Writing advice from Matt Stone

Matt Stone, quoted in Anatomy of a Breakthrough:

What should happen between every beat you’ve written down is either the word therefore or but.” He sketches the structure using a more concrete example: “You come up with an idea, and it’s like this happens’ and then ‘this happens… .’ No, no, no. It should be, this happens, and therefore this happens, but this happens, therefore this happens. We’ll write it out to make sure we’re doing it.” Stone continues, “There are so many scripts we see from new writers, where it’s like ‘this happens, and then this happens, and then this happens…,’ and that’s when you’re, like, ‘What the fuck am I watching this for?’”

I stepped down from the Publications Committee of Island Studies Press this spring. Over the years I read dozens of manuscripts under consideration for publishing; by far and away the greatest sin committed regularly was exactly this “and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened.”

The book for which I’m happiest having played a small role in the greenlighting of was New London: The Island’s Lost Dream. Author John Cousins is a master storyteller, and the narrative arc is in his blood; perhaps unfairly, any manuscript that came after had John’s high water mark to be judged against. 


Oliver's picture
Oliver on July 12, 2023 - 19:41 Permalink

I've understood and sought to enforce something close to this as the absolute truth forever, but I've felt my faith waver as I've realized that other minds don't need this sort of perfection as much or as often as my own.