One concept that I have mentioned frequently throughout this blog is that in order to improve your writing you need to be reading. Your best learning tool is other authors. The key to successful learning through reading is to venture outside your writing genre. There is so much to be learned from writing that is different from what you normally indulge in and most importantly, what you typically write. I have offered up this advice many times before, but I never really explained why it’s so important. In order to reap all the potential benefits, you need to know why you are doing what you are doing, what the benefits are, how it’s going to help you improve, and what you should be looking out for. It’s easy for me to spit out ‘meaningless’ advice to you, but understanding the advice and how to take full advantage of it is going to make all the difference. Since 2016 is the year of change, we need to start understanding our own writing and why we do what we do on a whole different level.
I have to be honest, I love Bustle. They always seem to have the right advice for me right when I need it the most. The advice they offer up is very accessible and it’s actually fun to read. Once again, Bustle came to my rescue with a recent article about… wait for it… why we should read outside our genre and its benefits. It sums up, for me, the three major reasons we should all diversify our reading list a bit more.
- Reading outside your genre is a form of priceless research.
Successful research takes a mediocre book/story line and turns it into a masterpiece. We all want to believe what we are reading. We all want the story to seem possible- either in our world or in some extraterrestrial universe. Research brings reality to your writing. Just because you write romances, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t read some medical non-fiction books or medical thrillers to bring that heart wrenching hospital scene to life. If you write science fiction, try your hand at some romances to learn how to take that budding relationship between your two main characters from platonic to sexual. Learning how other authors describe and present certain areas that you are struggling with is a priceless tool. You can read countless articles on how to make a steamy hot sex scene, but immersing yourself in the literature yourself is the best thing you can do. Not only will you learn things that you should do in your own writing, but you will also discover things that you shouldn’t do along the way as well.
2. Reading outside your genre will reveal your strengths, as well as your weaknesses.
All authors have their signature writing tone that many of their fans identify with. Having a distinct style that readers can rely on is part of successful writing career. Readers are drawn to your writing for a certain reason and you need to make sure you give it to them every time. Reading outside your genre can put you more in tune with your signature tone, you will quickly realize which authors are similar to you and which must be writing on a completely different planet. You learn what’s working for them and perhaps try to incorporate it into your own writing. Most importantly, you also learn what your own writing is lacking. You likely aren’t going to change your tone completely and I don’t think you should, but incorporating different styles and tones into your stories leads to more layered and entertaining writing and reading. Varying tones can take a one dimensional piece and convert it into a three-dimensional piece of glory. Spice your writing up a bit and throw your readers for a loop every once in a while.
3. Reading outside your genre will teach you different ways to captivate your audience.
As important as a signature writing style is, we never want to become predictable or boring. We don’t want to start every chapter the same way or end each book with the same resolution. Reading different genres teaches you how different authors create exciting scenes, introduce new characters, create tension, and demonstrate emotion. You know, all that important stuff that makes for a great story. There are a million ways to do exactly the same thing, which is what makes writing so awesome. You can essentially read the same scene by a thousand different authors and feel like it’s fresh new content every time. Reading outside your genres teaches you to diversify your writing in a way that will never be coined as predictable.
Write on. Or perhaps this time, read on.