Latest News

Be well read in your genre

This might seem like the most basic advice ever, but it's actually very important. Especially since sometimes we writers might get too wrapped up in our own words, and forget to read the stuff that's already out there. (I can be honest--when I'm going full throttle with a WIP, it sometimes interferes with how much I read). But there are so many reasons why reading is an important part of the process.

To start with, while it might sound appealing to have your head stuck in the sand and feign ignorance if your book comes out sounding too similar to an already published one, you can't really do that. I honestly used to think this was a wise path, I admit it. I thought that it was smart, if you were interested in writing epic fantasy, for example, not to read Lord of the Rings. But it's not smart. Because it doesn't matter whether you copied ideas from it or not. If it comes out as an almost clone, you're going to have a really hard time getting it to see the light of day, coincidence or not. (And let's be honest--even if you haven't actually read a book, that doesn't mean you haven't snuck on and snuck a peek at a summary). Do you really want to spend months and months writing your vampire/faerie/werewolf/angel/dystopian book only to be rejected over and over again because "it's too similar to xx"? Better to know beforehand so you can be unique! You can still capture attention with a popular concept, you just have to make it exceptional.

It can help your writing improve. Going through a big stack of YA books is going to give you a pretty good idea of what sorts of things you should and should not do in your own writing. You'll know what you connected with and what you found duller than the eraser end of a pencil. You can use this! Think about your own writing. Are there eraser end parts? Awkward dialogue? Did you use a cliche that made you roll your eyes when you read it in something else? (For example, too much eye rolling!) Also, if you're used to writing in first person, and are trying out third, or used to past tense but are trying present, reading other books in that POV or tense can be incredibly valuable. Being well read is pivotal to being a good writer.

You also need to know what has sold. Not so you can copy the trends, which is a terrible, horrible, hideous idea. But so you can see, in general, what there is on the market. And hey, you may find that there's a complete lack of books like yours--won't it just fit in so nicely? But you won't know if you're hiding in your cave atop a mountain assuming you are the only writer ever to exist.

Plus, it's fun. Reading is the most spectacular hobby in all the world. So do it all you can. For the sake of research, of course!
Kaitlin Ward

Kaitlin Ward is the author of Bleeding Earth, Adaptive Books 2016, and The Farm, coming 2017 from Scholastic.

Posts by Kaitlin

website twitter goodreads tumblr

  • Blogger Comments
  • Facebook Comments


  1. Look out, incoming musical analogy...

    Some musicians claim to avoid listening to other musicians because they want to be "original"...which is the worst possible idea for many reasons. Any great music teacher will tell you if you want to play jazz, you listen to jazz. If you want to play classical, you listen to classical. You should listen to a wide variety of music, but you MUST listen to the genre you want to play.

    It's the exact same thing for writing. Not just to be aware of trends (although like you said, Kaitlin, writing to trends is a ridiculous idea). But to see how published authors do it, for better or worse. You can learn both what to do and what not to do.

    Great post, Kaitlin! :)

  2. I'm able to tap into my 'writer mind' more easily if I've been reading. Words flow easier and concepts come together quicker when I'm already in that state of mind. And I can't agree more. Reading the genre you're writing is so helpful. You can see what's successful (maybe even what's not) and it will help guide you in your own writing.
    Great post, Kaitlin!


Comments are moderated on posts two weeks old or more -- please send us a tweet if yours needs approval!

Item Reviewed: Be well read in your genre Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Kaitlin Ward