What to Read When You’re Writing

Sunday 1 June 2014 by

Daphne du Maurier, Jamaica Inn, Ketchup Clouds, Annabel Pitcher, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman, Joe Abercrombie, The Blade Itself, Books

Everyone knows that reading is an essential part of being a good writer.  Reading gives you an innate sense of story structure, teaches you clean prose, strong vocabulary and opens up the imagination. But what should you read when you’re writing?

Reading within your genre

There’s the idea that, if you’re writing Urban Fantasy, you should read widely within the Urban Fantasy genre. Pros? You become immersed in the style, the types of stories and worlds. You’ll gain an understanding of what’s popular in the market right now, what readers are looking for.

The downside is that you may end up subconsciously imitating those writers you are reading, finding details of their plots and characters seeping in to your own work. It can be hard to separate your original ideas from those influenced by what you’ve read.

Reading anything but your genre

For those wishing to avoid the danger of subconscious imitation, there’s always the technique of reading anything but your genre. While you don’t get the benefit of marketplace knowledge, reading everything outside the genre can bring new perspectives and insights. Instead of rehashing tired plotlines used all the time in Urban Fantasy, reading a literary novel, a YA novel, a horror novel, might provide you with an ‘outside the box’ solution to the corner you’ve written yourself into, or introduce you to a new theme that you think would compliment your plot in an original way.

Read bad books

There’s something to be said for reading a book that’s not great – it teaches you a lot about what doesn’t work, or what’s missing, so you can try to avoid those issues in your own writing. It’s also a nice ego boost to think ‘I can do better than that.’ Revisit books you didn’t enjoy – and not books you didn’t enjoy just because of personal taste. Revisit the books you thought were terrible, or seek out some new ones, and see if you can pin down exactly where the writer went wrong.

Reading anything and everything

Whether you decide to avoid your genre or not, reading widely is a must. There are so many good authors out there with so many different things to teach you. Read widely and read consciously – don’t just enjoy the storyline, think about what elements make it work. You’re bound to pick up on something that would make your own work stronger.

You can follow Loralei on Twitter: @LAHaylock

Keep up with Summer Reads using the hashtag #HoBSummerReads

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