This week I will talk about “the importance of reading, for a writer” and “should a writer read only books in their genre”? This topic was suggested by Christine Wachter. Thank you, Chris, for this suggestion.
I have heard a lot of talk about this subject, and I am actually quite surprised at the first part of the question: is it important for a writer to be a reader?
I recently saw this question posted on Twitter and read the long list of comments to see what people were saying. Most people said, “Yes, it is important for a writer to be a reader.” However, I was surprised at the number of people who didn’t think it necessary for a writer to be a reader.
Personally, I believe it is necessary for a writer to be a reader for several reasons:
1) reading other author’s works can help us to learn what to do as well as what
not to do; what works and what doesn’t.
2) reading can inspire us and give us ideas for our own stories.
3) reading other author’s works introduces us to other writing voices.
4) reading expands our vocabulary.
5) when you read, you naturally discover and learn many of the technical aspects of writing.
Now, let’s look at the second part of the question: should writers read only books in their own genre? I have been told, ever since I became a part of the writing world, that it is necessary to read lots of books in my genre. However, I was never told I should read only books in my genre.
Other writers and writing instructors will tell you to read lots of books in your genre for the following reasons:
1) reading lots of books in your own genre will help you learn what to do or
not to do; what works and what doesn’t in your genre.
2) reading lots of books in your own genre will give you a good idea of what’s
already out there, which will let you know if your idea is new and original
or if it’s been done before. If it’s been done before, you will want to find
a new way to present or approach it so that it isn’t “just like someone
else’s”. One of the questions a publisher or agent wants to see addressed in
your query or proposal is “how is your story different than the others that
are already out there in the same genre”.
I can tell you that I have been an avid reader ever since I learned how to read. I was one of those kids who read everything that had print on it for a long time. Over the years, I remained an avid reader, and I read lots of different genres. I write historical romance. However, I read any romance genre as long as it’s clean. I also read fantasy, mystery, suspense, crime novels — just about anything except sci-fi, horror, and erotica. I also do not read graphic novels or manga. The genres I choose not to read, I do not read based on my personal preferences. I don’t know of anyone who enjoys every genre out there.
So, my suggestion is — yes, read lots of books in your genre, but read books in other genres you enjoy as well.
What about the rest of you — What have you been told? What do you think? What do you read? Leave your answers to these questions in the comments section below and join the conversation. I respond to every comment.