Reading Makes the Great Author

Behind every great author (agent and editor) is a stack of both read and unread books. In order to succeed in any business, it’s necessary to do our research and reading (this is the best job ever) is our research.

Every book I read, in every genre, informs my job. From these books I learn about great writing and editing, I get a sense of pacing and style, new ideas and voice. The key, however, is variety. I represent a lot of mysteries, but if I only read mystery I wouldn’t be getting the full view of what I or my authors could be doing.

Mystery writers who read romance learn how to successfully build suspense and tension. Literary writers who read commercial novels learn how to grab a reader through pacing and plotting and fantasy writers who read historical can learn about world-building.

It’s imperative as a writer that you’re reading and certainly necessary to know as much as you can about the genre you’re writing in, but it’s also crucial to your own growth and success to be reading everything–in your genre and out.

I imagine some of your most beloved books were written because the author discovered a hidden gem in a different genre and was inspired to try something new.

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7 comments

  1. Well-stated reminder to read widely. It’s delicious to find that over the years, all the influences come together into a new understanding and perspective; a new depth that improves my writing. Thanks for posting this.

  2. There are just not enough hours in the day to do research *grin*. I try to pay attention to the craft in the writing of the books I read, but I usually get sucked in and totally forget. That’s why I sometimes buy a second (hard) copy of a book and use it as a “text” book as such. Feels like sacrilege, but I highlight, write notes in the margins, underline etc so I can learn form a good book.

  3. I tend to read and reread favorite authors, but that becomes less research and more about relaxing. For a change, I’ve become a huge fan of BookBub, where I try to find at least one new book a day by someone I’ve not read before. I’ve been reading books by new-to-me authors for a fresh look at romance fiction, and I really feel as if these new voices are helping me get back my groove back.

  4. Find the writer who has done something like what you are attempting, and done it exceedingly well. Read it again and think about the mechanics and structure of the work, especially in regard to NARRATION. POV – whose? Are they omniscient (you/all seeing/God), are they one of the characters, does it switch back and forth or is it blended? For first person narration — Shirley Jackson is one of the best examples, in the Haunting of Hill House. Just a girl, not particularly interesting, blended with all seeing omniscient narration of Jackson/God/what have you. Decisions about narration are tremendously important, and reading good examples analytically can really help.

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