Read What You Write

by Director

This post title might seem obvious, but its importance is multi-layered, and it affects every level of a creative writer’s performance. It’s not enough just to read the same genre you write in or to read people whose style or standpoint might share features with yours. Part of participating in the craft in a real and relevant way means reading what you write in terms of genre awareness, but part of it also means learning to be the audience, even when it’s your work.

Reflecting and Responding

Whether you like it or not, readers will associate your work with other work that shares its features. That means that when you write a literary novel that features, say, an autistic protagonist disclosing a disability in the workplace, you will find that readers will associate your book with other books along a variety of axes, including:

  • Books on/about autism
  • Books by autistics, whether or not they’re about autism
  • Books about disability in the workplace
  • Books about disabled people living their lives
  • Books about relationships between disabled people
  • Literary novels about contemporary issues
  • Realistic fiction about the present-day

If you’re writing to reach only one of those audiences, then your work might find resonance with a portion of that audience, but it might also find that it is received less well by some of the other audiences that might have found something of themselves in it. Even if you don’t necessarily want to write¬†like¬†the other writers in those other genre intersections, it’s important to know what you will be compared to, as well as what the dominant attitudes and threads of that conversation happen to be and how they are likely to shape the reception of your own work. If you’re not reading around yourself, though, you miss those opportunities to enrich and expand the reach of your own project.