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WotF Workshop Zoom Q&A with Orson Scott Card #2

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We had the privilege today of another wonderful session with the hilarious and brilliant Orson Scott Card. I'm always inspired listening to authors like himself share- so honest and easy to listen to. This is the second WotF Q&A he's done, this one being on October 8th 2022.

Big thanks to WotF for arranging this. 
Here is a quick summary for the event.

*btw, if John or Moon (or another moderator) would prefer, I'll just post these on the end of the first OSC Q&A thread.

"If writing is easy, you're doing it wrong." -Bryan Hutchinson
V36-37: R x6
V38: R, HM, R, HM
V39: HM, HM, HM, HM
V40: HM

Posted : October 8, 2022 9:06 pm
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Notes for Orson Scott Card's Q&A:

*Please be aware that these are my interpretations of what Mr. Scott Card said in the Q&A. Any concerns? Please check with the man himself.


-Decide who your viewpoint character is. If your viewpoint character already knows everything, you don't get much chance to show he notices things in the world. It feels bad. In a world, there are lots of things you see that will NEVER be used.

-You can't let the 1st POV narrator be brave without us hating the character. Feels arrogant. 3rd POV viewpoint allows you to show the character questioning their decision.

-Writing is draining. You open up a vein, and eventually the blood flows out and you die." (You need to refuel) 😊

-OSC writes when he's running out of money. Good motivation. Not recommended. His method for a novel (might be years early or that week)= Jot down ideas for scenes that are needed in order. Know the ending (not everything that goes into it). Then start writing and almost never look at the outline again.

-He almost always goes off track. He does his best work when he doesn't follow his plan. When he outlines, he doesn't know the characters yet

-When he knows the ending, he can open the story knowing the question that will be answered by the end of the book.

-Don't introduce too many characters in opening chapter, but introduce who is in his life, particularly family.

-Through a character's attitude toward other people, we learn who they are. They can't be effectively developed on their own. Character is revealed through relationships.

-The book cover is not an illustration, it's a billboard that sells your book. Spend money on a good cover (about $1000-$2000). You MUST have one. Then spend money on a FIRST-RATE book editor (not a graduate).

-Writer's block is the best thing that could happen. It means in your unconscious mind, you know something you just wrote was wrong. Solution- wait a few days (play video games, time with family). Then go back and read the chapter before- you may see something you could change. You can't get writer's block if you don't care

-How to infodump … you don't. If there's too much info without exposition, it's bad. Have the concepts gradually learned by your POV character.

-OSC hates present tense. We never use it in English so it doesn't work. Only acceptable in YA.

-There aren't any needless words. Sometimes you need words because that's the way a character thinks. Or it makes the sentence rhythm flow better.

-Every single person has their own voice. You talk like that. Put THAT on a page. If your narrative sounds like you, that's your style. (if you spoke to a friend on the phone and you had a cold, they'd still know it was you).

-If people are saying they don't like your story= maybe it ended weirdly. Editors may often NOT KNOW why they didn't like it.

-"Write what you know" and "show don't tell" are both wrong. For 'You must know what you write'= know enough about the world to make it feel real to the reader. Words on a page are always 'telling'. They don't show. Story is carried forward effectively in scenes. Show what should be shown, tell what should be told.

-if you do a scene, it should end with climax. The scenes needs to be memorable. Don't start a story/scene with a big meeting.

-Three names is a LOT to remember for a scene. Two names is better.

-Who vs whom. Advice, recall that whom was already dead in English in 1850. Don't use it at all. Only use it for 'to whom it may concern'

-When you try for archaisms, you're probably going to be wrong. Don't pun in the archaic.

-*interesting= English-speaking people are the only people who don't get to read Shakespeare in their native tongue. If you're German, Shakespeare is translated into German, etc. If you're American, you get the non-translated version of Shakespeare.

-If you use 'he nodded' as a substitute for 'said' it's annoying. If you use it instead, that's fine. Every new speaker gets a new paragraph. Any action by a new character needs a new paragraph.

-You can break any writing rule

-Don't think "This is a first draft" or you'll allow for a second. The first draft is the only living draft.

-OSC writes between 1000 – 1500w an hour. Your future depends on what you get done in the times you're alone.

-Keep yourself healthy with reasonable aerobic exercise

"If writing is easy, you're doing it wrong." -Bryan Hutchinson
V36-37: R x6
V38: R, HM, R, HM
V39: HM, HM, HM, HM
V40: HM

Posted : October 8, 2022 9:11 pm
Sinocelt, Annaliess, Todd Jones and 10 people reacted
V. R. Lassmann
Posts: 78
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Great summary—seems like you really captured it

Posted : October 9, 2022 4:05 am
Posts: 153
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@scott_m_sands excellent summary, I really appreciate it. OSC is a wealth of knowledge and experience. Thank you!

“Stories are the collective wisdom of everyone who has ever lived. Your job as a storyteller is not simply to entertain. Nor is it to be noticed for the way your turn a phrase. You have a very important job—one of the most important. Your job is to let people know that everyone shares their feelings—and that these feelings bind us. Your job is a healing art, and like all healers, you have a responsibility. Let people know they are not alone. You must make people understand that we are all the same.”
Brian McDonald
2022: Second Place Winner V39 Q1
2021: HM, HM, SHM
2020: R
2019: SHM, R
2018: HM
2017: HM

Posted : November 27, 2022 8:57 am
Posts: 449
Gold Star Member

@scott_m_sands this summary isn't good. It's bloody amazing. Thanks, Scott!

VOL 40 2nd Quarter: Third Place ("Ashes to Ashes, Blood to Carbonfiber")
Past submissions: R - HM - HM - HM - HM - HM - SHM - SHM

Posted : November 27, 2022 1:10 pm
Posts: 451
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Topic starter


No worries. Hopefully you find something helpful. Listening to OSC is always awesome- such a relatable guy

"If writing is easy, you're doing it wrong." -Bryan Hutchinson
V36-37: R x6
V38: R, HM, R, HM
V39: HM, HM, HM, HM
V40: HM

Posted : November 29, 2022 4:15 pm
Spencer_S reacted
Joel C. Scoberg
Posts: 289
Silver Star Member

Posted by: @scott_m_sands

Who vs whom. Advice, recall that whom was already dead in English in 1850. Don't use it at all. Only use it for 'to whom it may concern'

Excellent summary @scott_m_sands. As ever, super helpful tips from OSC.

I noted the quote above and hastily did a "Ctrl+F" on my draft manuscript and found two uses of "whom". My story is set in the future, probably a few hundred years AFTER 1850, so safe to say "whom" will be even deader then.

R: 2 / HM: 5 / SHM: 2
Published stories:
"Drunk Scentless" - Daily Science Fiction (June 2021)
"Interview with the Vampire Hunter" - Every Day Fiction (October 2021)
"Dutch Courage" - 365tomorrows (August 2022)

Posted : December 14, 2022 5:39 am