As a writer, it’s easy to get caught up in your own genre and not pay attention to what other writers are doing. Don’t ignore books that are completely different from yours! Reading books in a variety of genres will make you a stronger writer. Here are ten specific reasons why:
1: Refuel your word tank.
One of the most reliable practices that can help you become a better writer is to read, read, and keep reading! It doesn’t matter what genre you dig into—any good book that you pick up will have something to teach you about stories and style. Picking up a book in a new genre will give you a fun new way to refuel when it feels like you’re out of words.
2: Remember what it’s like to be a reader.
It’s easy to get into the habit of reading as a writer, not as a reader. While it isn’t a bad thing, reading in your own genre can distract you with how other writers are doing the things you’re trying to do in your own books. When you switch things up and read a different genre, you can take a break from reading like a writer and remember what it’s like to jump into something new.
3: Discover a new favorite genre.
Reading new genres exposes you to settings and styles you didn’t know you were going to love. If all you ever read or write is science fiction, how are you ever supposed to find out that you actually enjoy historical fiction just as much? When you fall in love with another genre, you might even wind up with something new to write, not just something new to read.
4: See more clearly what you love about your current genre.
Different genres tend to favor different purposes, ideas, and themes. The more you read, the more you’ll be able to pick up on which ideas are showing up in which genres. There’s something out there for everyone, and reading more helps you see what you’re drawn to. If you didn’t know before what it was you loved about your genre, you’ll have a clearer idea once you’ve compared it to others.
5: Recognize stereotypes in your genre.
If all you ever read and write is a single genre, how are you supposed to know if you’re stuck with a generic pool of characters, plots, and conflicts? You might be following stereotypes in your content or style without realizing it. Don’t limit your understanding of writing! Reading more widely gives you more context, not just for the good things in your genre but also for the bad ones.
6: Understand new story elements.
Each genre has its strengths and specialties, and the more you read, the more of those specialties you’ll understand. That will strengthen your ability to use other elements in your writing. If you want the flexibility to include mystery elements in your romance novel or romance elements in your fantasy novel, why not learn from the pros? Let their genres teach you how to use new tools.
7: Deepen your characters.
Every genre has characters that repeatedly show up to fill the roles its stories need. When you read multiple genres, you’ll recognize more of the standard roles. More importantly, though, you’ll also begin to see which characters rise above the stereotypes. Strive to read and write characters who behave as believable people, no matter what setting or conflict they’re facing.
8: Listen to different voices.
There are a lot of unique, strong writing voices out there, but you won’t hear them all if you limit your reading. Pay attention to which voices are receiving praise in other genres, and read those books. You will be surprised and refreshed by the new things you learn about writing. Listening to a good variety of voices will help you clarify and strengthen your own, no matter how long you’ve been writing.
9: Challenge your prejudices.
Writers in almost every genre love to hate on writers of certain other genres. Are you convinced that your historical fiction outshines trashy romances? Are your intellectual sci-fi novels leaps and bounds above the Star Trek spinoff series? Look again—the worst of a genre doesn’t necessarily define the rest of its companions. I’m going to take this even farther and point out that genre writers can learn a lot about characters and themes from literary writers, and literary writers have a lot to learn about story from genre writers. Don’t be a snob.
10: Enjoy a good story.
If you’re a writer, it’s almost certainly because you love books. Why else would you put yourself through the hard work of writing and revising your stories to share with other people? Not all of the reading you do has to be related to your work, and you shouldn’t forget the love that led you to become a writer. As you read books in other genres, you’re going to find some really excellent stories. Enjoy them for their own sake—and for yours.
Have you ever been surprised by what you found in a new genre? Have you learned other important lessons from different authors and books? Leave a comment below—I’d love to add to this list!