Reading Outside My Genre

I recently read two books outside my genre and found them very helpful in terms of writing craft.

The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker by Leanna Renee Hieber.

I liked the writing in this book and thought the pace moved quickly. Although the romance didn't draw me in, I was impressed with how the author used omniscient pov. Writers are encouraged to use deep pov, but this book showed me that it's not always necessary for a great, fast-moving story. This book was a good example of a plot-driven book, I thought.

The Dark Man by Marc Schooley is Christian Speculative Fiction, a genre I don't read often. I was completely impressed by it. Loved the writing and the pacing. The story intrigued me and I found the premise very believable. It's set in a futuristic type America in which our basic freedoms are gone. One of the intriguing things about the craft in this book was how Schooley used pov. There was a mix of omniscient, third and second. For example, the characters are most often written in third pov, but their thoughts were in second pov, no italics. I'm not sure I've seen that style often but it was pretty effective once I got used to it. I also loved the romantic angles of the story. I'd recommend this book to a lot of people.

So I've learned a lot from reading outside my genre. What fiction outside the norm have you read lately? What did you learn from it?


Terri Tiffany said…
I just finished Jodi Picoult's newest book. I don't write this kind as she always has a detective and a trial but I love how she writes and develops her characters. Have learned a lot from her style.
Unknown said…
Thanks for the reviews. I recently read WATER FOR ELEPHANTS. Not my normal YA or magic/paranormal type of book.

I learned some valuable stuff about craft, but I was definitely craving a feel-good magic story immediately after. Guess that's why our favorite genres are or favs. :)
Hi Jess -

Ooo, I've got to pick up the second book. It sounds like my kind of reading material.

Sci-Fi is outside my normal genre preference. Kerry Nietz persuaded me to read his first book. Now, I can't wait to pick up his second, "The Superlative Stream."

Susan :)
Warren Baldwin said…
All fiction is outside my genre. Just finished one novel. Also just finished a 40+ page epic poem by Alex Sholzhenitzn. Value of reading outside one's genre - helps expand your thinking patterns.
patti said…
I read a recommended sci-fi book and appreciated the brain stretch needed to think outside the box.

Great question!
Karen Lange said…
They both sound interesting. When my TBR pile gets smaller, I may give them a look. Thanks for sharing your thoughts:)
Good for you, Jessica! I'm proud of you. It helps to read genres apart from our own style.

I've heard omniscient POV is very hard to pull off; how neat that Hieber and Schooley did fine jobs.

I'm currently reading a self-help book by Dr. Laura called "Bad Childhood; Good Life," and a non-fiction by Jennifer AlLee called "The Pastor's Wife." Both are different genres from what I write, but I'm enjoying the excellent crafting in both of them.
Linda Glaz said…
Sounds very intriguing as I'm always looking for diff ways to mix it up.
anita said…
Awesome reviews, Jessie! You know how much I loved the Percy Parker premise. I felt the same way about you with the romance, but she did rock at omniscient POV, which takes some real talent. That other book looks intriguing. Love that cover!

As for reading outside my genre, I've been reading lots of YAs lately, but that's because I want to make that my genre for a while. But I guess you could say I read outside my genre every week, because two of my crit partners write things I wouldn't normally pick up. One writes thrillers, and the other women's fic/magical realism. It's nice, because like you, I think we learn more about the craft when we're exposed to different genres. ;-)
Linda Kage said…
I like reading different types of POVs in a story. First, third, omniscient, second. But you don't see second very often. Bet that was interesting.
Jody Hedlund said…
Great suggestion, Jessica! I don't read much out of my genre. But occassionally I'll pick up a book by someone I know personally, like Debra Voigts, a fellow Word Serve client. She writes contemporary romance and I enjoyed her book immensely. It's fun to read the books of fellow writers and to support them, even if their genre isn't what I'd normally read.
Very true, Jody!
Good points Anita!
And Karen, lol, if I read that book I'd be picking up a romance soon after! I want to read Elephants, but I have to prepare myself for it first. LOL
Thanks ladies and Warren :-) for sharing your experiences!
The past 2 winters I have taken part in a library reading challenge. I read so many different genres and types of books I would never have picked up otherwise. It was a good eye opener.
Tana said…
I haven't read either of those! I just finished the Book Thief and am now reading the Hunger Games. It's interesting for sure.
Angie Muresan said…
I have been reading only books on writing for the last month. I am feeling the need though to just lose myself in a good novel.
Julie Dao said…
Oooo what a smart idea, to read books out of your genre! I need to do that more often. I LOVE the first one's cover. They both sound fantastic. Thanks for the honest reviews, I am definitely tempted to read them both now!
Deb Shucka said…
I love it when I'm able to see craft in different ways in different genres. I recently read Olive Kitteridge and loved the short story format that tells one complete story. I also loved reading a protagonist who is not very appealing at first. Thoughtful post Jessica. Thanks.
Deb, funny how those unlikable protags sneak into our hearts. :-) Thanks for sharing about that.

Julie, if you do you'll have to tell me what you think!

Angie, wow, how do you do that? A month without fiction? I hope you find a wonderful book to lose yourself in. :-)

T. Anne, I've heard both of those are excellent!

Melinda, that actually sounds really fun!
Tabitha Bird said…
I read outside my genre all the time. Being that I wrote memoir I have to focus on reading memoir at least some of the time, but I don't want to read any one genre all the time. I don't think it does anything for your writing to get stuck in a rut.

I am currently reading The Glass Castle by J. walls. Memoir. And very very good.

Thank you for your comments on my blog. it is good to be back :)
Dara said…
Lots of YA. I hadn't really been into that genre since I was in like junior high, but there's such an amazing array of books coming out with such wonderful stories. I'm not sure what I learn from it--perhaps how to write an effective first person story, since many YA novels are written that way.
Marc Schooley said…
Well, hello there Jessica,

You don't know how thankful I am that you chose to read TDM. Were that all it'd be enough, but then you chose to share such kind words about it in public. Much, much appreciated...

You've got quite the blog going on here, it seems, judging by this post.

Sincere thanks,

Marc! Thanks for stopping by. :-) I appreciate it. I'm looking forward to reading more of your books. I really, really like your style.
C.L. Dyck said…
Jessica, so very glad to have run across you and your blog. Hm, things I've read lately outside the usual...

I confess to being a total nerd, so that would be Oscar Wilde. I came upon an old edition of his plays in a musty back corner of the library, and had to pick it up. I mean, it had that old-book scent.

I learned that some playwrights really like to challenge their actors by the deliberate use of repetitive dialogue, which must have to force vocal and physical inflection from the performers to prevent ruining the play.

Also, Wilde was a consummate symbolist, and his use of the moon and each character's reaction to it in Salome is really striking and worth study for any writer who trends toward the literary.

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