A Writing Life: Why I Don't Just Read Romance

Monday, September 26, 2016

Why I Don't Just Read Romance

I was a reader way before I was a writer. Well, sort of. I loved books as a kid and probably wrote in my first journal the minute I learned how to write. But I always see myself as a lover of books before I see myself as a writer of novels.

I write romance novels, but that isn't all I read.

I read anywhere from 80 to 100 books a year. I set a goal and work toward it each year, but it's not always a tough one to accomplish. Because I love to read and I do it all the time. I would say that 75% of those books are romances - they are my favorite. But they aren't ALL that I read.

Reading a lot of books in my genre makes me a better romance writer.

Reading books outside my genre makes me a better writer.

I have a degree in journalism. That's where I started. And I always saw myself as writing feature articles for a magazine someday. I did write for small newspapers out of college and loved it. But the magazine writing career never took off. I did, however, work as a book reviewer for about 16 years. Which was really cool. I was sent a book by a publishing company that had a catalog they sent out to readers. I would read the book, give a one page review, or report of sorts, that said where I thought the book should be placed in the catalog, among a few other things. It was a great way to read free books and get paid, albeit a small amount, to write a review and give my opinion.

And it taught me a lot. It taught me how to read an entire book and whittle down to one page not only a synopsis of the story, but what I thought of it as well. It also taught me to read outside the genres I tend to enjoy more than others.

I firmly believe that as a writer, you need to be a reader. A rabid reader. And most definitely within the genre you want to write. But I've noticed lately that when I step outside of my genre and read a mainstream fiction or a thriller or mystery or even a memoir or non-fiction book, my view of words shifts. I see sentences written in ways I don't always see them. Sights, sounds, tastes are described in new ways. And it expands how I create the words in my head and then put them on the page.

I'm mesmerized by the work of Erica Bauermeister, Anne Patchett, Ruth Reichl...just to name a few. And there are countless romance writers I love. RaeAnne Thayne, Susan Mallery, Julia Quinn... I just read a thriller by Blake Crouch called Dark Matter. Fascinating! All such different genres, all brilliant writing. All good for a writer to read.

What about you? Who are some of your favorite authors? Favorite genres?

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