By Laura Zats
I’m always telling authors to read outside the genre that they write in. Usually, it’s with a little bit of exasperation and accompanied by a roll of the eyes, and here’s why: Reading stuff OUTSIDE your genre will stretch your mind in fun ways and will help you come up with creative ways to solve problems in your own manuscript. So not reading outside your genre is like shooting yourself in the foot as far as originality goes. You don’t want to be one of those writers who is really predictable (read: boring), do you? Do you? Nah. I thought not.
This is something writers forget. As an author, saying “I ONLY read such-and-such type of book” shouldn’t be a point of pride. It’s limiting. The people who say this are like badly homeschooled kids who only learn about classic French literature and chemistry. One day they’ll go outside and have one hell of a time getting around because they don’t understand contemporary pop culture, or even why a ball, when thrown, doesn’t go on forever. Reading around makes you well rounded, and that is a GOOD THING.
One thing that’s ALSO important to do when you’re writing/editing/offering your first born to the gods for a book deal, is to read WITHIN your genre too. This will give you a good idea of trends, and where your book falls within them. Being able to talk about similar books will make it a little easier to sell, and will help you focus on agents/editors.
Additionally, if you’re writing a book in a genre that is trope-driven (like romance), knowing what that means (and how to be creative within these types of limitations) will be the difference between selling it and not selling it.
So. Bottom line: read. Read all the time. Read a bunch of different stuff in a bunch of different genres. Read award-winners and something you’ve never heard of. Read something other than yourself even when you’re on deadline. Or writing for NaNo. Even when your eyeballs feel like they are going to fall out. Because it’s going to make a big difference.