Read for Where You Wanna Be (Practical Advice)

So, we’ve gone over the importance of reading before – you can’t appreciate the genres you write in, can’t know what’s out there, unless you’re surrounding yourself with stuff. Alright? Alright.

Well, welcome to my TED Talk 2.0. One of the things I’ve learned this year (hey, I’m still learning, too), is another one of those obvious but correct things. Read where you want to be.

For me, that means sorting through my giant TBR pile and putting some happy comfort reading on the back burner while I look at what popular genre titles are out this year or recently. I’ve burned through a lot lately: The Cruel Prince, Robots vs. Fairies, The Ritual, Borne, Space Opera, etc, and have things like Children of Blood and Bone, The Last Days of Magic, American Hippo, and Dread Nation on my stack.

I’m upping my game, as it were. And I’m not reading these to copy, but to see how people are doing things, what plot elements are working for me, how they’re using language, how they’re using genre. And I’ve discovered some amazing stuff.

Yeah, to anyone who says there’s nothing good being published by traditional publishing anymore, you’re kidding yourself. Completely. Please divest your ego and go use your library card.

I’ve also been binge reading a lot of magazines like Uncanny, Apex, Lightspeed, The Dark, Shimmer, etc, as well. You know how in every guidelines ever there’s that piece of info that says to read some issues before submitting?

Yeah, I’ve ignored that, too. To my detriment. At the very least, I’m finding so much fantastic stuff to enjoy as a reader. As a writer, I’m really seeing what people are looking for, looking for similarities in pieces, learning how to up my game. And with Kindle, it does admittedly make things a lot easier.

I think sometimes there’s a fear of breaking out of our comfort zones, or reading things by the places that have turned us down in the past. It’s like watching an ex be out with someone else, but honestly, in reality, we’re only hurting ourselves. As writers, we need to know what’s going on now, not to try to write to market, but to keep up and improve ourselves.

There’s always room to improve ourselves. Always.

I’m not saying everything by trad publishing is golden, or not to read indie titles – but like everything else, read to find what you like about things and what you don’t. Don’t *just* read in your comfort zone or where you are now or to promote those around you or whatever. I get it, I do, I’ve been there. This has been something I’ve had to swallow and accept – I need to improve, and to do that, I need to read stuff that makes me examine what I’m doing. It’s how I read as a writer. I’m not doing this to game the system. I’m doing this to improve myself.

What I don’t do is entirely cut off an avenue that’s an eventual dream of mine, or that houses writers who I admire and are doing the things I want to do. It’s so easy to say ‘oh that could be me if life was fair’ or ‘people just don’t get my work’ or ‘everyone knows such and such circumstances screw you over anyway.’

It’s life. You’re going to get screwed over. That’s a whole other post.

If you back away from an entire road, though, you may end up hiking through the mountains when you could have had a much easier time if you’d have bought a map.

So read. Read everything, but read what’s new and current, read where you want to be, read where you want to submit. You might be surprised where that map will get you.

Plus, you’ll find some really amazing stories.

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