Reading Outside Your Genre (Penny Rader)

Pssst. Wanna know how to improve your writing? Try reading outside your genre. Yup. It’s true. For a few reasons why, check out the post snippets below:

Breaking Your Mental Blockers (Nfoster)

“Read outside your genre or regular authors. Reading the same two authors every time you read because they're your favorites can get stale. You know their plot devices, you know their character stereotypes. You're not learning anything new as you read. I'm not saying you have to, but if you're going to be a writer, you need to experiment. New authors or different genres of reading can give you that highly-valued new perception I keep talking about. … As you read, you're broadening your horizons about who, what, where and why according to someone else. No one reacts the same way, so understanding other people's characters is infinitely valuable to your mental processes.”

Fundamentals of Fiction, Part II: "Read, Read, Read!" (Marg Gilks)

“Read novels and read short stories; read poetry. Poetry will tune your writer's ear to the rhythm of language, and make your writing beautiful. Novels and short stories each have their own technical requirements; studying overall story arc in a novel will teach you about plot and structure; the length restrictions imposed by short stories will both allow you to study technique in condensed form and teach you how such important aspects as characterization and setting can be conveyed to maximum effect in a minimum of space.”

If You Want to be a Good Writer, You Need to Read (John Harmon)

“…read outside your safety zone. You should read magazines and books you wouldn’t normally pick up for your own pleasure. Sound crazy? It’s not. It’s learning, it’s stretching your boundaries. You’d be surprised at how many unique ideas you can gain from reading unfamiliar material.”

Reading Outside Your Genre (Edmund Schubert)

“From the other genres you can pick up tropes and tricks. From non-fiction you can pick all sorts of useful nuggets you can use in future novels of your own.”

Ten Steps to Finding Your Writing Voice (Holly Lisle)

“Read fiction, read nonfiction, read in the genre you love, read outside of it. Read WAY outside of it. You cannot be a snob -- don't write off any genre or type of book as being without redeeming qualities or lessons to teach you.”


So what do I read when I’m not reading romance?

  • Harlen Coban – Fabulous openings and I’m always surprised by how the story turns out.

  • Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series – Makes me laugh out loud. And I'm a huge Ranger fan. ;D

  • Lisa Gardner – Twisty, turny thrillers with really scary serial killers.

  • Kristin Hannah -- Her women's fiction stories, whether they are about relationships between sisters, mothers/daughters, or friends touch me, help me reconnect with myself. Few books make me cry. Firefly Lane did.

  • Jodi Picoult – Intriguing characters. Usually a combination of law, medicine, and faith. Almost always surprised by how her books end (but not always pleasantly surprised). The ending of the last one I read p--, uh, made me furious.

  • Lisa Wingate’s Tending Roses series – Lyrical and lovely. Her stories make me feel good and comforted and wishing I could write more like she does.

  • Fairy tales and myths – For ready-made plots to twist and expand upon.

  • Biographies and self-help books and all sorts of nonficton – To better understand why people do the things they do and find tidbits for stories.

  • Writing exercises & prompts -- For inspiration, for courage, for when I have absolutely no idea what to write about.


I’d love to hear who you read outside your genre and why.


Jennifer Jakes said...

Excellent advice! Thanks.

Lu/Grace said...

Fabulous advice. And something I do when I'm writing anyway. If I'm working on a romantic suspense, I can't read them (because my writing SUCKS in comparison) so I'll pick up an historical. And vice versa.

Thanks for the great post!

Nina Sipes said...

As ALWAYS your post is thoughtful and full of information. I really don't know how you find all that you do and then skillfully lay it out as a banquet to be enjoyed. That could be why your posts are so popular. I don't know where we'd be without you.

Penny Rader said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer!

Penny Rader said...

Welcome Lu/Grace! I totally get what you're saying. Do you write both romantic suspense and historicals?

Penny Rader said...

You're such a sweetie, Nina!

I keep forgetting to tell you that when my mom was in the hospital in May we met some of your friends. She's a doctor and used to live in your neck of the woods. I have her name written down at home. She was Mom's first roomie once they moved her out of the neuro ICU. Mom and Dad got a kick out of her and her husband.

Joan Vincent said...

Reading the same author back to back to back can be detrimental. Once camping I read 5 of Jayne Castle's arcane other world works. Wanted to throw the last against the tent flap. But they are wonderful stand alone reads! Thank you for new authors to explore.

Penny Rader said...

LOL, Joan. I have gone on many a reading binge.

Rox Delaney said...

Are we channeling each other, Penny? LOL My own post today on my blog is about reading to refresh the well. I did the 'read in different genres' like last week, probably because I was still thinking of here, then did the JUST WRITE on Monday. Refreshing the well just seemed to go right along with it.

Great post, as always! I can count on you to not only hit the nail on the head, but give me links and quotes from others. :)

Penny Rader said...

Hi Rox, I'll pop over and check out your blog before lunch is over.

I like to give links and quotes -- other people are much wiser than I am. :D

Pat Davids said...

I love to read Elizabeth Peters. Her first person heroine, Emelia Peabody, is wonderful and whitty.
I enjoy Merline Lovelace, I read way too much reseach stuff, and I like poetry.

Lynne Marshall said...

Absolutely right. I love to read historicals, which I couldn't do if my life was at stake. I love thrillers and dark suspsense, yet I write cheerful little contemporaries (with lots of conflict!)
I also love to read books like The Kyte Runner, or Jodi Picoult books. So many books, so little time to read AND WRITE! but I try.

Tanya Hanson said...

Excellent reminder, Penny. I like to re-read the classics, too, like Bronte and Austen. Oh, I re-read often Little Women and To Kill A Mockingbird. I gotta say, though, this summer I'm hot and heavy into the cowboys again.

Good one!

Penny Rader said...

Hi Pat! I don't think I've ever read Elizabeth Peters. What kind of poetry do you read? I've heard it's good for helping with imagery.

Penny Rader said...

Hi Lynne! Does creating conflict for your characters come easy to you? Any tips?

Penny Rader said...

Tanya, I loved Little Women! I've always asked for books for bday, Christmas, etc. No one listened until the Christmas when I was 8 or so. One of my grandmas gave me a copy of Little Women. Still have it. I'll have to find it and re-read it. Though I have to admit, the second half of the book was harder for me to get into. Maybe because there was a large time break in between the two parts? At least that's how I remember it.

Lynne Marshall said...

Penny - regarding conflict - I took an online class given by Lyn Cote and I use the sheet she recommends with hero versus heroine, seven points of conflict which must be strong between them. I find it helps me set up my story and keep that deep conflict a part of every scene. I try. Lord knows I try. : )
So in answer to your question, NO IT DOESN'T COME EASY.

Penny Rader said...

LOL, Lynne! I will keep an eye open for Lyn's next workshop. Conflict is a mighty struggle for me -- probably because I avoid it in real life. :D