I once tried reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein. My husband swears by this author and his writing, he especially loved this book. He convinced me I needed to read this author’s work. That’s how writer’s learn isn’t it? Reading and writing.
Just one little problem, I confess to him between sips of coffee, I have never been a sci-fi fan when it comes to reading. But, in my defence, I tried. I picked up the book one night and I got about four to eight pages in before I realizedthe genre and stories of even great author’s like Heinlein weren’t something I knew enough about or could feign interest in to make sense of the story Heinlein was telling or to convince myself to keep reading.
In writing, there is a common expression: Write what you know. The reason is two-fold in my opinion: you won’t (hopefully) sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about (even in fiction) and you’ll enjoy (at least I enjoy) the process of telling the story that much more.
The other thing to keep in mind is that reading new genres opens you to the possibilities of writing about places, people and things that perhaps you hadn’t considered before. For the novice writer I recommend both writing what you know and reading a lot (so long as you can make sense of what you are reading or at least make sense of the story from beginning to end.)If it is too painful for you to read something in a genre that doesn’t interest you, try anways. Something very interesting happened when I did:
A long time ago I broke the rule so many writers live by and I wrote about what I didn’t know,the experience was enlightening. It showed me there is no limit to what genre I can create stories with no matter what genre I am writing. More recently, I succesfully wrote a sci-fi short story. And then it sat on a file on a USB on a shelf for weeks because I was afraid that it sucked compared to sci-fi writers who have done this since they learned how to scribble words on a page and published countless books. The irony, I finally I had a piece of writing my husband, a sci-fi fan, could identify with.But, I never showed it to him and I am the type of person who thrives on sharing my work with others.
Whether it is a fear of failure or the fact that I no longer remember what shelf and which USB I placed it on, I have acknowledged it is okay that I am not meant o be a sci-fi novelist and the fact that I do not remember which USB that story is on will make a happy surprise when I am searching through my WIPs for something to submit to publishers.What matters is that I stepped out of my comfort zone and that expanded my knowledge of the sci-fi writing world and it gave me a deeper appreciation for the type of writing other authors’ produce and a fraction of the things they must think of to write that genre.
Have you stepped out of your writing comfort zone lately? There’s a full moon tonight. Maybe pick up a Robert Heinlein book and expand your writing experience of other genres. You may just discover you have a niche for writing in it too! And if you don’t hey, there’s a lot of other genres to choose from.