Why to read what you don’t write: The importance of reading outside your genre

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Some authors say they don’t have time to read. That’s like a starving castaway saying he has no time to eat. You’re not that confused, are you?

But maybe you have a similar problem: You have no relationships with books outside your niche. For example, your write youth fantasy and read only youth fantasy. Why is this wrong? There’s a nasty word for families that have relationships only with themselves. Authors who only read their genre may fall into that same category.

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Choosing your audience: Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea

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“Once upon a time, a publisher asked me if I’d write a novel for teenagers. ‘Oh, no!’ I said. ‘No, thanks very much, but I couldn’t,” writes Ursula K. Le Guin, author of Earthsea.

So almost didn’t begin youth fantasy. Before she wrote Earthsea, there was fantasy like T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, as well as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. But nothing for teens.

What was the problem Le Guin had with writing for teenagers? She wasn’t an unpublished author scared of finally getting a chance–she had already published. And it wasn’t like she was a nonfiction author fearful of going public with a novel–she had already published both science fiction and fantasy.

“It was the idea of writing with a specific audience in mind or a specific age of reader that scared me off.” But after considering it, “I thought about it. Slowly the idea sank in. Would writing for older kids be so different from just writing? Why? Despite what some adults seem to think, teenagers are fully human.”

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