I am convinced that the thousands of books I have read and analyzed over my lifetime helped me write my novel without any formal training. My plot came together, along with nearly all of the characters, in my first draft and has not changed significantly in all the drafts that followed. I intuitively knew how to create a beginning, a middle, and an end and tie it all together with only a skeleton of an outline.
I read a variety of genres since I am a member of two book clubs where the hosts pick the books, so we invariably read many books that I personally may not have selected. Therefore, I have been exposed to a greater variety of writing styles and content that I can draw upon while writing.
However, early on in my editing process, I recognized that although I love Young Adult literature and chose it as the genre for my first novel, I only read it here and there. So, I set my manuscript aside for a month and began to read YA after YA.
It immediately became apparent that I needed to switch my book from 3rd person to 1st person. Not only had 1st person become the most popular approach for YA, but it would allow me to get into my protagonist’s head, which is what teenage readers want, and what my story needed. (Coincidentally, I had considered switching months before, but a quick review of my bookshelf showed a mix of point of views, so I continued in 3rd person.) Had I done more research on my genre back then, I would have saved countless hours changing the POV after the novel was complete.
By reading in my genre, I also realized that some were written in present tense. This led me back to the Internet to confirm there was a trend toward writing books, especially YA, in the present. However in this case, I read the pros and cons and make an educated decision to remain with simple past tense.
Now that I write, I read differently. I focus on an aspect that I am struggling with in my novel: When are the major characters introduced? How is the setting described? How much dialogue is used versus narrative? On what page did we find out the big secret? Did they mix tense or stick with one? Many of these questions, I could research, but seeing how other authors did them was the most useful.
For all these reasons and more, I urge you to continue to read and make sure many of the books are in your genre.
Thank you for reading this post. I hope you found it helpful.