Just last week I put the finishing touches on my fourth manuscript. There’s nothing quite like writing “The End” on a story. It gives you a huge sense of accomplishment of setting a goal and then achieving that goal. It’s a joyful time, but it also makes me a tad nervous. Why? Because my thoughts then turn to the question of “What’s next?”
When I decided to write this last manuscript I knew I was going into unchartered territory. I’d always written Young Adult and felt comfortable in that place. But then a funny thing happened, little plot bunnies started popping up with ideas that were way beyond the realm of YA. At first, I tried to ignore the ideas. Work on plotting something new, but I kept coming back to one idea which was definitively New Adult.
Having never written in the category, I started doing my research. Talking to other writers. Asking questions about setting, voice, and what would be considered authentic stakes for my type of story. While I could ask questions, I knew my answers honestly lied in one place: reading.
If I wanted to learn about voice or the topical plots that drew readers to New Adult, then I needed to read. So over the last year I’ve immersed myself into what I consider the “School of New Adult.” I’ve read close to 45 books in the category. With each one I’ve learned something new, and it’s taught me how to approach my story in a way I never thought possible. (Thank you Chanel Cleeton, Christina Lee, Megan Erickson, Sarina Bowen, Rebecca Yarros, Lia Riley, A.J. Pine, Stina Lindenblatt & Jennifer Blackwood for being my teachers!)
Many people say they can’t read in the category they’re writing, but I’m the opposite. Reading inspires me to be a better writer. When I come across a perfect sentence, it challenges me to dig deeper. Think more creatively. I’m not envious of those who are accomplished as writers. They inspire me to work harder at my craft.
This pattern continues for me today. As of this morning, I started plotting my next two books which will be companions to the manuscript I just finished. Again, I’m pushing myself. This time writing from the male POV. What’s my plan? How am I going to pull off something I’ve never done before? I’m going back to doing what I love: reading and learning.
What about you? Do you read extensively in the category or genre you write? What challenges you to be a better writer? Would love to hear about it in the comments.