Matthew Peterson: Let me ask you a quick bonus question here. I know you do teach. You’ve written a couple self-help books like Characters and View Point and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. What is some of the most important advice you give your students?
Orson Scott Card: The most important advice is just write your brains out. You learn more from writing, even a very bad novel, than you do from any number of writing classes. Just putting out the words teaches you. And so I often tell people who come to my writing class, I ask, “Why are you here? What do you think you’re going to get that you wouldn’t get by staying at home and just writing like crazy?” And especially college students. You know, they say, “What should I major in to prepare to be a writer?” I say, “Well, major in dishwashing at a restaurant. Major in general studies. Major in something that will give you a paying job.” Whatever other interests you have. But there’s no course in writing that will help you become a writer. Period. Not even the ones I teach.
Now, I’d like to think that my stuff is useful. But still, what you have to do is just write and write and write. But, while you’re doing it, you have to write intelligently. It’s not useful if you just love everything you produce yourself. You have to then re-read it critically, you have to understand, from the story, what is and isn’t working. You have to learn from it. And you don’t learn from it by asking other people’s opinions. You learn from it by letting it sit for a while and coming back to it yourself. ‘Cause other people’s opinions are only going to tell you what they expect or what they would have written, or what their English teachers taught them to expect in fiction. In other words, useless crap.
And what you need as a writer, is your own eyes to help you see where the differences are between the story that you’ve written and the story that you wish you had written. That’s where you do your learning.
Matthew Peterson: I like what you said, you know, publishers are kind of funny and like you said in the main interview, they’re kind of funny, they don’t want to publish something unless it’s been written. [laughs] So, you gotta write.
Orson Scott Card: I mean, how many writers are there who say, “I’m going to write a novel someday.” That just makes me sad, because of course, they’re not. Again, I tell them, the college students, if you want to be a writer, why aren’t you writing? What are you doing in this class? Why are you doing this? Why are you in college? If you have another agenda in college, great, but if you’re here to learn how to write, what a waste of your time. You should be writing.
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