One of the predominate pieces of advice given to authors is to "read, read, read!" I can understand that - we need to read anything and everything, so that we have a storehouse of ideas to fall back on for writing. I found out this week that there is another reason for reading ... to understand a genre. I decided to finally read a couple of cozy mysteries that I had in my Kindle library. What an eye opener!
Kindle is fine - I had no problem reading the books. They were gentle mysteries, which is what I had expected. They were both set in small towns, with that small town feel to them.That was fine too. Both of them had coherent story lines, which was good. But they were so alike that I actually went back to look at the pictures of the authors - both women - to see if perhaps they were the same woman! There seems to be a formula out there - single female, returns home after the big city did not work out, meets up with old boyfriend (who is now married), meets new boyfriend, has a crisis that comes into her life that she must solve (this would be the mystery part of the novel). The stories were good, but not that good. Something to keep in mind when writing my own!
So why else do we want to keep reading new material? One reason might be to see how others write. To see what is good about their writing, and what doesn't quite make the grade. As authors, we want our readers to enjoy our work, to talk about our work (who knows, perhaps Oprah would hear about us!), to recommend our books, and to keep purchasing our books. Longevity, that's a good goal for all writers!
By reading as much as we can, we really get to know the different styles of writing, the different voices that are out there. We have a broader choice in finding and developing our own unique voice if we not only have something to say, but have a consistent way of saying it. We need to see how words are presented, the pictures that they can paint. We need to see how to develop connections between thoughts that are both viable and exciting. We need to retain the interest of our readers, after all!
We need to challenge ourselves - to take material and make something new and different out of it. I certainly do not want my readers going back like I did this past week, to see if I was writing under different names! I don't want my style of writing so close to someone else that my readers cannot distinguish who I am.
I don't mean to imply that reading books should be a personal improvement project. Enjoy what you are reading. If you don't, put it down, and pick up something else. You don't have to make notes ont he writing style, just allow it to seep into your subconscious. It will be there when you need it. You will be surprised at the number of times you will be writing something, only to recognize immediately that there is either a better way of saying what you are saying, a better way to leave a clue, or a better way to connect characters. You will not know why you see this,but you can bet that it is because you have been reading, and the information is stored in your brain, where you can easily access it.
To get you started - 10 Books Every Writer Should Read