Reading for research is one of my favorite parts of the writing process. I love discovering new genres and learning what already has been done. It is exhilarating to find a new book to love, something that has happened to me on multiple occasions through this process. I have grown from the “research reading” I’ve done and I think it is one of the best things you can do for yourself as a writer.
Purposes of Reading for Research
Get a Feel for the Genre
If you want to find success writing in a particular genre, it is key you know what bricks the genre is built of. You will want to know things such as tone, tropes, genre specific story arcs, defining characteristics, etc. A working knowledge of all these things is pivotal as you begin planning and drafting your story.
Get to Know the Audience
A nice product of reading genre fiction for research is you can get to know the audience. You will need to know what the audience expects out of a particular genre and know what is “out of line.” Writing to an audience is one effective way to be successful as a writer, and reading the fiction your audience loves gets you acquainted with their tastes.
See What’s Already Been Done
You definitely will want to know what is already out there in your genre. This is similar to the first point, but I put it in a separate point because you want to think about how you can do things better or differently. This is my favorite part of the process. I enjoy brainstorming what I have and haven’t seen in a genre and what can be done to make things more interesting or different. This will help you write something unique and as underivative as possible.
Tips for Reading for Research
Read Popular Books
When picking a book for research, look for the books in your genre that are considered classics or iconic. These will give you a good feel of what works well.
Read New Releases in the Genre
Reading new releases in a genre is a great way to know what is being accepted by traditional publishers and being released by self publishers. This will educate you on what is selling and the types of stories people are looking for right now.
Ask for Recommendations
Ask for recommendations similar to the story you would like to write. This is a good way to filter out the chaff of the genre you want to write in and help you zero in on the quality stuff.
Try to get as much breadth in the genre as you can handle. I’m not saying read everything ever written, but instead get as much variation in the genre as you can. Read writers of different races, with characters of varying genders, etc. This will help you be more rounded when you begin planning and drafting yourself.
It’s totally okay to get swept up in an incredible story, but don’t forget to be reading critically so you can improve your own story. Look for patterns, things that you don’t think worked, and plan how you could do them better (or not at all). Are there tropes you could put a fun spin on? Do certain arcs end a particular way? Can you twist that? Make a list of things that you would like to do to make your story stand out from everything you’ve read.
Things to Remember
It is okay to put down a book if you hate it! I do this frequently. If you put a book down because you hate it, write down what caused you to do so and make note not to do that thing when you begin writing yourself.
People say, “Every story out there has already been told.” Yes, but the caveat is that every story out there has been told by someone different. Your version is going to be unique as well, so don’t worry about it! Write what you want to with heart and it will be awesome.
Don’t compare your work to others. Comparing your work with others is a sure way to crush your spirits. You cannot compare your stage of life and writing to anyone who is beyond you in their stages of writing. Keep your eyes on your own paper, do your best, and the rest will come. You will be your own kind of great and it will poison you to try to follow someone else’s exact path.
What is a book you read for research that you ended up loving? Let me know in the comments below!