Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Know Your Genre (PLEASE)

by Charlee Vale

I'm going to say something that will sound incredibly obvious, but based on my recent observations needs to be said.

If you are going to be writing books, you need to be reading books.

Seems fairly simple, right? I mean, when we want to study something, we generally read books on the subject. Math, science, painting, knitting, music, cooking, basket-weaving—WHATEVER. If you're serious about a subject, odds are you'll have either bought a book about it, gotten one from the library, borrowed one, or at least attempted to read one in the bookstore while you're waiting for a table at the cafe.

So why is it that people think they can write without reading?

I know this is a very large generalization. I apologize, because I know there a lot of people who don't do this. However, in the past month online, I have seen a huge influx of questions by writers—questions that would have painfully obvious answers if they were reading in their genre.

I see most of this happening with YA. People pop up with questions along the lines of 'Is it all right if my characters drink/smoke/do drugs/have sex in YA?' or 'I know I'm targeting this at young people, what exactly is acceptable here?'

At this point, those of us who write YA, and have read more books than we can count in the category, give each other exasperated looks. Because if you have read any number of YA books (even 10, even 5), you would most likely know that these things are okay.

This is the case with any genre. If you want to write it, you should read it. It's like doing research on your next basket-weaving project; you need to do research so that you know what you're doing when you set out to accomplish your task. I recommend reading 50-100 books in the genre you write, at least. This will teach you the rules for what's acceptable, what's expected, what is good form and what is bad. (Plus, if you find out you don't enjoy the genre that you're reading, then why are you writing it?)

Read, read, read. You'll save yourself a lot of trouble, a lot of mistakes, and a lot of headaches.

Charlee Vale is a Young Adult writer, photographer, and tea lover living in New York City. You can also find her at her website, and on Twitter, and most likely with her nose in a book. 


JeffO said...

I agree, people need to read, because the answers to those questions (and many, many others, like "How long should my chapters be?") are out there. At the same time, I think people sometimes ask simply because they *can*, and sometimes, because they're a little insecure (what, writers, insecure? Never!).

Jemi Fraser said...

Totally agree! I've seen a lot of those questions lately too. I'd add that most of the books you read should be published in the last few years. Styles have changed a lot recently!

SC Author said...

Agree. Totally agree. Plus, by just reading, I've learned more about writing than all the writing books I've read (which are a lot). Although, technically, I did *read* those writing books sooo......