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Tony Tost’s Practical Screenwriting

Tony Tost is a writer–producer who created the Netflix–USA series Damnation, set in 1930s rural America. He’s a very talented intellectual who came from a poor, rural background, and is in the midst of a productive and interesting career. So the above pic is in his honor.

He also has the single best blog I’ve ever read about screenwriting, a substack called Practical Screenwriting. And it’s free!

I can’t tell you how stupid and useless almost every blog about screenwriting is—especially the ones from the “hope factory,” the screenwriting industrial complex.

I won’t single out any of those companies and columnists in particular, because I’m sure they mean well—but if you google them, you’ll find a seemingly infinite list of columns along the lines of, “Twelve Things to Make Your Second Act Stronger!”

They’re not necessarily wrong—probably, those twelve things are good advice—but they’re not, well, practical.

You can’t try writing a script by looking at a bunch of blog columns and going, gee, have I checked off the boxes of all twelve things I need act two to do?

You can’t. Fundamentally, you teach screenwriting to yourself. And you do need guidance. You need a set of principles that make sense and will set you on the right course.

I’ve made things—not big things, but things that were produced, albeit self-produced—and I’ve worked with my friend, Robert Nathan, who wrote around a hundred hours of premium television.

The only blog I’ve ever read that talks about writing the way Robert talks about writing—how actual working professionals talk about it—is Tony’s.

Writing is about solving problems: is this too fast, or too slow? Too much incident? Too much plot? Where do we put the moment to deepen a character emotionally?

None of the hope–factory blogs come close to talking about writing this way. They’re a bunch of business articles, motivation–coaching talk, and, at best, shallow listicles. Some of them focus on navel-gazing bullshit about writing (the worst being Pipeline Artists).

Writing is work, and it’s practical, and Tony’s blog is the only one that will demystify it and treat you like an adult—if you actually want to learn the craft of how to do it.

He’s not selling anything. And for that matter, neither am I!

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