What Do You Read?

Monday, July 15, 2013

As a writer what do you read?

Don’t know what to answer? I’ll help you. Pretend you’re lounging in your jammies. Look down at the floor
next to your bed at the pile of books balancing precariously until a dog or small child wanders in and upsets them. What type of books are they?

Are they mainly books in the genre you write? That’s good. After all, you should be learning from the masters in your genre. But you should also be reading the new authors to your genres to see what new tricks they bring to the table (or new mistakes, it never hurts to learn from other’s mistakes). By reading your genre you can get a feel for what your audience expects as well as avoid repeating tired plots or aspects. So immerse yourself in your genre!

Are many of the books in your TBR pile writer how-to books? We all love them. Some writers – I won’t name any names but they’ve confessed right on this blog – are a bit obsessed with writer how-tos. We all are searching for the magical key to writing the best book we can. And, ever hopeful, we are certain we will find it in that next how-to book. You may never find the magical key but you will learn something. So read those how-tos!

But what else do you read? If you hope to make it as a writer the answer should be: everything. Romance, history, mystery, YA, children’s, memoir, politics, humor, newspapers, magazines, blogs, tweets. You never know where the nugget of idea for your next WIP will be hiding. Maybe in the “Weird News” section of your local newspaper, maybe in the background of a character in a blockbuster thriller, maybe in the memory of a politician.

As writers we can learn, even from the genres we don’t seek out on a regular basis. Recently I read a genre which is my daughter’s favorite (but not mine) at her request. I felt it was “eh” but one particular scene stuck with me long after I finished the book. So I began asking myself why? Why could I not forget that scene in a series I would not read again, in a genre I didn’t particularly care for? Because the fact is, good writing is good writing no matter what shelf you find it on. So I dissected that scene until I felt I knew what made it so memorable. Hopefully I can use that information in my own writing.

So don’t let your TBR list be defined by what you write or even by what you particularly like. Read it all and see what unexpected things you’ll find.

What do you read and what lessons have you learned from your TBR?


brenda said...

I do not discriminate. I read just about anything. As you say, there are something to be learned everywhere. Besides, I might discover a story in a genre I don't write, but love (this happens quite a bit). I have a several how to books I bought when I first came out of the closet with my writer self, but I rarely look at those now. I do however, have a few I bought long after I started investing hours of my life onto the page - those are the ones I turn to now and again if I have a question. I also turn to The Right to Write and The Creative Habit when my writer's heart needs a hug.

Crystal Otto said...

I completely agree Brenda, I read everything and there always seems to be a take-away! Great thought provoking post Jodi - thank you!!


Eugenia Parrish said...

Anything and everything. There's always at least one in the genre I'm writing, and sometimes more than one at the same time! When I wrote my first novel, there was always a research book or two(you should see my library of used tomes that try to explain the Sixties -- good luck). And then there is always the one I pick up just to get lost in guiltily when my brain needs a break. Mystery novels mostly, which is handy now that I'm trying to write one -- killing two birds with one stone, so to speak. Those books on the Sixties were anything but relaxing, though come to think of it, mysteries aren't as relaxing now that I'm always grabbing a pen to jot a note.
Now and then I have a book by a local author -- I try to support them and respond with comments, but sometimes it's a struggle to get through them, bless their hearts, so it might take awhile to finish one. And these are published already, not critique group stuff.
Living with other writers, I often have a book thrust at me, either "You've got to read this!" or "Tell me what you think of this one, I can't figure why it's so popular."
And sometimes I keep one of my old "how-to-write" books handy to dip into just to remind myself of the basics.

Anonymous said...

I write for children and teens but also nonfiction for adults. My current stack of library books holds two picture books (one historic, one contemporary), two young adult novels, a middle grade historic novel and a inspirational nonfiction book. You never know exactly what will be in my reading!

Margo Dill said...

I'm a little like Sue--I have both adult books and kids books, depending on what I'm doing and/or reviewing. I try to learn from each book and enjoy it, too. I think soon to be in my TBR pile will be the "secret" book by JK Rowling. Have you heard about this?

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