclass as you'll get. My favorite is SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING ($9.99 on Amazon), but his smaller ones like VISUAL STORYTELLING and DIALOGUE SECRETS ($2.99 each) are just as useful.
I also 2nd Alex Epstein's Crafty Screenwriting, and recommend Alternative Screenwriting by Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush as a antidote to STC, for when the training wheels are ready to come off.
Save the Cat is only the first book a new screenwriter should read (not the "only" one as its marketing suggests). It's training wheels. When you write 10 screenplays and have read 30 or so you realise that although little is actually wrong or inaccurate with STC, it barely scratches the surface of writing, and its "this is how all screenplays are written" meme is very misleading. It isn't how all screenplays are written, but most screenplays can be shoehorned into its structure in some way.
It's training wheels, a good starting point for writers, nothing more.
A Participant says:
Crafty Screenwriting by Alex Epstein. Rewrite by Paul Chitlick. Aviator screenplay by John Logan.
Blake Snyder's SAVE THE CAT is my favorite screenwriting book. Because I think it addresses the biggest point when I read spec scripts. "Is this a movie?" "Is this an idea a producer will buy or option?" Look, there are no rules. Who knows why things get bought, produced and are hits or misses. For every rule, there is a hit movie that broke that rule.
But SAVE THE CAT has brought a focus to my writing that wasn't there before. Granted, the type of movies you come up with are high concept that don't always make the critics' top ten list or win Academy Awards. Blake Snyder's big movies: Blank Check and Stop or My Mom Will Shoot.
But SAVE THE CAT is a very practical book and has a pretty good following.
Also Terry Rossio's Wordplay Columns are great too and free:
I just bought 2 books that I think are excellent tutorials.
WRITING SCREENPLAYS THAT SELL by Michael Hauge and
SCREENWRITING by Raymond G. Frensham
I like WRITING SCREENPLAYS because the author offers checklists that help you with your overall story structure and within each indivdual scene. The author also looks at several screenplays and breaks them down and explains why something works and does not.
Also, with SCREENWRITING, the author does much the same, offers a structural and scene by scene checklist.
I feel that after reading these two books I have had a semester of screenwriting class.
Just thought I'd share.