Stephen King once said that to be a good writer you have to read a lot.
I mean, Stephen King is a fantastic writer and has some fantastic tips, but that kind of makes sense. It’s like,
‘You want to fly an airplane? Look at how other people have successfully flown. Or crashed. Hopefully less of the crashing’.
And so I’ve been reading outside my genre. Usually I read a lot of YA books, the latest bestseller or whatever my parents throw my direction, but I’ve been focused on reading much of what I’m not used to. This helps for a few reasons:
You can’t read only what you write
Neil Gaiman once said that Tolkien did not read large Tokienesque fantasies to base his books off of. He couldn’t have, they…obviously didn’t exist. But he did read many, many other books and genres that made it into his works in one fashion or another. If you read one genre, your stories and writing will only have one flavor. Only by spicing it up with different works will you have something that your mother-in-law will deem acceptable.
Reading one genre gets BORING
There’s a pattern with YA books. With post-apocalyptic there’s always ‘the ambiguous disease’ and ‘the ambiguous cure’. With paranormal romance there’s always the girl who has two boys vying for her affection with no mention of whether or not this girl has any redeemable qualities worth vying for. And for fantasy there’s a lot of ‘nameless evil, corporation, sorcerers, insert whatever suits your fancy here’.
That grows old. Yes, it’s fun to go back to something that’s comfortable and familiar, but to truly grow in writing you must venture outside of what you know.
You are able to connect to more people
This is true in your writing and your life. No two people are the same, obviously, and thankfully. Life would be extremely dull if that were the case. Same holds true for connecting with your readers through your writing. If you have a work with a mix of mystery, suspense, romance, etc…you’re far more likely to attract someone with a taste for one of those rather than writing a straight fantasy. Also, it just makes your book more interesting.