Amazing, isn’t it, where inspiration can come from? Just recently, I read a book in a completely different time period and genre from the YA novel that I’m writing — in many ways they couldn’t have been more different. And yet, the narrator’s voice in the book I was reading sparked an idea about my book that really excited me. I ended up adding a series of voices to my story that I believe readers will really enjoy and find very satisfying. I know I had lots of fun adding this touch.
I remember reading that Junot Diaz was struggling with the structure of his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, while he was reading a book on a totally different subject called The Ice Storm (see Generous Gifts). Somehow the way that book was framed gave Junot an idea that he used to underpin the story of his novel. The Ice Storm ended up being a book mate — a friend — that helped him on his way.
I think casting a wide net in our reading often proves very helpful in our writing. Some people tend to read only in their genre: they see this as a way to attain mastery. This makes perfect sense to me. And yet, there can be genuine value in reading more broadly and widely, because you never know where a great idea will come from — and sometimes it’s reading something very far afield from your own work that gives you the distance and objectivity to identify what’s helpful and transferable.
What do you think? Is it better to stay within your genre or to cast a wider net? I’d love to know what’s worked for you. Write on!