Reading OUTSIDE Your Genre

I find that writing outside my usual genre is a fantastic educational exercise, but reading outside my mystery genre is essential. It’s not a choice. It is a necessity. I read historical fiction, thrillers, horror, romantic suspense, literary fiction, fantasy, science fiction, non-fiction, history, biography, poetry, and everything/anything else. I’ve discovered that simply reading OUTSIDE my comfort zone, improves the writing I do within it.

Why is this so?

I can only guess that it’s the experience of unchartered, unfamiliar territory that expands my palette of literary colors. The use of language varies from genre-to-genre, the pacing of stories, and the specificity of descriptive text, too. Nothing—not even narrow sub-genres like cozy mysteries—are written in a vacuum. The terse prose of a noir detective, the poetic dialog of lovers in a historical romance, and the created languages of alien species on science fiction, all contribute to the crazy quilt in my head.

The further I venture as a reader, the more adventurous I become as a writer. It’s a win/win all around. I’m about to spend three weeks traveling, with my Kindle “fat” with all sorts of books. Long plane rides are nothing when I have a huge library in my bag. I’ll be reading a variety pack of genres, styles, eras, and authors.

What have you read lately that has pushed your boundaries?

My Kindle is fully loaded for my trip. These were just a few random books I grabbed off my shelves...

My Kindle is fully loaded for my trip. These were just a few random books I grabbed off my shelves…


  1. Actually I’ve been reading a biography of Dirk Bogarde, the English actor of Death in Venice fame. I’ve loved him forever and his autobiographical works taught me to paint pictures with language. This biography is a bit of a disappointment though. It lacks the spark and colour of Bogarde’s own writing. Maybe that’s a lesson in itself.

    • Candy Korman

      That’s interesting and kind of funny as the last memoir I read was Alan Cummings’—another great actor. I admired his one-man version of Macbeth, in addition to his MC in Cabaret on Broadway. Reading the way he discussed his difficult childhood… the abuse, but also the love… was informative for fiction!