Friday, April 6, 2012

Writing What You Read

by Jemi Fraser

"I don’t believe for one moment you can write well what you wouldn’t read for pleasure"
-- Nora Roberts


This quote makes sense to me. It matches the way my brain works.

I can't imagine writing a book I wouldn't want to read myself. I'm my own target audience. Of course that has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

On the plus side, I find myself smiling when I get it right. I know the nuances of the genre. Even though I don't plot in advance, the flow of my story is going to more or less match those expectations without me having to study it. I know the flow. I've read so many books in the genre, it's kind of etched into my brain.

On the down side, I may eventually find I'm a target audience of one. Hope not!

This topic came up recently when I lurked outside of a public online conversation where an aspiring author admitted to writing in a genre she never/rarely read. She said she chose that genre because it was easier to write than the other genres. She figured she could bang out a story with little or no effort.

Huh.

I read a lot. And I read widely. I have a lot of favourite genres. Although my top favourite is romantic suspense, I also enjoy fantasy, steampunk, science fiction, murder mysteries, romance, suspense, paranormal. And I enjoy them in several age categories.

So, I could probably write in most of those genres. But literary fiction? Horror? Spy thrillers? Medical mysteries? Political satires?

Nope. Not me. I wouldn't even know where to start. The thought of writing in any of those genres induces panic. And melt downs. I wouldn't even know if I was on the right track. Too scary for me!

How about you? Do you read what you write? Are you a fan of your own genre?

Jemi Fraser is an aspiring author of romantic mysteries. She blogs and tweets while searching for those HEAs.

36 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Audience of one - funny! A writer's worst nightmare.
Yes, I do read what I write - lighter, low-tech, adventure style science fiction. Might one day tackle my other favorite, fantasy. I also enjoy thrillers, but not sure I could write one.

Stacy Bennett-Hoyt said...

Wow, it's funny you posted this today.

I've always read fantasy and my WIPs are fantasy. I never realized that I was doing what you said - writing what I'd want to read. (LOL audience of one!)

But I participate in flash fiction at least weekly and recently I noticed sci/fi is creeping into my work. More than creeping, really. My entry for the Once Upon A Time Contest on Anna Meade's blog will be very sci/fi (and will be unveiled on my blog later this week. shhh!)

Suddenly, my mind is marinating in old shorts from Omni magazine, Anne McCaffrey, C.J. Cherryh and others and I wondered...where'd that come from?

You nailed it for me! I recently started reading the first book of the Gaea's Chosen series by Cara Michaels. It's science fiction. My flash pieces don't jump off directly from her story, but reading it reminded me how much fun sci/fi can be. And, apparently, made me want to write some.

Thanks for clearing that up for me. And I agree with you, I wouldn't even know where to start on a political satire. Great post.

JeffO said...

Hell, I don't even know what it is I write, so I can't read it!

Seriously, I suppose what I write would be called 'upmarket' or 'literary/commercial', so I guess I do read it. But I do try to read across genres (though no vampire/werewolf/human love triangles, please).

Jemi Fraser said...

Alex - having read your 2 books, it feels like you read what you write - if that makes sense - because I like that type of sci fi too :)

Stacy - thanks! I love McCaffrey especially too. I really enjoy books that combine sci fi and fantasy as well. There are so many great books I've read over the years! :) Glad I could help you clarity!

Jeff - too funny! I've always read widely - probably because I went to the library every week as a kid and one of my traditions was grabbing a random book off the returned book shelf! Sounds like you're writing right up your own alley :)

Jessica Salyer said...

I read the genre of what I write and many more. I try to write what I would want to read. I wouldn't want to bore myself. :)

Tracy Bermeo said...

My first complete ms is a children's book, so I read it to my kids. They are (mostly) my target audience. I figure that if I chuckle while reading it, then it's good for parents too. I recently tried flash fiction and LOVED it, but mostly, I write journalistic pieces for a hyper-local news site. So as far as out-of-genre goes- so far so good, but I don't think I'll go much beyond flash fiction. For now. Glad to have found you through Warrior Muse and the A to Z.
A2ZMommy and What’s In Between

Ellen M. Gregg said...

"an aspiring author admitted to writing in a genre she never/rarely read. She said she chose that genre because it was easier to write than the other genres. She figured she could bang out a story with little or no effort."

Cringe-inducing! My fiction reading is all over the place, and so, cumulatively, what I read is what I write. What I write is also what I want to read, except nobody seems to be writing it.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I read and write fantasy. I also enjoy scifi, mysteries, suspense and all types of romance. I think it helps me be a better writer. I can't imagine trying to write most of those genres but I certainly wouldn't try to write something I didn't read at all.

Jemi Fraser said...

Jessica - exactly! Boring myself would be awful! I only like working on what I'm interested in :)

Tracy - so glad you found us! Warrior Muse is awesome!! :) You've got lots of genres going on - that's so much fun. I love those stories you can read with the kids yet still enjoy yourself :)

Ellen - but I bet if you keep at it, it will be come popular sometime! I write becaue I enjoy it - so I can only write what I enjoy!

Susan - exactly. I recently finished a nonfiction book written by a sports writer. I'm a huge sports fan, but I could never pull it off - even though I enjoyed his book so much!

Julie Musil said...

Oh, I totally write what I love to read. I also read a wide variety of genres, so that helps. I love historical fiction, but I don't know if I'd ever write it. But contemporary mysteries, dramas, etc., love them!

Jemi Fraser said...

Julie - exactly the way it is for me. I'm not ready (yet??) to write in some of the genres I love. Maybe one day :)

Michelle said...

Yep. Sure am.
I also read fairly widely, though I don't read a whole lot of fantasy or sci-fi...and there is no way I'd attempt to write it!

Jemi Fraser said...

Michelle - that's how I feel. If I don't love it, I can't imagine writing it! :)

Jean Oram said...

Well, it's pretty easy for me as I'm a complete and utter, incurable book slut. I will read anything. Seriously. Books shouldn't come too close otherwise I might read it.

But I do hear what you are saying. I wouldn't dream of writing something I didn't know, love, breathe, or read regularly.

And I would guess that someone writing in a genre they don't read or appreciate wouldn't hit the right notes with their audience.

Jemi Fraser said...

Jean - love it! Book sluts unite! :)

I do think we need to know the nuances of the genre we're writing if we're going to pull it off -- or maybe that's just me :)

Suzi said...

When I wrote my first YA story, I hadn't really read any any since I was a YA myself. But now it's mostly what I read. Not only because that's what I'm writing, but because I actually enjoy YA.

Jemi Fraser said...

Suzi - I like YA too - there are so many great stories out there! I think being in the middle of the target audience definitely qualifies too! :)

Stephanie Puckett said...

This is very, very true, although I sometimes worry about the ramifications. As I've gotten older and busier, I've found myself gravitating towards quicker reads. This practice has been tons of fun for me, and I've discovered much I wouldn't have otherwise.

The catch? I'm no always very discerning and will get entirely engrossed in a work that may have serious mechanical problems or even story flaws. It's like junk food. You know it's not really good for you, you won't be entirely satisfied afterward,and you worry just what might come out of you as a result if you consume too much!

Kyle Robinson said...

I enjoyed this post because it made me really think about what I write and how I go about the task of writing a story or poem. If I'm not a fan of it then I don't believe that I have a business writing it and that's why I'm always on the hunt to learn more about the genre I write in.

Kyle Robinson said...

I enjoyed this post because it made me really think about what I write and how I go about the task of writing a story or poem. If I'm not a fan of it then I don't believe that I have a business writing it and that's why I'm always on the hunt to learn more about the genre I write in.

Jemi Fraser said...

Stephanie - I've gravitated towards lighter reads as well as I've aged. Life is too busy to delve into some of the heavier works I read in my 20s. Plus, with all the sadness I've seen in the world now, I kind of like my reads to be happier too. :)

Kyle - to me, it sounds like you're doing it exactly right! We all have our own paths to follow, but I believe we will be stronger writers if we enjoy the genre we write.

Michael Horvath said...

I definitely read what I write. It's makes the writing easier because of it's familiarity.

Kela McClelland said...

I read every genre. But I write Paranormal Romance because it is my favorite. For me it's the easiest. I could probably step outside of this genre, but I love Paranormal and I love the HEA-so I don't know...

Jemi Fraser said...

Michael - exactly! I can't imagine not doing what I'm familiar with!

Kela - I read a whole lot of genres too - but I still have my favourites too! For me the HEA is very important :)

MKHutchins said...

Amen! I used to read slush for a small, SF/F mag. We occasionally got a sub from a frustrated literary writer who'd decided to snag an "easy sale" with that "genre crud." Inevitably, the stories were bad fantasy cliches. The dislike of genre oozed through the page. Ugh.

Jemi Fraser said...

MK - yikes! I can't even imagine trying to wade through that kind of stuff! I bet some arrogance oozed right along with the dislike! :)

Angela Ackerman said...

I definitely write what I read. But because I like several genres, I find I tend to blend them a bit. :)

Jemi Fraser said...

Angela - that's true! Reading widely does give you lots of insights into many genres - and it is fun to blend those! :)

Adam said...

That quote probably haunts everyone when we have masssive writers block

Jemi Fraser said...

Adam - LOL - so true! Just write what you want to read. Sounds deceptively easy! :)

E.B. Black said...

I do write what I read, but lately, I've read so much paranormal, fantasy, and romance books that I'm kind of getting sick of them, so I'll probably keep writing them while I read something new for awhile.

Jemi Fraser said...

EB - taking a break from reading a genre is usually a good idea. Your brain knows when you're full! I rarely get sick of one because I flip flop between so many genres :)

Afsaneh said...

I write what I read - definitely!
Historical romance floats my emotional boat and that's what I love to write about. How can one, after all get enough of another time period, gorgeous gowns and irresistible rakes?
Wonderful post!

Jemi Fraser said...

Afsaneh - thank you! I love my genres too. I love that we all have our favourites and that they're different from each others'. It would be so dull if we were all the same! :)

Rionna Morgan said...

Jemi,

What a great post! I am a huge fan of my own genre. I read it like mad. But, I am also an avid reader of other genres as well. I love YA, historicals, paranormal. I'm also a classics fan. My book shelf is filled with everything from Shakespeare (of course) to Emily Dickinson. I love those Bronte sisters too!

I hope you have a wonderful day--filled with lots of great reading!

All the Best,
Rionna

Jemi Fraser said...

Thanks Rionna! I love those classics too. Always loved Shakespeare's tradegies - King Lear, Othello - such powerful stuff in there. It's such fun to read widely - not only do you get the joy of the read - but you always get to learn something new :)