Literary: Boring. Nothing more than whiny characters.
Thriller and horror: Cheap thrills for the intellectually challenged.
Romance: Smut. Nothing more than the flashing of body parts.
Picture Books: Coloring books with words.
You can probably add to this list of what you’ve heard for your favorite genre, but have you turned your back on a genre you figured you could never enjoy? Maybe if you give it a chance, it could open your eyes to a world of possibilities. Possibilities that could cause your writing career to leap into a whole new stratosphere.
Some Benefits of Reading Outside Your Genre
Certain genres are character-based while others focus on plot. If you read predominantly plot-based stories, you’re missing out on an opportunity to see how others develop characters readers love to connect with. If they (and this includes agents and editors) connect with your characters, they’ll keep turning the pages. This is what you want. Romance, young adult, and horror are a few genres that rely heavily on emotions. Thrillers and suspense are perfect examples for solid pacing. By reading other genres, it will help you further develop your craft.
And let’s not ignore the ideas that might be triggered by reading outside your genre. Just don’t forget to make them your own and not a copy of someone else’s story.
Challenge Your Assumptions
Before you shoot down a genre, make sure your beliefs are based on education and not on assumptions. By education, I mean borrow books in the genre then actually read them. But make sure you do this with an open mind. If you’ve already told yourself the genre is a waste of shelf space, nothing short of a miracle will change that opinion.
Which Books to Read?
When looking for a book to read, find out what titles won the genre’s prestigious awards. You can read the bestsellers, but sometimes they aren’t the best representation of it. The books might have been heavily promoted because they landed the author an equally hefty advance. On the other hand, you might love them as much as their fans.
Keep in mind the genre’s target audience. You might not appreciate Dancing Cinderella (a Disney Princess book); however, many six-year-old girls love it. It’s all right not to like middle grade or young adult novels, but remember, you weren’t their target audience to begin with.
Goals of the Genre
You might not think a genre is worth reading, but you might be surprised when you discover the goals it sets out to achieve. For example, many people assume erotic romance is nothing more than pornography. It isn’t. The sexual encounters between the heroine and hero are predominantly there as part of the character’s personal growth, for example, trust of the opposite gender. Another genre would utilize a different approach for the same goal. Each has its own purpose.
The common writing advice we hear is to read outside your genre. Have you recently tried one you’ve never considered reading? One you felt wasn’t worth your time? You never know, you might discover one you never expected to like. Maybe you’ll even write a novel in it and see your career take off in a direction you never expected. Now, wouldn’t that be worth it?
Stina Lindenblatt writes romantic suspense and young adult novels. In her spare time, she’s a photographer and blogging addict, and can be found hanging out on her blog, Seeing Creative.