Friday, May 15, 2015

Reading For Research Is Crucial

The problem with many authors is the fact that they love reading. Every chance they get, their heads are probably in the latest book from the TBR (To Be Read) stack that sits next to their bed. But here is the issue. They love to read so much, that it becomes difficult to actually grow and learn as an author.

Let me explain.

When we read, most of the time, we have shifted our brains to that "relaxation" mode. We want to escape from the grind of the day and diving into the latest novel is great. We aren't really thinking about anything other than how we get that character out of the latest trouble he or she got into. If you are reading (or watching) Outlander, many are thinking how HOT Jamie is.

But, as authors, we need to do much more. We have to read for research, and this can be tough.

When we read for research, we turn off that relaxation mode, and move into a purely objective mode. Now we start to study the technique of the author. Now we study the plots and characters. The focus here is to determine what authors are doing, why they are doing it and the impact on the everyday reader. We try to figure out what the editors were thinking (not in a bad way) when they signed that book and sent it to press.

One of my authors did this right after the last RWA Convention. She took her entire box of books she collected from the conference and dumped them on her bed. She then proceeded to sort through the books, objectively tracking what she saw:

  • Common themes
  • Common plot elements
  • Hero types
  • Heroine types
  • Covers
  • etc.
But she took it a step further. She started sorting and cataloguing the publishers the editors and even what was said on the back cover blurbs.

Her goal was simple. She wanted to identify if there were indeed patterns in the buying and publishing trends with this latest collection of close to 200 books. There was!

This isn't to say she isn't going to go back and read those books for pleasure, but that research is crucial. We use it to keep track of what is going on out there, but also a check for whether or not we are on the right track with our own writing.

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