I hear a lot of advice about the importance - no, the necessity - of reading in the genre you're writing in or want to write in. That's absolutely true. If you don't know what's current, how that genre is evolving, what award winners are being awarded for, then you have no business thinking that your book is going to be ready to do battle in the crazy competitive industry that is publishing. But why don't I hear more about the necessity of reading across many genres? That is also, absolutely true. And, in my opinion, also absolutely necessary.
Right now I'm reading an historical romance (WICKED BECOMES YOU), a literary novel (SOPHIE's CHOICE) and re-reading a middle-grade novel (one of the BEST MG novels I've ever read: FLIPPED by Wendelin Van Draanen). Each one of these novels gives me something that I can add to my still evolving skill set as a writer.
The historical romance centres on two strong main characters - hero and heroine - and gives me some solid motivation about why they are who they are and why these two people need to end up together. I always have a romance sub-plot in my novels and I believe well written romance novels give some of the best studies in character development ever. Hint: give me the right motivation and I will suffer through any number of silly plots that give the characters something to do just so I can read the scenes between the two main characters.
The literary novel gives me the lush language and description that while I may not employ in my own writing I can still learn from and absorb. Word choice, nuance, fluidity, in-depth immersion in narrative - all things that will, in turn, help me (hopefully) become a better writer.
The MG/YA novel gives me voice. Especially FLIPPED. It gives me both male and female first person POV and rings so true that it feels like these kids and their parents are actually whispering in my ear. Dialogue and narrative so real that it's like I'm eavesdropping on their conversations.
Characterization, language, voice - now I just need to start reading a mystery/thriller and I'll have plot too. And lets not forget non-fiction. You can get the most amazing fiction ideas from newspaper and magazine articles.
Yes, variety really is the spice of reading. So ... how eclectic is your reading these days?