Remember when I said I was going to do a blog post every second week? I messed up this month, so technically, this blog post is a bonus post. Naturally then, I’m going to be talking about reading books, because really, isn’t this why we’re all here? (And by here, I mean reading this post?) Anyway, as you might have guessed, this isn’t just a post about enjoying reading. (Though, if you guys are interested in that, let me know and we can totally gush about our favourites.) It’s about why, as an author, reading shouldn’t only be for fun. As usual, I’m specifically going to talk about romance, but the principles can be applied to almost any genre.
Why Reading Shouldn’t Only Be For Fun
One: It’ll help you figure out where your writing fits in
When you’re starting out, usually you have only the slightest idea of where you’ll fit in. Perhaps you’ll know which genre you want to write. (Romance.) Maybe you have an inkling of what you want to write about. (Two people falling in love during summertime.) While that’s a great start, you’ll have to know a little more than that to sell your book to an agent, publisher or reader.
You have to have some idea of where your voice fits in.
I say ‘some’ idea because this is not easy. In fact, the hardest but most important part of connecting with an audience is knowing where your voice fits in. This can take a long time, but you can certainly kickstart this process by reading. The books you enjoy reading are a good start. They can give you an idea of what subgenre of romance you might want to write. The aspects of the books you enjoy (or don’t enjoy) reading can give you some hints, too. For example, I like reading contemporary and historical romances. My favourite parts are dialogue and chemistry. I do not like long descriptions of places, or the idea of my characters not having access to a plumbing system. That’s how I knew contemporary romance – where dialogue and chemistry and plumbing are more at the forefront than descriptions – was likely where I fit.
Which brings me to point number two…
Two: It’ll help you figure out what reader expectations are
I didn’t simply jump into contemporary romance because I thought I might fit there. I did my research. Because I’m a long-time reader of the genre, I knew the basics, like THE NECESSARY HAPPILY EVER AFTER. (*cough*) I started out in category romance, which comes with a built-in audience. I had to respect that audience. To know how to do this, I read a lot of Harlequin Romances/Mills & Boon True Loves. I saw how the authors took the category guidelines and created a satisfying romance from them. And I tried to do the same, so that readers of my category romances wouldn’t be disappointed.
This is true of all romance subgenres. Readers have expectations, and you’re not doing anyone any favours by toying with those expectations. Read the historical, paranormal, erotic et cetera subgenres you think you’d like to write in and make sure you know what those readers expect. You won’t regret it. Neither will they.