|Photo credit: Mosman Library on Flickr|
"If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."—Toni Morrison
I'm sure most of you have heard that Toni Morrison quote, or some variation of it before, and I think there's a lot of truth to it.
Looking back at all of the manuscripts I've written, there's certainly a noticeable pattern as far as themes, elements, and style go, largely because I write about topics I like to read about. I suspect that most of you writers will find the same in your work, if you haven't already.
And let's face it—the reason why this tends to happen is pretty obvious: very few writers want to spend months or years writing a novel they aren't particularly interested in. We write what we want to read.
But what if we reverse that sentence? Most writers instinctively write what they want to read, but do you read what you want to write?
Since the beginning of my novel- writing days, I've written YA novels. There wasn't a doubt in my mind that that was the age group I enjoyed writing for. But initially I didn't read very much YA.
Honestly, it pains me to think about it now, and it's not like I didn't read any YA...I just didn't read nearly as much as a YA writer should. And I know some writers avoid reading novels in a similar genre while they're writing (that's another post all on its own), but in general, it's important for writers to read the genre they're writing in. Widely.
This is a lesson I learned the hard way—and sort of my accident—because once I really delved into YA books, something weird happened: my writing started to improve. Quickly. I learned different techniques and stylistic options I never realized were available to me. I learned about pacing and character development and voice and the sheer variety of novels out there.
I learned about how I should be writing. And as an added bonus, I came to realize just how much I loved the genre I was writing in.
This point is this: it's just as important (if not more so) to read what you like to write as it is to write what you like to read. Don't neglect your genre. There's always more to be learned.
Do you read what you like to write? Why or why not?