Yesterday, I blogged about some of the books I’m either currently reading or have recently finished. As I wrote the post, I recalled some conversations I’ve had with other writers, not to mention online comments I’ve read, about their own reading habits. Then, this morning, I came across another post where a writer lamented the fact they can’t read fiction while writing. And a post was born.
Before I go any further, I want to address one of the misconceptions I’ve seen new writers express on more than one occasion. These writers have said they don’t read while writing because their product is so “unique”, they don’t want to dilute it by exposing it to other people’s work. Uh, nope. If it is that unique, reading how other people write will only enforce that uniqueness. Of course, reading other people’s work might also point out that your “uniqueness” might not be as unique as you think.
Now, if you are afraid you’ll start imitating the style of the writer you’re reading, or copying plots or plot devices, that’s something else. And there is an easy fix for it. Just don’t read in your genre, at least not while you are writing. After you finish your project, then go back to the genre and read. Why? Because you need to see what’s selling. You need to read it to figure out why it’s selling. You need to read it study story structure, the tropes being used (and not being used), character development, etc. After all, if you don’t read a genre, how can you successfully write in it?
I also read to make sure I’m not writing something that has basically already been done to death. For example, when it comes to urban fantasy, I do shifters. But I try to add a different twist to them. I don’t do vampires. For one, they’ve never really hit me as romantic figures — and let’s face is. Most of the UF featuring them have them as romantic figures. There are some exceptions but not all that many and if we look at paranormal romance . . . — I don’t know if I will ever write vampires. The very thought of doing so and I hear my friend Kate, her Aussie accent full of humor, as she wonders how a vamp can “get it up” since there’s no blood flow. Then she goes on to speculate on what sort of sex toys would be needed. Nope, I so do not need to go there. 😉
It’s a bit harder with romantic suspense to find a new twist. That’s where you have to make sure your characters are different. It has to do with craft and that leads back to reading. One of the best ways to not only see where you need to improve your craft but to see examples of what to do and what not to do is to read in your genre.
An example of this came across my timeline the other day. There’s a book that shall not be named (for fear someone might foolishly go to Amazon and buy it) that is not only an example of all the things you shouldn’t do as an author (from poor cover design to poor story structure, character development and so much more) or say as an author (this guy takes the award for how not to respond to criticism). The book in question has become part of my examples of what not to do when I talk with new writers. It is truly an example of why so many people hesitate to buy an indie novel.
Fortunately, it was the only novel out there of its kind. Or so I thought. And yes, there is a specific theme to the book that breaks my suspension of belief meter. Except, as my timeline proved the other day, it’s not. Someone else has written a book using basically the same theme. Worse, reading the blurb, it is written pretty much as badly as the first book. Different author. Same theme and many of the same issues. A little bit of research could have helped this author, as would reading the original book (gag) to learn where that author had gone wrong.
I guess this is all saying read. You might not be able to read your genre while writing and I get that. But read your genre after you finish a project. That’s my reward to myself. I still read though while writing. I read non-fiction and I read genres not related to my current work-in-progress. I’m not sure I could go an entire project without reading.
Now I’d best get to work. Until later.