Nathan Bransford, Author


Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Do You Read in the Genre You Write?

First! There have been many great suggestions about opening up the process by which one can have their page critiqued on the blog so that it is not quite as dependent on being in the right time zone and clicking the refresh button seven thousand times and argh will Nathan just post already I've been staring at this screen so long WHEN I LOOK AWAY I STILL SEE ORANGE!!!!!

While you have to admit that seeing everything in the color orange is rather awesome, I am going to try out a new system this week. If you'd like to have your page critiqued on the blog on Monday, you now have an opportunity to nominate your page at your leisure in the Forums. All you have to do is paste your page in this thread, and next Monday I'll use a random number generator to pick the winning page for critique.

Democracy in action!!! Or, you know, luck. Which is just as good, I'm told.

Transition!

The reading habits of writers is something that always fascinates me. While I think it's a given that a good writer needs to also be a good and widely-read reader, what types of books are necessary to read?

And especially: do you read in the genre you write? Is this necessary? Is it helpful? Or is it more helpful to read in other genres to see what other people are doing?

What sayeth you? And credit goes to my wife for thinking of this topic. (Whoops! Also Mira posted this question in the Forums a few months back. Synchronicity!)






222 comments:

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Rebecca said...

Yes, extensively. I can't imagine writing in a genre I didn't love, and the only way to determine what you like is to read widely. Also, it's good to see what's being published, even if the book I'm buying was sold to a publisher 2+ years ago.

Matt Ryan said...

I love to read fiction novels and also autobiographical memoirs.

Jess said...

Yes. If I didn't read my genre extensively, I wouldn't be able to write it, because I wouldn't know what was overdone, etc. But I think you're asking more so about while we're writing and not in general, and the answer for me is still yes. I have to be reading while I write to keep me fueled, and more often than not it's the same genre. It's simply what I love. I try to branch out, but there are so many good books in my genre alone, it's hard. :)

katlou504 said...

I read the genre I am writing - pop culture nonfiction. I have to know the market and what's out there already, so I can make my book unique.

Charli Armstrong said...

Yes I do.

Jaimie said...

I read equally in my own genre and in other genres.

I'll read urban fantasy (my genre), sci-fi, literary fiction, historical stuff (Wikipedia anyone?), Christian stuff that is well written, like CS Lewis and Donald Miller...

And the big one: memoir.

And holey moley, I've gotten crazy inspiration out of the weirdest places, like Julie Andrew's memoir HOME.

I swear by the memoir and its power to ground fiction writing in reality.

Jaycee said...

I prefer the new method.

jtb said...

The best advice I ever had was, Write what you read.

My shleves are stacked with the kinds of books i'd like to be able to write, though less about genre and more about style ...

James said...

I do and I don't. Which has always puzzled me. Sometimes I think one of the reasons I write in the genre I write is to produce stories that I'd like to read in that genre. Because it has been hard for me to find the kind of fantasy story I love - the kind that bridge our contemporary reality with the imagined without using all the classic/popular stuff like vampires, zombies, etc etc.

Honestly, vampires & zombies are the most boring things in the world to me at this point. BUT I do like writing about people who've lived a long time. And creatures who bump things around at night, during the day, and all the times in between.

Lisa said...

Absolutely. I really can't imagine not doing so, personally (and my opinion is that it can only help you), but I know other writers who say reading too much in their writing genre gets in the way when they sit down to write.

Ashley A. said...

Hooray for democracy!

And yes, I am writing (what I think is) exactly the book I would rush out to buy as soon as I read the review.

In all humility,
A.A.

April said...

I read everything from memoirs to history books and all kinds of fiction, minus, pretty much, fantasy or sci-fi. I think it's important to read everything, even if it's not your genre. I think a writer needs to be well-rounded and able to spread beyond the comfort zone.

Currently, my WIP isn't my genre at all. I thought I was strictly women's fiction, but now I'm writing a crime novel. What? Hmmm...

dawn-metcalf said...

Yes. I always read in the genre I write with a few spin-offs on the side to keep me honest. (If I'm writing YA paranormal, let's say, I am reading other books like that as well as contemporary YAs or fantasy YAs or adult paranormal to get a sense of what's out there & better yet, go online to see what's coming up!)

However, I *also* think it's important to read *outside* your genre of interest because you don't want to become narrow-minded or pigeonholed by yourself or others. It's important to pick up a funny MG or a YA mystery or a good, old-fashioned Top Pick for some "damned good writing" to keep perspective fresh.

Bottom line: in order to write well, you gotta READ.

LS Murphy said...

Yes, I do. I also read outside the genre as well. I believe it's necessary to vary what I read so I don't burn myself out and so I can enjoy a good book. I often find myself too wrapped up in studying a book in my genre instead of just enjoying the story.

Sig. said...

Of course!

Shiloh Walker said...

My comment was eaten, so sorry if something pops up twice...

Yes, I definitely read in the genres I write. I'm published in romance, and there's no way I'd give up reading romance, but I also read SF & urban fantasy and sooner or later, I'm going to pursue publishing in urban fantasy as well. If I had a diehard rule about not reading in the genres I write, I'd be out of reading material, because romance, urban fantasy & SF are the majority of what I read.

Laurel said...

Obsessively.

beckylevine.com said...

I do try to read in the genre I write--in terms of reading books for kids and teens. I'm trying to find more YA historicals right now, since that's what I'm working on--but struggling to find enough that are more space and faster-paced, less dense with pages of just-history. Always scanning the blogs for reviews!

Delia said...

I try to stay away from the genre I'm writing while I'm writing it. Which is to say, if I'm writing fantasy, I don't read fantasy; if I'm writing scifi, I don't read scifi. I do read still, just other genres because I don't want to cloud my mind with other people's ideas -- especially when they may be similar to my own. I bounce through a few genres, though, so I can get away with it. I think.

Arvael O'Tierney said...

My first thought was when I saw your tweet about this post was: 'Of course!'
Once, I read what I like and so I write what I like, so there's no problem.
Two, yeah, it's useful to keep up-to-date with my favourite & important genre(s) ;)
I occasionally read outside the genre, it can be quite refreshing. But I can't imagine not reading in the genre I write.

Michael Pickett said...

For a long time, I wasn't sure what genre my writing fit into, so I had a hard time finding books in my genre. It seemed I was too sci/fi-fantasy for the literary crowd and too literary for the sci/fi-fantasy crowd. I have made it a point recently to find books that inhabit this in between land, and am now reading and loving them.

swampfox said...

I figure if you know your stuff, you can write it, whether you read anyone else or not. But sure, reading helps, who would deny it?

Noelle Pierce said...

Absolutely. But I read a lot of other genres, too, in which I would *never* attempt to write (um...like YA Fantasy, or YA of any kind, or fantasy of any kind). I just don't have the imagination to pull something like that off. I read in spurts while I write, because sometimes my own stories are more captivating. On the other hand, if one of my favorite authors comes out with a new book, I'm afraid to open it because I know I'll lose hours of productivity while I finish it.

Anonymous said...

I knew something was up because I was over on the forums when I read 69 users today (!) so I headed over here and sure enough all the blog readers have been directed to the forums.

Oh the energy!

Kathryn said...

Definitely, but I try to look outside of my preferred genre whenever someone recommends a book to me that I wouldn't ordinarily read ("Confessions of a Shopaholic"? Surprisingly good!). It's good at keeping me out of my writing pattern. Our book club is great for that since a lot of the reads aren't always something I'd pick.

Natalie Whipple said...

I read mostly in my genre because I like to. I also love seeing what other people did and think about why it worked.

Simon C. Larter said...

Yup. I certainly read in the genre I write. But I also read, er, genre fiction (which I don't write... yet). And poetry. And nonfiction. So, um, I read a lot of stuff.

Yeah.

Wait... do tweets and blogs count as reading too?

Liberty Speidel said...

I read a lot, but since some of my work is cross-genre, what I cross with I don't always read a ton of. In a Twitter chat a few weeks ago, someone commented to me they couldn't imagine taking on a writer who DIDN'T read in the genre they're submitting for (well, not those exact words, but close.) Since then, I'm starting to read more sci-fi, although it's not my primary genre. I prefer sci-fi movies over mystery movies, but vice-versa for reading!

And now, I have an idea for a straight romance book... *sigh* And I hate to read romance books... too sappy...

Jessica Peter said...

And especially: do you read in the genre you write? Is this necessary? Is it helpful? Or is it more helpful to read in other genres to see what other people are doing?

I definitely read in the genre I write (YA urban fantasy, and maybe some adult too) - both reading and writing because I love it. But I also read in genres I couldn't dream of writing in like historical fiction (too tedious, research-wise) or many types of non-fiction.

reader said...

I did at first (I write YA) but then I found I was cranky every time I picked up a book.

I started reading adult fiction again, and find it feeds my soul a bit more. Sometimes you need to refill your own engines a bit.

When I read YA, I'm trying to analyze it as I go, figure it out and compare it to my own works -- if it's better than mine I get down and if it's worse (and god, but there's some awful stuff out there, true of any category) I get frustrated about why THIS book can get pubbed and I can't. When I'm reading out of my element I find I can relax and just enjoy the book.

Andrea -The Blogging Mama said...

I usually tend to read what I write. I did start reading more mystery than usual since I've started writing in that genre (which is new for me). I try not to read too much of the same genre when I am in the midst of heavy writing because then I unintentionally blend what I read into what I write. For instance reading first person when I'm writing in third, I tend to trip myself up.

If you don't read your target audience, you won't know what's already out there.

robin said...

Although I love writing and continue to write (despite being 'pre-published'), my first love is reading. I'm definitely an avid reader, and 95% of all the books I read are young adult (which I also write). I have a few favorite adult authors which I will read when their newest books come out (and a few middle grade authors I like), but mostly it's just YA (in all its sub-genres).

Rick Daley said...

Yes.

hannah said...

If I didn't read in my genre, I have no clue how I'd write it.

T. Anne said...

I do. Mostly. When I hit a not so good book in my genre I consider it research and whip my way through it. It ain't always pretty. Yes, I said ain't.

J. R. McLemore said...

The only thing I ever cared about reading was horror. When I first started writing, I chose to write what I enjoyed reading. Later, after stocking my bookshelves with Stephen King (mainly), I heard that a writer should be well-read, across multiple genres. I didn't want to do this. I was safe within my comfort zone, but I ventured out of it anyway.

Currently, I am writing a southern gothic novel and I have a suspense/thriller begging to be written afterward. These two novels would never have been conceived had I only confined myself to reading horror. Since broadening my reading, I've come to find that I love dystopias (Orwell, Huxley, Atwood, Bradbury), southern gothic (Faulkner, Steinbeck, Caldwell), and crime dramas (Leonard, McCarthy, MacDonald). I've learned more about writing from reading these great writers (and others not mentioned) to fill volumes of textbooks.

I've tried imparting this advice to other writer-friends, but they are too comfortable in the confines of their favorite genre to ever venture outside of it. Tsk, tsk.

Kelli said...

I do read the genre that I am trying to write in. But I try not to read/write too closely together. I don't want to be 'too inspired' by what I'm reading. I want it to be my voice, not the other author's voice.

Karen said...

I definitely do because it's what I love, but I read lots of other stuff too. Sometimes I ease off the same genre when I'm really into the writing, in case I start accidentally copying the 'voice'!

Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

When I was growing up I read extensively in my genre. Very very very extensively. But since then things have changed. I still read in my genre, but to a much lesser extent, and I find myself searching out certain kinds of stories. I'm much more demanding of the books I read in my own genre.

And I read extensively (mostly?) outside that genre now. And I read just about everything. A little bit because I think wide reading is valuable (the numerous influences, the sense of creativity derived from trying to amalgamate different forms, the beautiful cross-pollination of styles) and a lot because I simply have eclectic tastes that cross just about every genre.

Anonymous said...

'Morning, Nathan.

Question about the forum postings -- will the first page postings be deleted after each selection (even if they are ones that are not randomly picked) or will they remain up, for all the world to see our (read MY) possibly sucky writing?

Thx.

Joshua said...

Great idea.

Some. I read/listen to multiple genres w/o any real focus. In some ways this puts me at a disadvantage b/c I might not be wholly tuned to the current pop sensation (WTF - Justin Bieber!?), but I think (hope) it keeps me from being unduly influenced.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I'm planning on leaving them up, but you have the option of deleting your post at any time.

Mira said...

Well, I tell myself I don't care if I get credit, but evidentally that's complete nonsense. I want credit!!

I posted this topic back in December on your forums, Mr. Bransford. I want credit so badly, I shall post the link as Proof.
http://forums.nathanbransford.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=58

However, I will acknoweldge that a. I'm channeling a two year old and b. great minds think alike, and although I've never met your wife, obviously, she is your wife, so odds are quite high that she is intelligent and has good ideas.

Ahem. Like me.

That was really funny about the orange, and I like your solution.

And I don't know if I write the same genre I read. I haven't written enough to know yet.

And may I add, what a good question this is.

Nicole said...

Yes, my book shelves are overflowing with fantasy. I love reading it and writing it.

I also read and draw inspiration from MG, romance and historical fiction. It's fascinating how a story's essence(adventure, love, honor)can be so similar across genres. I love it!

Mira said...

p.s. that's very kind of you to change the selection process.

Sarah said...

I'll read anything I can get my hands on, but I definately read in my genre. I think it's part of the reason I write the way I do. I've read literary fiction since I was a little too young to understand it. Reading it now is not only pleasurable, but it's great research to see what kind of writing is in the market.

I started a new WIP last month and it's not in the genre I normally write in. The first thing I did was go out and read a bunch of books that are in that genre. I don't want to sound like them, but I do want to know the commonalities of the genre. Does that make sense?

The Author-In-Training said...

I think it's necessary for an author to do both. You can liken it to market research. You want to know what your fellow writers are doing and how they are being received, whether it is in your genre or not.

Nathan Bransford said...

Whoops! Sorry Mira! Forgot about that thread. Post updated with credit-where-due.

Lee Ann said...

"I don't read science fiction, I just write it."

I kid you not: I had someone tell me that once and I still shake my head in wonder. And, his idea of science fiction was atrocious: he didn't have a cue as to what elements readers expected from good sic fi writing.

If you're going to write genre fiction, you must read it. How you can one write a romance without certain elements? Mysteries require a puzzle, romance needs love, science fiction needs logic, and so on.

A good writer reads in their genre and learns from it. I write romance, so I read romances. I note what I like and I note what pitfalls I must avoid.

Sam said...

I like my comment back to back with Lee Ann's.

I'll clarify: I don't read a lot of sci-fi. One every ... six books may be sci-fi.

John Jack said...

I read in it all, every genre, every poetics, every age group, every style mechanical and aesthetic and structural. I read and follow the industry too. Who's so-and-so's agent, publisher, publishing credentials and sales record. Who's doing what, from what's up and coming right on down to what softwares they use for whatever when I can find out.

Mira said...

Wow. That was fast.

Nathan - thank you. I didn't actually need you to post it on the thread....

okay, I'm embarrassed about this whole thing now.

Thank you. You're great. and I'm going to stop talking on this thread now.

D. G. Hudson said...

Yes, I read in the genre I write -- science fiction and mystery/suspense. I prefer these type of books although I do read sci-fi fantasy (elves, hobbits, dragons, magic)at times.

I also try to read some literary & certain new books -- M. Atwood, J. Whyte, D. Gabaldon, etc.

Reading new books in my genre informs me what's being published, and introduces me to new authors -- although I still look for new books by my favorites (Orson Scott Card, Greg Bear, Brian Herbert, etc. (new Dune books).

Carol Riggs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Becca said...

I write Urban Fantasy, Psychological Horror, Paranormal Horror, Paranormal Mystery, Gothic Horror. Heck, sometimes I might even be writing Psychological Paranormal Gothic Horror Mystery.

To be honest, I haven't read many horror books. Which maybe makes what I'm writing a little scarier, since it means I'm thinking these things up myself. I've read a lot of Urban Fantasy and Paranormal Mystery though.

I do plan to read some horror books now that I find myself writing them so often. A write friend of mine told me it's good I have such a wide range. As I understand it, it only means I'll need like 4 or 5 pen names and I'll have to "sell" myself as a writer for each one. So, I'm not convinced it's good, but I'm told it's made my stories more interesting since they all include a little range from each.

Anyway, it's a good thing I don't go off on tangents like that when I'm writing lol. I would say yes, overall I read what I write, but not always. But when that happens, it inspires me to read that genre and get a feel for it.

Marsha Sigman said...

I read everything.

Ciara Blount said...

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: I'll read anything if the writer's voice grabs me.

Kavalier and Clay; Middlesex; Kafka on the Shore; Hitchhiker's Guide; At Swim, Two Boys; Good Omens; Wicked -- I love them all equally! But it was the voice and the plot that pulled me in, not the genre.

Mesmerix said...

I write speculative fiction, primarily urban fantasy, I also read extensively in my genre. It's essential to knowing what is getting published out there and how your work is similar/different.

However, I also read other things: books on the craft, mystery, romance, thriller, suspense, horror, historical... okay, so basically everything.

At its core, I think you need to write what you love to read. Writing in a genre you dislike reading doesn't make any sense to me.

Joseph said...

I read my genre before I chose to commit to writing in my genre. So, I continue to read my genre because it's what interests me.

And yes, I think it's very important for an author to read his or her genre, otherwise they'll "invent" something that is standard and unoriginal. Know the rules to break them, not to write them and say they're new.

At the same time, reading only your genre can create serious tunnel vision. In addition to fantasy, I like reading biographies. It's a solid way to cleanse the palate.

Marjorie said...

Nathan, this is a fascinating and very worthwhile question. I have been a stand-up comic for many years and I just recently started a cartoon blog.

And my answer is, no. I do not read other cartoons or comedy books. I have been hugely disappointed with the kind of humor books that are being published today. "Sh*t My Dad Says," is a NY Times best seller. It's just not for me. My opinion is: if you have read one line his father has said, you have read them all. But, there is a market for this stuff I suppose. So good luck to him!

I do not read anything in the humor genre because the current stuff out here does not appeal to me.

However, I would read SJ Perelman or George Plimpton. But lately, i am working on my cartoon blog so I don't even have time to go see a comedy film.

Melody (frmrly: Jane Harmony) said...

Let's see. I read just about everything I can get my hands on and that interests me past the first chapter. What do I read most? Princess/fantasy and dystopian, both YA.

What do I write most? Princess/fantasy and dystopian.

Hmmmmm, it seems that there is a correlation...

Carol Riggs said...

Argh! There are already many, many stories in the Forum that I'd like to see critiqued! But we'll let democracy rule; great idea, Nathan.

And of course I read in my genre! For inspiration, to make sure my own ideas are unique, and well, because I enjoy it. Having said that, I do NOT like to read other books while I'm writing a novel because it tends to mess up my focus and my own voice/rhythm. I tend to pick up phrasings and cadences of other people like some sort of mutant chameleon. I write a book for 3-4 months and finish the rough draft, then I let it sit/rest while I devour stacks of books in my genre as well as what's popular in YA or MG. Some Carol-recommended-super-worthwhile YA/MG reads: Savvy by Ingrid Law, Artichoke's Heart by Suzanne Supplee, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, Skinned by Robin Wasserman.

And I read out of my genre too; can't beat a good book in any form!

Anna Murray said...

I'm glad you asked this question. I used to read hundreds of books a year, in the genre I write.

After publishing 3 books it has become very difficult for me to read for pleasure. I'll pick up a romance and look at the sentence structure, use of adjectives, plot holes, continuity problems, dialogue that makes me cringe, purple prose, etc, etc.

Does this happen to anyone else?

Besides romance (my genre) I also read a ton of nonfiction -- history, economics, politics.

Theresa Milstein said...

I do read in the genre I write, but I also read in other genres as well. When I'm writing and editing a particular subject (let's say Vampires), I avoid reading any of those types of books because I don't want to be influenced.

Down the well said...

I don't limit myself to any one genre when I read. I like a broad spectrum of stories - all I ask is good writing.

But I do think it is important to stay current in the genre you write in, too. I'd say a third of the books I read are ones that I purposefully sought out because they were similar in tone or substance to the one I'm writing.

Cora Zane said...

About half the books I read are in my own genre. The other half is widely varied.

Emily White said...

I think you end up writing what you enjoy reading.

Anonymous said...

I write horror, and I most definitely read horror. However, I think it is important for a writer in any genre to branch out and read work in other genres. Otherwise you could end up just writing the same book over and over. As much as I love John Skipp and Stephen King, I've learned even more about the craft of writing from J.K. Rowling, Joe Haldeman, and classic authors such as William Golding.

Renae said...

I read an obscene amount of books in the genre I write...can't get enought of them! I can't imagine writing in a genre I didn't love.

Ganz-1 said...

Books about writing are necessary imho :)

And yes, I read mostly books in the genre that I'm writing though I also read others like urban fantasy, mystery etc except romance.

Necessary? I don't know but it is helpful as it helps me get the tone of the genre I'm writing in as well as glimpses at how other authors of the same genre played and picked their words and their plots and characters.

I read other genres simply for the ideas and for a change of scenery every once in a while.

Barbara Martin said...

Although I write mainly in the genre of fantasy I also include multiple genres in my work. Thus, I read several genres to keep up with what others are writing: mystery, crime, paranormal, horror, romance, science fiction, historical, general fiction and non-fiction books on environment and history. I also read the literature classics whenever I can to see how writers in the 1800s described in their specific styles.

Cheryl said...

Yes. I do. But I try to choose my books carefully. Typically, a book has to be *really* bad for me not to finish but when I'm writing, I will put a bad book down within minutes if I know it's not my thing. Bad writing is contagious. I have enough trouble on my own.

Francine said...

Hi,

Due to eclectic taste in reading material, I bear witness to having read all the previous posts out of pure curiosity!

Yeah, I read within given genre to establish current trend/guidelines but tend to stick with Romance (steamy . . . well, let's say hot)suspense/thrillers, though am giving category romance a writing try at the mo. It's harder than mainstream: like cramming 150,000 words into 50,000 movie script = dialogue is big in category romance.

Hell, all the yacking that occurs in some of the category romance novels I'm surprised the heroes' aren't out the door before chapter three: never to return.

BTW love your blog, it's fun.

MJR said...

My WIP is women's fiction, but I don't enjoy issue-oriented women's fiction (like Jodi Picoult) and I'm not a great fan of the lighter weight stuff, so I'm stuck sometimes... I read a lot of memoirs and narrative nonfiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, the phone book, newspapers, alumni magazines, cereal boxes--everything. I think it's important to read widely--not only in your genre or type of fiction.

Josin L. McQuein said...

LoL, Nathan. I think your forum membership is about to explode. By Monday, you'll probably have 500 new members posting in that thread.

:-P

Stephanie said...

I would say about 50% is the genre I write and the other 50% is spread over a few other genres. I'm starting to open up more though and read genres I never have before....but usually they are books that cross several genre lines.

I think it is very important to be well-read in your genre. You need to know what story lines have been done. While we all like to think our ideas are brilliant and unique, chances are someone has already done something similar in the past.

Terry Stonecrop said...

I love my genre but I also like variety so my reading tastes are fairly broad.

Some psychology and anthropology books are also helpful for writers, as well as enjoyable. I don't always buy everything they say but I like reading them.

LM Preston said...

Yep, I read the genre I write. Is it my favorite genre...no. I read horror, mystery, young adult, romance and some scifi but I write young adult scifi.

sarabee said...

I read all kinds of stuff, and when I started writing, thought I was writing women's fiction, and discovered that I have more of a yougn adult voice. So I shifted and began writing in that genre. Now I'm trying to catch up on all of the great YA out there! So far, I've liked some of what I've read, and just tolerated other things.
But I think it's so important to read what you want to write.


Also, THANK YOU for changing your weekly contest critique guidelines - choosing a random number is much more fair! :D

Anonymous said...

Yes. I look for all the creative translations of the familiar motifs too.

pensees said...

Clever way to get more people nosing through the forums. Good stuff out there!

Yes, I read in my genre, but I'll read anything that sounds intriguing and there are lots of books in my genre that I don't have an interest in reading simply because the premise doesn't grab me.

Raquel Byrnes said...

I do read in my own genre, romance, but I read mostly in others. Especially secular books like cop dramas.

I find that reading a gritty detective thriller helps me to better capture what a man might do and say better than my own genre since most cop dramas are written by men.

I like to really tear apart scenes that I like and find out why it works. What tequnique did the writer use and how can I learn it? I learn a lot from reading outside of my own genre.

Fawn Neun said...

Not much, it's hard to tell. I write what I want and when it's done, I figure out what genre it's fallen into.

I read different genres. I tend to favor authors, rather than genres.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the weekly crits, I'm all in favor of having the ways the crit is chosen shift and morph and sometimes be the first to enter and sometimes be another way.
One thing I am thinking is that, instead of nominating the whole thing, it could just be the first line or the title and then when the random number comes up, the winner could send it to you. It seems too much like a contest for there to be all these entrees. Also,possibly problematic, is that once someone has entered a piece, do they reenter the same piece the next time? Could make for a lot of the same pieces all over the forum.

Courtney said...

I've been thinking about this, because my writer's conf. is coming up and I'm told I could be asked questions about who I read, and I don't actually read much in my genre. I watch movies instead. Sounds terrible, but my reading habits swing wildly. I go from book club books to self help to religion to anything by Bill Bryson...well, so it goes. I can remember an author if I've got several of their books, but otherwise I only remember the title. I only keep looking for an author if they knocked my socks off. So, my answer to who I read will be Stephen King, Marian Keyes, Dean Koontz, Tim LaHaye. Now, that I've written in my chosen genre, I've got a ton of books on standby that I plan to read, but I don't want to copy anyone's style while I'm still in the writing process. Hopefully it will help me in the revision process.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Yeah, I'll see how it goes with the Forum nominating. If people like that system better I may just make that a permanent thread, and people can delete their post when they no longer want a critique or keep it up in the hopes of winning in a future critique. But I'll keep refining as we go.

Stacy McKitrick said...

I read in the genre I write, but not everything I read is in the genre I write. I like almost everything, but I write what I love (and what I want to read the most).

Amy said...

Yes and no. I write fantasy, and I read fantasy too, but lately fantasy is making up less than 10% of my reading because I simply don't like most of what's currently being published, particularly urban fantasy, which is all so similar it's like I'm reading the same book over and over again. I'm writing the fantasy novels I want to read. Whether it's what anyone else wants to read, I have no idea.

Kate said...

You know, not really. I've been working on a mystery for about a year and a half, and I think it's just not working out. I think the characters ROCK but the mystery isn't strong. Maybe I need to read more mysteries???

I read a lot of stories set in the south/southwest. I don't read tons of romance but I love books with a romantic element.

However, writing has really opened my mind to other genres, particularly those I'd never read before.

Tania said...

I'd say about 10-15% of what I read is within my genre (YA urban fantasy). The rest is a mix of literary, women's fiction, horror, suspense, crime, classics, sci-fi, and non-fiction.

I really dislike high fantasy that takes itself too serious; the kind with kings and queens and noble quests set in a time and world very different from our own.

I like my fantasy to be grounded in the present or not-so-distant future. I also like to read sci-fi that bends the laws of physics without totally shattering them. And a dash of heroism and dystopian themes doesn't hurt. Basically, I'm writing the kind of book I'd like to read.

Kristin Laughtin said...

Yes, to everything. I read in the genre I write, extensively. It's necessary to know what else is out there, but one has to be careful not to write something too similar to what one has read. And it's definitely helpful to read in other genres as well. Otherwise, it's like having blinders on to what the wide world of literature can be, which is counterproductive to writing your own Great Novel.

Carol Riggs said...

HEY, that's an interesting and time-saving idea, Nathan, if we could use the same entries for subsequent weeks' contests. We'd just initially throw our entries into the pot and leave 'em in to try to win the Critique Lottery at another time. Anyone who doesn't want to keep going can delete his/her entry. Would prevent repeat entries all over the Forum that way.

FYI for Writers: Helpful Book Reading Tip! A shortcut to keeping up with what's out there in Published Book Land (without reading all the books in the world) is to go to Amazon and bring up a particular book. If you don't have a specific book in mind, type in "YA paranormal romance" or "adult mystery books" or whatever field you're interested in. You can see what's out there and read the book summaries and reviews of your genre that way. Also--even handier--is Amazon's "Look Inside" feature; nowadays more and more books have it. With it, you can select to read the first 5 or so pages of a book. Great for researching how other authors begin books (their opening lines, etc), and for providing a flavor of an author's voice and style.

Scott said...

Yes . . . and no. I read some in the genre I write, but I also read in other genres. I like to expand my horizons and keep my options open in case I decide to switch-up my writing genre one day.

Joshua Peacock said...

I do read my genres and I do think it is necessary to read your genre in order to write it well and with authority.

Jck said...

yes, I do. But I also like to read other genres, just for the fun of it.

StaceyW said...

I'm going to invent something standard and unoriginal here and say that I agree with Joseph many posts back, who wrote:

"And yes, I think it's very important for an author to read his or her genre, otherwise they'll "invent" something that is standard and unoriginal. Know the rules to break them, not to write them and say they're new."

I've been a journalist for years and recently started writing fiction. I've always been a reader, but I've been reading voraciously since I started writing - mostly in my genre but also on its fringes.

Except when a great writer gives me a raging inferiority complex, I've found that reading while writing/editing is extremely helpful.

Anonymous said...

It'd be good to keep mixing it up what we send in for a critique--first-page critiques, one-sentence critiques, synopsis critiques, etc. Would allow for more variety and learning as well as more leeway for Nathan regarding how much time he has to do this on any given week (a one sentence critique takes less time than 250 words!)

But for the longer stuff, we could still do the lottery or democratic way. Just have the "pot" available for those weeks.

heather said...

i think it's important (and helpful) to read in the genre you write. you can see how other people are doing it (successfully -you're reading a finished, published manuscript after all) and you can get ideas about what might and might not work in your own ms.

i do think it's helpful, too, to read outside of your genre. there are brilliant writers, amazing turns of phrase, beautiful imagery and unforgettable protags and antags in every genre. reading outside of yours could show you/teach you something you might never have seen/learned otherwise.

so... go forth and read widely!

csmith said...

Random fact

The colour you see when you look away from orange is a sort of teal blue. To be exact, it is the same teal as that of the Heinz baked bean tin. Because this works in the opposite direction as well, it explains why Heinz tins are teal; the orange loiters in your subconsciousness and makes you want to buy more baked beans.

/random fact of the day.

(In answer to your question: I am an indiscriminate reader. Anything and everything. But I'm more likely to put down "stream of consciousness type high literature" and "chick-lit".

I've written (and published) one short gay historical which people seem to like for its quite awful-but-gets-sort-of-redeemed protagonist and fast paced plot, and now in a stunningly-well thought-out decision, have decided to poke at mainstream publication with a series of (currently being researched) historical thrillers set around the Dutch East India company. Lots of countries, lots of cultures, lots of highly amusing methods of creating conflict and suspense including religion, slavery, multinational corporations, illicit trade and war! And probably some murder as well! Should be good fun.)

Christine Mattice said...

While I don't believe that a writer should exclusively read in the genre he or she want to write in, I believe that the writer should be well read in the genre.

Ishta Mercurio said...

Well, generally I read a lot, and I have found that I tend to get ideas and have good "flow" within the genres and styles that I am reading (picture book, MG fantasy, etc.).

On the other hand, when I am in the midst of a project, I have difficulty if I am reading within that genre. I tend to get sucked into the books I read and to think deeply about them and the characters and that world until I finish reading the book, and sometimes for a good while afterwards. It's hard for me to get back into the world of my novel when I'm so invested in thinking about the world of another one.

Anonymous said...

I'm assuming for Monday's critique contest--UNlike the Lottery-- everyone should only enter once??

Ishta Mercurio said...

Addendum: I also read outside my genre. I read fantasy, romantic fiction, contemporary "issue" fiction, non-fiction, biographies, sweet picture books, quirky picture books, humor, etc., etc., etc. But I don't write what I never read. I very rarely read crime fiction, for example, and I don't try to write it either.

Claudie said...

I think reading in one's genre is quite important. You have to learn what has been done, what works and what doesn't and the multitude of genre conventions (whether or not you abide by them, you need to know what they are). Reading in your genre is not only fun (I sure hope you like the genre you write in!), but it brings a wealth of information.

I like to read the other genres too, however. Not only because it makes for a nice change, but because it brings fresh ideas and stories to my mind.

My main problem with all this is that I don't have time to read. Well, not as much as I'd like!

Linnea said...

Random number generator. Now that's usin' your noggin' Much fairer to all those who'd like to enter the contest. Good thinking.

Nope, I don't read extensively in the genre I love to write. Well, at least not fiction anyway. I write historicals so read a ton of nonfiction. I generally only read historical fiction by people I have some kind of connection with - have worked with them, met them on forums etc. I read widely in other genres though.

Kristi Helvig said...

Absolutely, I read in the genre I write--as well as many other genres. I love reading a variety of things and I think reading helps make you a better writer.

Also, I love your new critique process!

Scott said...

I do read in my genre, but also outside it. Besides being a fan of good writing in general, I believe reading outside one's genre can enhance the depth and breadth of characterization and style. Stay too niche, and you run the risk of imitation over influence.

Heather said...

I read a lot of YA, which is what I write. And before I started writing my current project, which is a dystopian book, I read a ton of dystopian novels because they were what I loved. Then once I started writing, I stopped reading other dystopians because I was afraid of: A) Accidentally stealing someone else's awesome idea or B) Finding someone else had already written my idea into a way more awesome book, falling into a black pit of despair, and collapsing in on myself like a dying star when I realized I would never be any good. But I am itching to finish this WIP so I can read some of the wonderful dystipic novels that have come out in the past several months!

Melissa Emerald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Horserider said...

I'll read almost anything, but most of what I actually read is YA which is what I write. I can't imagine it any other way. I mean, how can you learn what works and what doesn't if you don't like reading your own genre?

Amanda P. said...

It's pretty much all I read, though sub-genres (is there such a thing?) vary. I mean, I read almost exclusively YA, but it might vary between contemp, fantasy, paranormal r, etc.

Melissa Emerald said...

I do read in the genre I write, but not always. I just finished my first draft of a cozy mystery. During the three months of writing, I was unable to pick up a cozy. I read thrillers, how-to books, cookbooks and books on writing. But NO cozies.

I wish I could say why, but truthfully, I have no idea. Color me weird -- or orange. :-)

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I love the genres I write in, fantasy and YA fantasy, but I read as much inside those genres as outside. I love historical fiction, contemporary suspense and mysteries of all types. One of the few genres I can't read is urban fantasy.

Susan said...

Would I do heart surgery by studying how to amputate a leg? So, yes, I read my genre. But I also read every other genre, too, since I want to know what to do if the lungs give out or there's a brain aneurysm during the heart surgery.

-S.

Marilyn Peake said...

Cool that you'll now have a randomly generated method of choosing entries for Monday critiques.

I read books from all genres, which includes a lot of literary novels because I love literary writing so much, and definitely novels in science fiction and fantasy which are the genres I've written so far.

Sugar said...

I am trying to find some like what I'm writing..I suppose I need to look harder..
I am wiring erotic fantasy..
Also, wondering if that would be too much to send for a critique?

wonderer said...

Since I write in the same genres that are my favourite to read (fantasy and science fiction), the answer is yes.

However, I also make a point of varying my reading, both within the genre (YA vs. adult, various subgenres, classics and newly published) and out of it (literary, historical, comedy, memoir, poetry).

I think it's important for writers to be aware of what has been published in their genre, so as not to reinvent the wheel but instead to find a new take on what others are writing. But it's also important to read outside the genre for inspiration and new angles.

Plus, I just like variety.

Lydia Sharp said...

Totally LOL'ing at Matt's comment.

To answer the question, yes, I mostly read in the genres that I write (SF/F, women's fic, and YA). I also read a lot of nonfic (wish I could say it's all for research, but no, I'm really just a nerd) and occasionally historical fic and mystery/thriller.

Donna said...

I read everything I can get my hands on in my genre. Seems to work on "readerly" muscle memory.

However, I find that I sometimes overdose on too much of one genre as if the muscles are buffing into a lopsided shape. Occasionally, I just have to turn toward something radically different to restore balance to my creative core.

Laura Marcella said...

Orange is my favorite color so it definitely would be super awesomesauce to see everything in orange!!!

I don't really have a favorite genre, but I so have a soft spot for middle grade! I want to write a lot of novels in that genre, so I read a lot of them, too. But I also read anything and everything else because I want to write in many different genres!!!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I was raised, Nathan, to be an eclectic reader (ditto on music) and I do enjoy various genres.

Do I read the genre I writee? Absolutely. How can you effectively write what you don't know? IMO, you need to know what's out there and how it's presented for one, and two, I happen to love the genre and it's my preferred read.

Someone else mentioned you can overdose on a favorite genre and I agree. I had a HUGE stack of books on my TBR pile that I immersed myself in after RT convention. I must have read 25 books in May. But, while I love romance and it's sub-gengres, I LOVE to read a good thriller in between, or something in Sci-fi. I have a few literary authors I enjoy too.

I think reading a variety of genres can teach a writer many things with regard to pacing word choices, set ups, characters.

Erastes said...

Since deciding to write my genre (gay historical fiction) I have been reading just about everything in the genre I can get my hands on. This lead to me creating www.speakitsname.com which aims to list every single gh title I can find and do reviews.

I still read that genre voraciously, especially everything that comes out, partly for SIN but partly to see how the competition is doing, and to learn from those, such as Alex Beecroft and many others who are so much better than me.

I tend to read other genres such as fantasy (GRRM and Butcher) or classics for relaxation.

:)Ash said...

I think it's absolutely necessary to read what you write. If you don't enjoy reading books for kids (for example), why the heck would you want to write an MG novel?

Oh, wait, I know. It's because you think it's easier to write for kids. And, oh yeah, that J.K. chick is a multi-millionaire now.

Guess what? You're an idiot. And you'd know that if you knew anything at all about kidlit.

I guess I could have just said yes. :)

:)Ash said...

I think it's absolutely necessary to read what you write. If you don't enjoy reading books for kids (for example), why the heck would you want to write an MG novel?

Oh, wait, I know. It's because you think it's easier to write for kids. And, oh yeah, that J.K. chick is a multi-millionaire now.

Guess what? You're an idiot. And you'd know that if you knew anything at all about kidlit.

I guess I could have just said yes. :)

bettielee said...

Oh yes! Fantasy is my favorite, and fantasy is what I read. I do love classics also, and the occasional literary book. It's hard. I love to read, and there is so much out there!

Ruth said...

Yes I read books in my genre but if there's a book I cannot put down whatever the genre I'll read it. Hey, a good book is a good book and I believe any style can only help your writing.

M Clement Hall said...

Although one often hears, "write what you know," I like better, "write what you like to read."

Lisa Yarde said...

Absolutely! I rarely read anything outside of historical fiction. I have a passion for history that translates into my reading preferences and influences what I write. I might stray into historical myster / thriller or fantasy and sci-fi, but my genre remains my first love.

Rachel Waxman (The Poofy Sheep) said...

I write fiction (as of yet I consider myself ungenrified), but read almost exclusively nonfiction. I'm trying to break the habit, but as a student of history, I just can't help myself.

abc said...

Of course I read in my genre! It seems like it would be silly not to, since I love it so. But I also read (most) of everything else b/c I like to be well rounded and because I enjoy reading and because I want to be up on our culture (like reading Marsha Brady's memoir, for example. Oh yes I did!).

I love books. I love stories. I love to learn about people. Also, I like to seem impressive.

But back to reading in one's genre. Remember how on Season 5 (I believe it was season 5) of Project Runway that whiny/crazy girl Kenley kept putting out fashions that seemed to heavily reference other--much more well known--fashion designers and how Michael Kors was all Pish Posh lady!? Well, it has gotta be the same with writing, I figure. Especially if you are writing for the mainstream. It's important to know what is out there. And it's also important to know what has come before. Michael Kors, he is so wise.

Cheree said...

Oh definitely. I don't think it would be possible to write for a genre I didn't read, and it's also good to keep informed about what's being published and how other authors tackle my genre.

Caitlin said...

I read everything. It depends mostly on my mood what genre I will read. Although, I have read a lot of books in the genre I write in. Perhaps that is why I chose to write in that genre. Hmm...

Kelly Wittmann said...

I read novels, but not a lot of contemporary novels, and I suppose I should. It's not that I don't enjoy novels, but I love history so much that there's always a little voice in my head saying, "You could be reading history right now."

Stephanie Barr said...

Yeah, to an extent. More, though, I read the kind of books I like to write - strong appealing characters, good action, humor, emotional depth, etc.

Genres where that's not so prevalent I tend to avoid. I don't care about the genre or the gimmick. For me, it's all about the characters.

Maureen said...

I read quite a bit in my chosen genres but I also read all types of books that interest me. Mix it up a little...

Anonymous said...

My favorite books to read are of the literary fiction variety, but I write YA. I've been reading a truckload of YA not so much to enjoy it bu rather as research. Reading in the genre I'm writing in is basically like having a bunch of how-to guides. Very helpful.

Carradee said...

Yes, I read the genre I write all the time. There's a lot I enjoy about the genre, but there are things I'm weary of or dislike, too, which is why I write.

I read a lot of the genre to make sure I keep my goal(s) in mind, and to make sure I'm not using the same tropes everyone else is. Also so I can take the clichés and avoid them or twist them into pretty pretzels.

However, I ignore the age divisions when I'm reading. MG, YA, adult—I read it all, as long as it's urban fantasy (or epic/adventure fantasty, when I'm in that mode).

Donna Hole said...

Yes; but not as much as I should. I write commercial/women's fiction, but I love fantasy the best.

Terry Towery said...

I mostly enjoy adult thrillers (King, Crichton, Grisham, etc.) and that's the genre I write. But I also love literary works and classics, and I read them quite often, although I don't for a moment consider my own work "literary."

ryan field said...

Rarely. I'd rather not be influenced by other authors.

Aimee said...

It's more like I write in the genre I read. I don't especially like reading sci-fi or fantasy; therefore, I don't especially like to write sci-fi or fantasy.

writers block said...

I write fantasy but I am a die hard Stephen King fan (I have almost all his books in hard back) I also read alot of historical fiction and only started reading fantasy genre after I started my last book.

Someone (I think it might have been King) said you should always write what you know. No one ever said to "read what you know". I like to read things I know I am not capable of doing myself.

Robyn Campbell said...

I write MG and picture books. I read everything from sci-fi to picture books. I believe knowledge IS power. The more you read in whatever genre, the better you write. =)

Magdalena Munro said...

Yes. And no. I am near completion of a NF business book (that has to do with my career) and while I consider myself an expert on the subject matter, I would rather kill myself than read NF business books, the exception being my book of course. HA!

I have a WIP that is postmodern fiction and this genre is what I almost exclusively gobble up (DeLillo, Murakami, Mitchell) as it's my love and I learn so much from reading their works.

Nathan, I had always assumed that for the weekly critiques it had to be fiction. Is this true?

Adam Heine said...

My genre is sf/f (adult or YA, I don't care). Honestly I have trouble reading outside of it. I write what I want to read after all.

Gigi said...

I heard someone say once that you should write the book you want to read. In context of this discussion, I think that means that if you don't ever read horror, why would you write about it?

Steph Damore said...

Yep, I totally agree with everyone else who said they read what they write. You have to in order to know what's out there and understand your genre. It's all about research :)

Nicole L Rivera said...

I read anything that sparks my interest. I especially like reading anything that stirs my imagination, i.e. an intriguing voice, character, world, etc.

Rachel Udin said...

90% of my reading is non-fiction. About 10% is fiction.

A good writer knows what they are talking about. So say a Fantasy writer should know cultures and should know how to build one. Especially a high fantasy writer. If not, then you should at least know sociology if you're writing Urban Fantasy. (Inner workings of a city, you need sociology). (Fantasy writers also have to know a lot of useless junk that no other person would find remotely interesting. The history of women's blouses and buttons.) History is also a good study.

Mystery writers should know criminology and psychology.

History writers should know History.

Science Fiction writers should know science, or at least have a scientist on hand. (A friend of mine did a diagram based on the info I gave him--you need one of these around. ^_^)

Chick Lit writers--please read about the various movements of feminism. I'm a little tired of the definition of women as shoe-brand wielders.

Also Romance writers should know a little psychology--romance is psychology.

So yes, I read inside genre, but I think it's important to read outside of genre AND enhance your genre knowledge with a related academic study. Once I determined I was going to be a writer, I crammed my head full of Discovery Channel, History channel, mythology, fun facts to know and tell, taught myself to like research, and watched a whole lot of cooking shows before the advent of Food Network. I also read lots of psychology books and disorders because I thought that would help with character building. I also watch shows within the US and outside of the US because fiction writers are really storycrafters, so collecting as many plots as possible is important and understanding what works for print and what doesn't and why.

So I think a good writer collects stories no matter where they are and is in love with the story. I also think a good writer needs to know a lot of things about the world and be willing to research them, or find someone who knows for them or face a limit to what they can write.

Remilda Graystone said...

Yes, yes, definitely. I write mostly fantasy and I read mostly fantasy. It's my favorite genre--although when I first began writing, I chose to write a contemporary--and I do think it's helpful. Why? Because I know what's believable in the fantasy books even if most of everything in them is made up, I know what's out there and what isn't out there, and I think that gives me a leg up. I think it's very important to have knowledge of the genre you're reading in.

maven said...

Great subject! I have such curiosity and eclectic tastes that I read most genres, as well as nonfiction. This lack of focus creates a problem, time shortage.

wendy said...

As at least one other person has mentioned, I've rapidly tired of vamp stories - especcially the vamp as paramour. And as I'm also not a big fan of paranormal romances, or the romance genre, I don't read it. I did read Twilight and liked it. The story was a sweet read for me.

Janalyn Voigt said...

Having eclectic tastes, I become interested in a book on its own merits. I'm not tied to fantasy and historical fiction, the genres in which I write. However, I often will choose books from those genres. I like biographies and autobiographies also.

Amethyst said...

Yes but not when I am writing in that particular genre for fear of lifting something or emanating something that doesn't fit with my own story. But for the most part, I read anything in any genre as long as the writing is done well and the story is interesting

Currently writing in Fantasy and Woman's Fiction.

Marge said...

Yes, but. . . I read not just fantasy fiction; I read historical fiction, regional fiction, women's fiction, you name it. If it has fiction in its category, it's fair game. Although I have to admit I'm branching out and have read a fair number of nonfiction books recently. I figure exposing myself to other's writing styles can only help improve what I'm writing.

J.M. Lacey said...

I tend to read a variety of genres, but my main concentration is within the genres of my own writing (literary and women's fiction). I have to understand what is selling and why. Why I personally like a story and why I don't. It's all research for me (albeit a fun topic!). Plus, you can't disappoint fans of a particular genre by not meeting their expectations. You can't call your work one thing only for your readers to catch you in your bluff.

I also read some of the best-sellers simply because they're best-sellers and I want to know what made one author's book better than another. (And yes, I'm aware that best-seller can mean number of shipped books. Which is probably why some of them, in my opinion, were not very good and I would never in my remaining years write such dribble.)

Amorena Nobile said...

I'm not really sure. The only thing that's always consistent with me is, whether I'm reading or writing it, it has to have dragons. I mostly read fantasy, but I've also read sci-fi (with dragons) and historical fantasy (with dragons).

For the most part, I also write fantasy, but sometimes I find myself writing something I don't necessarily enjoy reading, like soft sci-fi or books in first person. I usually hate reading a novel written in first person, but I love writing it.

So to answer the topic, yes, but both what I read and what I write are often unpredictable.

Nathalie said...

How could you not read books in the genre you're writing in? It would be like fixing a car with bubble gum and skipping ropes (although I had a boyfriend once who tried that, I don't recommend it). You need to be armed with the proper tools of the trade and immersing yourself within the realm of your work only strengthens your ability to create the best you can!

Becca said...

Quite simply, yes.

rachelcapps said...

I love my genre, and for over 20 years now. I have to write it, it's where my imagination flies. But I also love to read classics, bestsellers, anything recommended that I like the sound of and I always try to read the Booker Prize winner.

Ezmirelda said...

I write in the genre that I also read in, though i don't limit myself to just that. I try out other genres just for the sake of studying the way it was written. Afterall, I think there's always room for variation no matter which genre you usually write in.

E. D

Amanda Sablan said...

Yes and no. My work is part fantasy/thriller, but I read more literary novels than anything. But I think it's good for a writer to read in a variety of genres; that way, they can take from each genre any ideas and inspirations they get from the material and apply that to their own writing, which will make it richer and more diverse. A melding of genres is always cool!

treeoflife said...

I read big time in the genre I'm writing in. Most big sellers in the genre I've read 3 or 4 or more times.

Outside of the genre, I read a lot of the literary classics, or any fiction that is really strongly recommended.

Tori said...

I read many different genres. What is interesting though is most of what I read I would hate to write. I've tried. Suddenly it just becomes a chore.

But I have recently started writing YA again, a genre I used to love. So I have really gotten into the genre to see what is out there, how my story is different, how it is the same, and who will like it.

Some writers don't seem to need to read in the genre they write, but I find it very important. Without such knowledge I'd have no idea what has been done to death, what's been done but I could still get away with...and what might actually be different.

I try to limit how many books I read in a month though. If I read too much I can see myself start to slip into a style that isn't mine, and I think that is dangerous. So, although I read in my genre I try to be careful as well.

Robin Constantine said...

I do like to read in the genre I write in to see what's out there, what works, who got away with what plot twists and wondering "now why didn't I think of that", etc but there are times it's hard to read in *writer mode* because then I find myself wondering how so and so got away with so many adverbs or this could have used a bit more editing...and then reading isn't fun. That's when I usually switch to something completely different so I can just get lost in a story.

Dawn said...

I read young adult extensively partly because I write it and partly because I teach young adults. I also read widely beyond that because the craft of writing can be taught in any genre and I am creatively inspired by reading beyond what I write.

P.A.Brown said...

I read extensively in what I write. At least I did until I started writing my historical novel set in 1929 in Los Angeles. It became difficult to find a huge number of books set in the same time frame. But I love what I read and can't imagine trying to write something else. Why would I? If I was doing it because I thought another genre would sell more I doubt I'd do a very good job of it. I don't understand people writing something they don't love.

wendy said...

Must add, thanks, Nathan, for giving us another option to have a page crit done. You try to please your guests, and this is one of the reasons the blog has such a warm, welcoming atmosphere, I think.

Anonymous said...

I read across all genres, but I find that if I am reading in the genre that I am writing, that I can sustain better character voices for longer. Of course, I read across genre to figure out how to do stuff right. I wouldn't read Lord of the Rings to learn how to get a love scene right.

Margaret said...

I'm writing in a wide variety of genres as I explore, but I haven't written in any genre I don't read. I also haven't written in every genre (not even counting non-fiction) that I read. Either I don't have the knack/experience for some of them, or no tale set in those I haven't has come to me. Ultimately, I read for story. I don't need to have a specific set of conventions met as long as the book has a solid story.

TirzahLaughs said...

I'm currently writing comedy. I don't find many comedy books funny so I don't read many of them. I do like other genre's with witty dialogue though. Does that count?

When I wrote horror, I read thrillers and suspense but true horror was too much for me to read but not to read.

Tirz

Amanda Sablan said...

And I freakin' love the orange! Who else has an orange blog?

bethhull.com said...

Synchronicity indeed. Yesterday I started drafting a blog post about how I'm taking a break from YA contemporary fantasy. I love the genre, and that's what I'm writing now, BUT I think there's such a thing as over-saturation. And I think I've hit that point.
Got any recommendations for...any other genre?

Holly said...

yes, i agree with everyone. finding a subject to write with is difficult as well, i've tried MANY short stories and experimented on the kind of things i like to write about, and others that i dont care much for. its a great learning experiment.

Dara said...

Yes, I most definitely read in the genre I write. My love of a good story and history are in historical fiction, which is mostly what I write. I'd say about three quarters of what I read is historical fiction, with an occasional fantasy thrown in there.

I think it's important that you read extensively in the genre you're writing in so you know what works and what doesn't. I've also found that it helps me see what the current trends are too.

Trying to read a bit more fantasy (with a historical aspect of course) since my next few story ideas have fantasy elements.

Renee Miller said...

I read everything. I don't consider genre when I'm choosing a book. I have favorite authors in all genres and a list of recommendations from friends. When I'm looking for something to read, I usually check the list and pick the next one.

Kaitlyne said...

I write stories I enjoy, and the same goes for stories I read, so yeah, pretty much. I'd say I probably read a bit more widely than I write, however.

The exception would be that I'll avoid books even remotely similar to what I'm writing at the moment in order to avoid being influenced by them.

Madeleine said...

I read in the genre I write, but it's more that I write in the genre I read. I simply LIKE that genre, so it goes both ways. :D However, I read outside of my genre, too. After all, I was a reader before I became a writer.

Kimber An said...

Yes, but I read across ALL genres, except Horror and Erotica.

I notice I tend to be a lot more picky with the genre I write in, Young Adult. I also tend to be more defensive about it and the readership.

I've found it extremely helpful to also read and listen to what the readership has to say about the books they love and why they love them. And also to hang out with them and enjoy being in their company in real life.

Emily Anderson said...

Yes and no. Right now I'm working on a YA dystopia and I'm reading about 10 books a month. About 7 of those are YA and about 4 dystopias (although not all YA). I'm working with MPOVs, so I've picked up a few books with MPOVs too, both in and out of my genre. Sometimes I get my best writing technique tips from unexpected places. Everything I read seems to influence me whether it's pacing, character development, POVs, description, what have you. It's important to read in your genre, but it's important to spread out too.

Transition! (That got a laugh out of me.)

On a sidenote, I really wish more agents were on goodreads. Checking out an agent's reading taste (both likes and dislikes) tells me just as much as their list of what they're looking for.

Sandra said...

I'm a reader of the crime genre and a writer of the same.

But here's the kicker - I'm also a police officer and I'm afraid our job isn't as exciting as others let on. Perhaps this means the others are better writers, or maybe it means I'm bored with my job (even thought it does have its high points).

Being a crime writer has been a good gig as I now have a weekly column in a major newspaper with the added exposure, but with that comes access to all the new authors and I am humbled. Wow, can some of these people write and I think to myself, "You had better file your 'novel' away before you really embarrass yourself."

Ah well, all this simply raises the bar and I have to do better...besides, isn't challenge supposed to be a good thing?

MJ said...

I read what I like.

But the one I like most is what I write. I tried writing in a less favorite genre with my first book.

I liked my story, but in a critique group, someone who mostly read/wrote in that genre made mention that I was a little "off" on what is normally expected.

Pondering this I realized I didn't want to read so much of that genre to figure it out. I wanted to read extensively really only in my favorite. So, why not just stick with writing in my favorite genre especially since I'm going to have to read my own book a half dozen times or more.

John Wiswell said...

I write multiple genres and read from all of them, but read many books outside of it. Science books help create SciFi/Fantasy scenarios; History and Politics help competent world-building. No matter what I read, though, I feel behind. There is always some speculative fiction god I've never heard of and am a fool for having missed.

Ted Cross said...

It's odd perhaps, but I love to read a broader range than what I write, however I write in the genres that I love most.

Deepa said...

Firstly, THANK YOU for the new page critique rule!! The time difference between us is almost 12 hours, so yeah... when you post, its 3-4 am here :S I stand a chance now!

I read whatever catches my attention... not necessarily the genre i write (which currently is limited to romance). I actually like writing other genre's, because it opens me up to other worlds (LOTR/HP is an amazing eg) and you can get inspiration from them right??

k m kelly said...

The more you read well-constructed fiction the easier it is to construct good prose, yourself. I love biographical/historical fiction. Always have. Always will. But I also love a wide range of other genres. I even read my first (and last, I hope) horror novel this week - I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER by Dan Wells. Excellently written - didn't care for the genre. But I'd met Dan and wanted to see why Europe is raving about his debut novel.
Back to your question - do I read in the genre that I'm currently writing? To an extent, yes. My WIP is fantasy. I've read Christopher Paolini's books. I've read the Harry Potter series. I've read the Twilight books. I've read some Sarah Hoyt. I've skimmed through some of Marion Zimmer Bradley's books about Avalon. I really enjoyed Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker and there probably are other fantasy books I've read this past year - either trying to get a handle on what's being published in the genre at this time or because I was doing research for my own book. At the same time I've read several Dick Francis books, two or three John Grisham books and who knows what else. I don't keep track.
So, yes, I read in my genre but I also read in almost every other genre, too.

Mi said...

RE Page critique:
Are you going to just keep a full listing of the pages on that one thread, or will you create a new thread every week for the critique?

RE "You tell me":

I write in so many genres (I have perhaps five novels which I actively work on at any given time) that I don't think I could read in as many as I write. I can't do both with how little time I have on my hands. But I do read more often in my favourite genre to read and write in.

But I think it's important not to overload yourself with your genre. You can lose a lot of creativity. I don't imagine that Tolkien read hundreds of books on high fantasy before he wrote LotR. That's part of the reason why he was one of the first guys to come up with the subgenre. He had more creative license, because he wasn't constricting himself by "genre norms."

Anonymous said...

No. Can't stand it. If I liked it, I'd probably hang up the pen.

I also sleep with a garden gnome.

Elie said...

Growing up, I read anything I could get my hands on - one summer holiday I read a lot of Dickens because that was mainly what my grandparents had on the shelf.
But my favourite was always middle grade fantasy, and that's what I read & write now. I read some young adult too.
As others have said, I have to limit my reading while writing as it takes me out of my own world/characters heads. And I will read and read and do nothing else if given the opportunity.
I read to analyse as well as for pleasure. I also enjoy reading the dictionary, and spend an enormous amount of time reading about writing on the internet. Eg this blog !!

Harry Markov said...

Yes. Knowing the genre means also knowing the pitfalls and also be in tune with what can be explored and what other ways you can contribute to it. As with writing, knowing the rules gives you the power to bend them and add something new, without it ending in a catastrophe.

Though I do believe that there should be diverse reading involved. The writer is never a constant, and it's part of the diverse reading that the writer can reinvent himself and forge into new directions.

G said...

Kind of.

Some of the stuff I've been writing is romance oriented, so....I've been reading that particular genre (of which was not touched by me in the preceeding 35+ years of my reading life), just so I could get a basic idea of what I'm getting myself into.

Beyond that, I now stick mostly to non-fiction, which the occasional fiction thrown (such as the aforementioned romance genre).

*kristen*isbell* said...

No wonder this blog is so popular. Really interesting question.

Regardless of what I’m working on, I shuffle down to the library once a month and pick up books from set categories.

This month it’s Caroline Bird’s ‘Watering Can’; Virginia Woolf: An Inner Life; ‘Tender is the Night’; ‘Les Liaisons dangereuses’; and ‘Playing the Game’ by the infamous Belle de Jour (it’s research *wink* for my writing, not a double life as a London call girl).

Currently, I'm writing what I most enjoy reading: women’s fiction aimed at twentysomethings that contains traces of the ‘literary’.

I wrote my first novel (RUSH) last year without thinking too much about what it would ‘be’ when it grew up. Was I influenced by ‘chick lit’ I’d read previously? Of course. But I was also influenced by Greek mythology, literary criticism, a class I took on Modernism, modern poetry, etc and these are in the novel as well. Random.

Question: I’ve always been curious about whether other writers start with a character, a setting, a concept or a plot-line. When ‘wool-gathering’ (Virginia Woolf), do you hear voices and conversations? Visualize a ‘scene’ or setting? See or hear the words you are about to write? What shape do your initial ideas take?

Shannon said...

I read whatever I'm in the mood to read. It all informs.

Martin Willoughby said...

I read everywhere. I write SF comedy, but read other fiction, history, philosophy, thrillers and, when I can't get to sleep, some literary fiction to help me doze off.

Kathryn Magendie said...

I write what I like to read, so I read what I write (southern/literary/women's fiction), but I read out of my "genre" as well. There are a few genres I normally do not read, but other than those few, I am pretty open.

Kathryn said...

I definitely read way more kids' novels than adult novels... but I find that sometimes when I'm reading in a kids genre close to something I'm writing, there's this voice in the back of my head, like a little critiquer/teacher, that is trying to dissect the story rather than enjoy it! So sometimes I have to reach for something far away from what I'm writing to just relax with a book.

Kathryn

Debbie said...

Absolutely, you need to read widely in the genre you're writing in. Having said that, I think you also need to read widely. Period. I have a system. I'll choose books in this order: one kid's book (my genre), one classic, one book on writing, then one book just for me. Then I start the rotation again. I love all sorts of fantasy, so the 'for me' book is usually a fantasy.

Kait Nolan said...

Oh absolutely. I think it is imperative to read in the genre you're writing to get a feel for what kinds of things are "rules" and what's more like "guidelines". Each genre has them. And yeah, some of it you can break or bend, but you should know what the rule/guideline is you're bending or breaking and why you are bending/breaking it. I've heard a lot of writers swear they CAN'T read in the genre they're writing because they'll start sounding like whatever they are reading. This always kind of strikes me as someone who isn't yet secure in their voice or their story. And while I freely admit that I can't read something like a period piece (ah, Mr. Darcy) without winding up inserting stiffer, more formal language and words like "thither" (such a great word) when I write ANYTHING (because all of my work is contemporary), mostly, I've solidified who I am as a writer and can stick to my own voice. I think it's far more important to keep your finger on the pulse of what's being published, what's trendy, what's overdone, and most of all to figure out how what you're doing is DIFFERENT from what everybody else is doing.

Tamara Narayan said...

Thanks, Nathan, for opening up the 250 first words contest so everyone has an equal chance at getting picked.

I read all genres now, but when I was younger, I stuck with horror/thrillers/suspense. Some of my favorite writers do not write in my genre. I recommend everyone branch out; great writing transcends genres.

sharonedge said...

Yes! I learn from every author I read, what works, what doesn't, what I wish I'd thought of first. Writers write, but if writers do not read in their genre, their journey will be longer and harder than it has to be.

I love good middle grade and YA fiction. I love to read it; I love to write it. I'm so lucky to have found what I love.

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