Why reading out of your genre is important for writers

I love reading romance books. I’m a romance author. I love all things romance and believe there is nothing better than watching two people fall in love while overcoming almost insurmountable hurdles, but I do like to stretch my wings a little and read books in other genres too.

I’ve just finished reading the best book – it’s not a romance (shock! Horror!) it’s called Boy Swallows Universe by an Australian debut author, Trent Dalton. It’s about a twelve year old boy living in Brisbane in the 1980s. His babysitter is an escaped murderer, his parents are hugely flawed and dealing with addiction issues and his older brother is mute. Sounds dreary, right? No. It was the most uplifting book I’ve read in a while. Plus… nail-biting suspense, a smattering of teen crush and a little bit of time-hopping back and forth. And So. Much. Emotion. I laughed. I sobbed. I panicked and prayed. I adored it and definitely want to read more by this author!

It’s so important that as writers we don’t get stale because that shows through our writing. Just as it’s imperative to read within our genre so we know what’s current and to understand the tropes/conventions and reader expectations, I also believe we should be reading beyond our genre too to add fire to our own process/writing.

What do we achieve by doing that?

  1. Freshness: Reading out of genre opens our eyes to new ideas / writing styles / opportunities.
  2. Industry: By reading what’s new and different we can see what’s selling / what publishers are buying (think the ‘girl books’ a few years ago: Gone Girl / Girl On the Train etc… nothing to stop a romance writer jumping on that bandwagon with similar-ish titling etc.)
  3. Development: Challenging our reading comfort can stimulate personal growth by exercising new muscles/brain power
  4. Craft: Learning/identifying new styles and ways of writing can help us develop our story-telling tools
  5. Filling the well: nourishing that creative muscle can only bring benefits and surprises and joy to our writing

What about you? Are you a dyed in the wool romance addict or do you like to genre hop?

 

 

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