Friday, October 18, 2013

How To Fail At Writing

Disclaimer: this post is my opinion.  Feel free to disagree in the comments.


I was researching the reading habits of the American public (a very depressing topic), and I came across this comment at the bottom of one of the articles:

“I write paranormal romances, so I read everything except paranormal romances.  I don’t want my writing to be influenced by other paranormal romance authors.”

I’m sorry, anonymous internet poster, but this is a horrible idea.  If you want to write paranormal romances, you should be reading every paranormal romance that you can find.

Here’s why:

Genre conventions.  Paranormal romance is a genre, and like any genre, readers of those books have expectations that the book needs to meet.  What traits do paranormal romance readers find appealing in heroes/heroines?  Does the main character in a paranormal romance tend to be a man or a woman?  How does the typical “boy meets girl” scenario go in a paranormal romance?  Do paranormal romances differ from regular romances in any way besides the paranormal element?  Do paranormal romances have traditional happily-ever-after endings?  How big of a role does the paranormal element have to play to satisfy the reader?  What are some common paranormal elements found in the genre?  Does one of the main characters have to be non-human?  Does the paranormal element typically cause conflict between the hero and heroine? 

I don’t know how to answer these questions because I don’t write paranormal romances, and I haven’t read enough of them to learn the genre conventions.  A paranormal romance writer should understand the conventions.  They should know what the readers expect.  The only way to learn these things is to read paranormal romances and see what other authors are doing to satisfy the readers.

Writers also need to be reading within their genre to make sure that what they’re doing hasn’t been done to death.  Maybe readers have seen your story too many times before.  What you think is original might be cliché to someone who reads the genre.  Maybe the market has been saturated with vampire romances, or mermaid romances, or whatever romances for the last few years, and publishers aren’t publishing those types of books right now.  You won’t know these things if you’re not reading.

Finally, being influenced by other writers isn’t a bad thing.  A lot of great ideas are sparked by reading, and it doesn’t hurt to study the work of successful writers.  So, please read within your genre.  It won't kill you.




I haven’t given you an update on All The Things recently.

All The Things = 19 books.  I somehow managed to acquire more books.

I’m currently reading A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers.  I bought the book because of the title only.  I had no idea what the book was about.  Turns out, it’s a really good book.

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