#ReadWithMe ♥ Reading the Write Way

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Welcome back to another ‘Read With Me’ post for Ms. Felicia’s blog hop. If you’d like to link your post or blog to the list, just click on the banner above! This is in celebration of National Reading Month and will be happening all of March, so it’s not too late to hop in.

Read What You Write, Write What You Read

Let me tell you about an adventure I had with this #1 most common piece of writing advice…

When I switched from avid reader to reader/writer 10+ years ago, I didn’t even know ‘genre’ was a thing. Mostly, because I was absolutely clueless about marketing. In my last post, I mentioned that my first book idea was born when I was only 17, but not yet hatched. It festered in my mind for years, warping, evolving, maturing and expanding. One book idea spread into a series with its own maps and timeline, all centered around this singular world, plot, and set of characters.

This is how my brain (aka my muse) works. Simple is a foreign concept we cannot comprehend. It took me 5 years to finish my very first novel at over 150,000 words. As you can see, I was just as clueless about word count limits. It also happens to take place in the middle of my massive series, not the beginning – please refer back to my explanation of simple.

I would classify the book as Fiction-Fantasy. It’s not epic and probably breaks every fantasy genre rule ever created. I couldn’t get it off the ground to anyone. No one wanted this ‘pretending to be fantasy’ novel, not literary agents, publishers or e-pubs. In not so many words, my friend gave me the advice: Write what you read. It was probably more like: “I love Nora Roberts, you should write a book like hers!”

In a weird, roundabout and completely self-serving way, she was right. It had been years since I’d actually read a fantasy novel. During the 5 years I’d been trying to write fantasy, I’d only been reading romance, erotic romance, crime/mystery and Anne Rice (yes, she’s her own genre).

Call me an overachiever. My 2nd novel only took 2 months to write from start to finish at a little over 100k words. I had taken my friend’s advice – and that turned out to be a major problem. Remember all the genres I listed in the last paragraph? Yeah, well… they all ended up in the same book. I don’t think that’s what ‘write what you read’ is meant to accomplish.

I never sat down to write with a particular genre in mind, I just wrote what I’d been reading. It wasn’t until I was asked to label my book’s genre in the submission form to my publisher that I even considered it. And I floundered.

Um…. Can’t it just be a good book about people and stuff? Whatever happened to creative freedom?!

So, there I was with this novel that takes place in the near future with advanced technology and some space travel, told mostly from the male POV, whose female love interest is mute, explicit sex scenes and dark, gritty crimes that needed to be solved – and they want me to put a genre-specific label on it? 😐 I didn’t even know where to start!

Anyone perusing my collection of books would call me genre ignorant. A genre floozy, if you will. I am unbiased of genre – at least, I used to be a lot less biased. This was the first of many lessons in my professional writing journey. I ended up slapping a multi-genre label on it to satisfy the masses. The Zen Lounge is listed as a Futuristic Erotic Romance with Crime/Detective elements. But, that’s a freaking mouthful!

I learned my lesson, mostly. I’m a bit more conscientious about genres and ‘reading what I write’ rather than trying to write one book about everything I’ve ever read. We shall call this Reading the Write Way. Authors should be reading, at any rate. It’s a great way to expand your vocabulary, find inspiration and keep up with what’s already being done to avoid cliches.

Personally, I’d rather not to be known as a copycat or a Bandwagon writer. You won’t ever catch me referencing or comparing myself to the most popular authors or their books in my genre. I don’t want to be known as being “like [insert author name here].” Our greatest achievement should be when our work and therefore name, stands on its own merit, because it is that good and that loved by readers. However, there are ‘genre specific’ elements that readers expect to get and those are important to know. At the end of the day, we’re still running a business, and if we hope to succeed, then we need to be mindful of our demographics.

There are many authors who decide to write different genres, typically under different pen names, so readers won’t get an unpleasant surprise. This is a good approach and one that I might put to use someday by returning to my long ago attempt at Fiction-Fantasy. This time, I’ll make sure I spend a lot of time brushing up on my fantasy reading first!

I’ll likely keep reading other genres for the pure enjoyment of it, and have a variety on my TBR list. But, I’ve noticed that since I started writing Erotic Romance, that’s definitely the first genre to grab my attention while looking for new reading material. How about you?

Do you Read What You Write? Do you find yourself drawn more to your own genre, or away from it?