You’ve probably heard this advice a thousand times. Read in your genre. If you’re writing middle grad fantasy, you need to read middle grad fantasy. If you’re reading adult mystery novels, you need to read adult mystery novels. If you’re writing young adult historical fiction, you need to read young adult historical fiction. You get the idea.
Unless you read in your genre, you will be unfamiliar with the tropes and conventions, and every genre and age group has it’s own tropes, clichés, and conventions. Not knowing your genre is a great way to write a really unoriginal story.
Also, it will negatively impact the quality of your voice. I see this most poignantly is middle grade but also in young adult. You can always spot a middle grade writer who’s unfamiliar with the age group because the writing feels like it’s talking down to the reader rather than engaging them.
Now that we’ve established that it’s important, I want to talk a little bit about just how much reading is required to be well-read in your genre.
While I read a little of everything (except erotica), I only feel comfortable saying I know YA really well. Last year I read 45 YA titles across all genres. That’s almost a book a week.
I know MG moderately well. I’m familiar with the major titles and some of the trends. I read adult (at least one book a month). But I wouldn’t say I know enough to really talk about the major trends.
The moral of this post is that reading one or two of the lead titles in your genre and category isn’t going to be enough. The more you can immerse yourself, the better off your writing is going to be. This will also help tremendously when you try to think of comp titles.
So get thee to a library!