While reading in your genre is a wonderful tip–in fact, it’s very necessary–for any author, today I want to explore the benefits I’ve received from reading outside my genre: specifically, the benefits I’ve gotten, as a writer, from reading literary fiction and classic British detective fiction (looking your way, Agatha Christie)
As you all know, I’m a fantasy writer. I write sword and sorcery fantasy, and I have a blast doing that.
I also read a lot of fantasy, as is evident if you read my fiction. My magic system in Herezoth (for full-blooded sorcerers, at least) is a lot like magic in Harry Potter, except it isn’t wand dependent and is affected not only by genetics, but by the extent to which your bloodline has used those powers through the generations.
Still, a number of my greatest literary influences don’t come from fantasy. Reading outside your genre will help your writing in many ways. These are just the tip of the iceberg, really.
- It will get you thinking in new ways. Genre fiction usually tends to develop through similar patterns. The plots and character arcs can be similar from book to book. That’s not say each fantasy novel or detective novel isn’t unique in its way; each is. But there’s something about reading Charles Dickens or Ernest Hemingway that really sparks my creativity. The stories are so different from what I write and what I usually read that my brain has to adjust. That is a wonderful thing.
- You can discover ways to innovate and adapt your writing. Chalk this up to the creativity sparks. Reading outside your genre allows you to compare what you’re reading to your genre. You approach your genre from a different angle, see new possibilities, and find ways to personalize your fiction that are crazy exciting for you.
- You get to take a breather and either stave off or work through a burnout. As much as I love fantasy, and I love my writing, sometimes I burn out, and I need a break. I need to turn to something different. If you can recognize the signs of an impending burnout, you can even prevent it from getting bad by striking preemptively and reading something fresh and different.
- You get an adventure. Life’s all about new experiences and new discoveries. Reading something that’s new and different for you means embarking on a personal journey you’ve never taken before. It will help you grow not only as a person, but as a writer. I learned so much about Asian and Asian-American culture through Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club. That’s a window into a world I was previously blind to.
So there you have it: a reminder from your friendly neighborhood author to take a break from your reader status quo every now and again.
How often do you read outside your genre? What are some of the best books you’re read that aren’t in the genre you write? How have such books impacted your writing?
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