Reading Between Genres…
At one point I only read fantasy books…
The Edge Chronicles. Percy Jackson. Harry Potter. Roald Dahl and others that are too many to list.
I also only wrote fantasy.
It wasn’t until I read a Stephen King book (Secret Window, Secret Garden–a great short story), that I started reading between genres.
That lead to writing between genres…
Sure, we’d read different genres of books in school/high-school—but we’d had to read them, and I didn’t really count them.
Stephen King gets credit for making me explore more in books, and for helping me change and—I hope—improve my writing. It might not apply to everyone, but reading just one genre limited the way I wrote. It doesn’t happen in all fantasy, but in many fantasy books there is a lot of focus on description and quest plot lines—particularly MG and YA. So I focused on description and ‘quest’ plotlines in the stories I wrote. Reading fantasy limited me to writing fantasy.
Then when I started branching into different genres, reading Stephen King, Lee Child, Dan Brown, Jo Nesbo I also started branching into different genres with writing. I wrote a horror story, where all of the characters were adult. I’ve only done that once, but it was cool to give it a shot. But I didn’t go back to fantasy (not straight away). I wrote a YA action thriller and it was probably the most fun I’ve had writing. I wrote a couple more YA thrillers and then gave crime fiction a shot. I’d been reading crime/detective stories for a couple years and the style, plot lines, character development in those books helped me develop and change my own style, plot lines and character development.
I then moved on to reading high fantasy (Joe Abercrombie being the best). I learned how high fantasy differed from other genres of fantasy, how it was often more complexly plotted, how world building was done… And now I’m trying my hand at writing a YA high fantasy duology. It’s tough, inventing new places, laws etc, but it’s cool.
So by reading different genres, stepping away from the books I’d always read (and still do read) and exploring other genres, I learned how to change and improve my own writing. Reading other genres also inspired new ideas, characters, plot lines and altered how I structured sentences and balanced description.
Basically, reading other genres unstuck me from fantasy (not that fantasy is a bad thing) and let me broaden both what I read and what (and how) I wrote.
Just reading and writing in one genre works for some people. It did for me. Until I gave other genres a shot.
If you’re a reader, reading other genres can offer completely different experiences, worlds and characters. If you’re a writer, it can offer the same, and could also benefit your writing. It did me.