Writers and aspirational authors don’t usually need much convincing on the value of reading books. Most of us choose writing as a form of expression because we fell in love with a good book, usually at a young age. But here’s the kicker. If you want to write children’s books and haven’t read one since your adult son was in kindergarten, put down Oprah’s book of the month and read more books in your genre.
Story is universal, but there are specifics to every genre of book that are expected from a well-read reader. There is also an evolution to every genre that makes it different today than it was twenty-five years ago.
What to read
If you are writing a romance novel, read the most recent bestselling romance novels in your sub-genre. If you are writing a self-actualization book, peruse the self-help section of your book store and grab at least five of the ones that have similar topics to what you are writing. If you are writing a very unique book about something that you experienced in your life, read the latest bestselling memoirs that most closely resemble your personal experience. Before you reply with a, “Yeah, but there’s nothing out there like my book.” There is. Maybe not exactly the same, but the category exists.
What to look for
You are not reading merely for entertainment. Sorry. You want to look for the voice and tone being used. How are the sentences structured, the chapters and the overall book? Look at the telling of the stories and notice the description of the place and time, the use of all five senses in the descriptions. Are there characters with dialogue? Are there graphs and bullet points and call-out boxes? How does the author get their point across? How does the author keep you engaged?
Write it out
This is a ninja level advanced move. I heard somewhere that Cheryl Strayed once took bestselling books and wrote them out in longhand to teach herself how to write like the masters. I don’t know if this is true, but I can see how it would train your brain to write an amazing book.
Quell the self-doubt
This is usually where comparison comes in for me and I start to doubt that I’ll ever be good enough to compare myself to the likes of Mary Karr, Elisabeth Gilbert and Brené Brown. Shut that voice up now. You can easily pick up a ninety-nine-cent download on Amazon that can convince you that you are an amazing writer in comparison as well. Comparison is the thief of joy. Read the greats to teach you and to hold your inspiration to hone your craft and move forward.
If you are anything like me, any excuse to read more is a great excuse. Keep reading, keep writing and keep practicing and you will get there. Start with the genre you want to write in, choose the authors within that genre that inspire you then choose to ignore any thoughts of comparison. Before you know it, you will be writing (and publishing) in your genre – and other aspiring writers will be looking to your book for inspiration.
If you’re struggling to start your book, get started by downloading a free Outline eBook – it’s where your book begins.