Left to my own devices I tend to stick to my genre, science fiction and given the choice, my favourite writers of the moment (or just my favourite authors if they have new book out). There’s always the excitement of reading a new work by someone whose books you’ve come to love, visiting their worlds that you’ve come to know. You know what you’re going to get. Soon that will be tinged with sadness for me as I read the last Terry Pratchett. It was much the same when I read my Iast Iain M Banks novel. However, this blog is about breaking out of the comfort zone.
My wife nags me, sorry, encourages me, to read wider. And I know she’s right and that doing so enriches me as a writer. It’s like taking a holiday somewhere different that wouldn’t, perhaps, be on your top ten list of places to visit. Then you get there and have a great time. You wish you’d come years ago and know you’ll be back. This was brought home to me when finally reading Hilary Mantell’s ‘Wolf Hall’. An absorbing and fascinating insight into a man and a time. I can’t wait to finish some reading commitments (see below) so I can read ‘Bringing up the Bodies’. Why I should be surprised at how much I enjoyed it I don’t know, because I do read historical fiction. I had much the same revelation reading ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, this time on the insistence of a friend. Perhaps, that’s one way of expanding my reading, getting others to recommend some of their favourite books – after all a good book is a good book.
I’m also a member of a writing group (see – why you should join a writing group). Members there are working on a variety of projects, books, poetry or just writing pieces for the enjoyment of it. Listening to such variation of subject and styles with a view to critiquing and commenting is just as valuable as getting feedback on your own work. It has also made me go away and read some poetry, something I must do more of. There is the rhythm and often novel use of language. Also, the great lesson, for me, in poetry is that every word had to earn its keep.
The other way I am expanding my reading is by reviewing other self-published authors. As self-published writers we must be the largest ‘self-help’ group in literature. I admit, I have read some not so good ones. However, there also some gems and all great writers must have been unknown at some point. I have two such books on the go at the moment. Both are not the sort of thing I would have chosen to read if I was just scanning Amazon for that next book. However, both are excellent in different ways.
I know it is important to read in your own genre, to see what others are doing, to see what is successful and why. The trouble is that it is easy to get stuck in that reading rut, to keep to what you know. However, leaving the safety of the familiar can be doubly rewarding for the writer. First you come across some great finds, that are worth reading simply because they are excellent books. Then there’s all the new ideas and different writing styles that can only educate and inspire you to become an even better writer.
So go on, expand your horizons, find something new and different to read. Perhaps, do a self-publishing writer a favour and review one of their books. You have little to lose and everything to gain.
As always views and comments are welcome.