Reading is one of those things that every writer knows that they should do, but a lot of us just don’t make time to do. I’ll be the first to admit that I am horrible at making time to read. When faced with everyday chores and activities, combined with your own in-work novel, it’s easy to classify sitting down with a book as time wasted.
But is it really?
Or is that just an excuse; a subconscious lie we tell ourselves so we don’t feel bad about not reading. Maybe if we as writers realized the benefits of reading—especially reading inside your chosen genre (or genres)—we’d be a lot more eager to pick up a novel and take the time to read it cover to cover.
So what are some of the benefits of reading inside the genre(s) you plan to write in?
#1: IT HELPS YOU APPROACH YOUR OWN IDEAS BETTER:
You’d be surprised how often you can glean project-changing ideas from fellow authors in your chosen genre. Since everyone looks at things a little differently, everyone has a unique take on writing within the mainstream genres. Just look at the differences between Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and Lewis’s Narnia to see what I mean. Both were fantasy writers, and both had distinctive ways of crafting their worlds.
The more you read the writings of others, the better you will be able to approach your own.
I recently finished Timothy Zahn’s Conqueror’s Pride and Conqueror’s Heritage as well as Orson Scott Card & Aaron Johnston’s Earth Unaware, Earth Afire and Earth Awakens. Reading those five books—and seeing how the authors uniquely approached many of the mainstream aspects of the science-fiction genre—helped me immensely in creating my own science-fiction universe.
#2: IT PREVENTS UNINTENTIONAL PLAGIARISM:
“Don’t be surprised. There is nothing new under the sun. Only endless repackagings.”
~ John Piper, Don’t Waste Your Life
Imagine getting your novel ready for publication only to realize that somebody else has already published a work so similar that you could be accused of plagiarism. That would be horrible. You’ve gone to all the work only to find out that you have to go back to the drawing board and restart.
It is pretty much guaranteed that every story idea you have ever thought up, has been thought before by somebody else.
That’s why we find similarities to DragonHeart and Eragon in nearly every Dragon story. Or why most Science-Fiction resembles Star Trek or Star Wars in some way. Despite the fact that everyone is different, you’d be surprised at the amount of inadvertent plagiarism in the literary world.
By reading widely in your genre—and therefore knowing what has already been written in which way—you can avoid a lot of unintentional plagiarism.
#3: IT HELPS YOU TO GROW AND LEARN AS A WRITER:
People learn from experience; what we see, what we do—
—what we read.
Often we get it in our head that we don’t need advice from anyone. We argue that we can write a [insert genre name here] book just as well as the next author and we completely cut out the learning curve. But if we swallow our pride and read, we allow the author to teach us something; whether it’s a physical skill, moral lesson or an ethical value. Reading inside the genre we plan to write is one of the greatest ways to be inspired, to learn, and to cultivate our career as writers.
But don’t tell your Mother I said you could read instead of do your chores. That never ends well.
Do you read in the genre you write? Or not? What book or author have you learned the most from? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear from you!