Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reading Writers

Writers love to read. Their love of words is often one of the reasons they become writers. They love falling into the fictional dream, immersing themselves in the lives of characters and wondering how the plot will turn out.
Often what they love to read is what they love to write as well. I don’t think I could write a book I would hate reading. I just wouldn’t be passionate about it.  

For example, I enjoy reading historical romance. That’s also what I enjoy writing and can’t really picture myself writing in any other genre. I love learning about by-gone eras and different ways of life, adding characters and plots into the mix. Those who write Contemporary, Speculative, Young Adult, and all other genres, I’m sure feel the same.

Yet should writers only read what they write?
No. Although probably at least 80% of the novels I read are historical romance, if an author reads only in the genre they write in, their work has a tendency to stagnate. Without a broad spectrum of genres, styles, etc., an author might find their work tending towards cliché. When I read something different than the norm for me, it provides a different perspective on writing in general. Style, after all, is style, no matter what the genre.

For example, I might read a couple of historical romances, then switch to a classic, then perhaps read something research related, such as a biography.
Here are a couple of tips to expand your reading repertoire.
1 – Check bestseller lists – Although, as many of you will agree, not all novels that make it to the bestseller lists deserve to be there, many of them are extremely well-written. While reading these analyze what made the novel so popular. What worked for you and what didn’t? There are always novels that are making the rounds and it seems everywhere they are being talked about. For example, The Help, or The Hunger Games, both of which have been quite popular as of late. I’m not implying reading everything that hits the bestseller lists, however, choose a few novels that you might not ordinarily pick up. You will find this can boost your own writing.

2 – Read the classics – Although I tend to gravitate towards the newer novels, when I want a quick easy read there is so much depth and value in classics, that I try to read one every month or so. Recently, I finished Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth and loved it! Although not all the fiction techniques that she used may be permissible in today’s market, such as the long descriptions and chapter upon chapter of monologue, I’ve never read a classic and not gleaned something that helped me in my own writing.
3 – Try a new author – Recently, I’ve been trying several new historical authors and although not everything has been to my taste, I’ve enjoyed analyzing different styles and plots. Sometimes, when I’m looking for something new to put on my TBR pile, I just do an Amazon search, such as “Regency Historical Romance” and see what new authors this turns up.

Reading is one of the best ways, in fact the best way, in my opinion, to learn about writing. I always try to have at least one book on hand. I’ve found that when I don’t read, my writing tends not to have the same quality it does when I’m reading a good piece of fiction. It’s also a great way to come up with story and plot ideas.
So what are you waiting for? Read a book, or two, or twenty! Your readers will thank you!

Happy Writing and Reading,


Your Turn – Let’s talk books. What have you been reading lately that you’ve enjoyed? Do you tend to read only what you write or do you like to switch it up?

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