listening to me when you
could be off somewhere
writing your own stories?”
Orson Scott Card is an award-winning science fiction novelist whose credits include the Hugo Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. His novels include Ender’s Game, Shadow of Hegemon, and Speaker for the Dead among others. He is also the author of the writing instruction titles Elements of Fiction Writing: Characters & Viewpoint and How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy.
In the following interview, Card discusses writing trends, the book industry, writing pitfalls to avoid, and more.
go. What, in your opinion,
should writers keep in mind
regarding literary trends?
If you’ve been making a living by following “literary trends,” then by all means keep doing whatever has been working for you. However, when the trend is over, so are the stories and books you wrote to satisfy them.
The good and great writers, the ones whose works still have value even when the copyright date is from an earlier decade (or century), are the ones who wrote what they believed in and cared about, with little regard for trends.
Yes, this custom of ending sentences with periods—that’s a trend that seems to have staying power, you can follow that one. On trivial matters, play whatever games you want.
But if someone has told you that a certain kind of book always has to have a certain kind of scene in it, you don’t have to pay the slightest attention to their advice. Such counsel is only useful for desperate writers who do not trust their talent. And sometimes such desperation is justified—the writer doesn’t have the skill yet, or isn’t picking the stories they’re actually good at.
(And speaking of trends, let no one complain about my using plural “they’re” with the singular “writer” as the antecedent—not if you use “you” to address a single individual. “You” is also a grammatical plural frequently used for the singular.)
You only write at your best, and you only invent your best stories, when you believe in and care about the people, relationships, motives, and events in the story. Anything you plug in to satisfy a trend or to follow someone else’s idea of what you have to have merely guarantees that your work will be that much less honest and that much less heartfelt.
It’s like sending your child off to school with another kid beside him as his designated test-taker. “It’s not that I don’t believe in you, darling,” you tell your baffled child. “But I hear that this lad is very, very good at test-taking, and