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Challenge for the New Year—2015

January 13, 2015 by Fiction Editor Beth Hill
last modified January 13, 2015

The new year often brings determination to tackle new tasks, to develop new habits and eliminate bad ones.

Writers making a New Year’s resolution often commit to write X number of words per day or week, complete a scene a day or sit writing at their desks for a set number of hours each day, promise to finish a draft, promise to begin a new story, or even declare that they will submit to five agents every week until one of those agents signs them.

Other writers join writing groups for the first time or sign up for classes in fiction or grammar. Some commit to a course of study on their own, determined to delve deep into the fiction elements and hone their skills.

But my challenge for you this year (at least here at the beginning of the year) has nothing to do with writing and everything to do with reading.

I’m willing to bet that you’re a reader, someone who has a favorite genre or two and who is thrilled when a favorite author publishes a new book.

You’re probably energized by reading, even if you’re up until two or three finishing a book.

And not being able to relax with a good book for an extended period of time may even make you cranky

So, reader, I want to challenge you to tackle an endeavor you already enjoy.

I challenge you not to read more, but to read more broadly.

Set yourself a goal to read at least a dozen books in 2015 in genres that you don’t normally read. That’s just one book per month. Read a handful of different genres or choose just one or two and learn the peculiarities and rhythms and strengths of genres you’re unfamiliar with (or genres you’re convinced that you don’t like).

Read romance if you’ve never done so before (every story is not the same). Read horror if you’ve always turned up your nose at it (it’s not all gory). Read three or four positively reviewed (or classic) literary novels that you’ve stubbornly refused to read.

Go for futuristic sci-fi if you typically read historicals or try paranormals if you usually read westerns.

Read something different, at least 12 books—more if you’re game—that you wouldn’t normally read.

This is a challenge, so it may be tough. You may have trouble getting through one or two of your choices. Push in a little harder. If you still can’t finish a book, try something else. You’ve got a year; can you read 12 books from outside your comfort zone in a year?

I challenge you to try. I encourage you to stay with the challenge until you meet or exceed your goal. I’ll be pulling for you to not only finish the challenge, but to discover a new genre or author to love.

_______________________________

Why such a challenge? Why encourage you to attempt something that some will find terrifically easy to complete and others will struggle to get through?

I’m suggesting this challenge for the busy writer and editor as a means of broadening your interests and opening your eyes to the variety of writing styles and genres, plot lines and characters, that are available for our reading pleasure.

It’s so very easy to read the same authors and genres, the same settings and eras. It’s easy to dig in with the familiar until we’ve dug down so far, we’re living in a rut. Or deeper still, in a trench that’s hard to escape. A trench that limits or distorts our view or keeps us from seeing what else surrounds us.

Read as a means of getting out of that rut. Ruts can be comfortable, of course they can. But new and different can be exciting. And energizing. And simply fun. And the new and unfamiliar can tease you with ideas that the same old, same old can never provoke.

Reading in new genres can open our eyes to knowledge and experiences we can’t find in other genres. Unfamiliar genres can challenge our viewpoints and opinions. Reading in unfamiliar genres can simply keep us from growing closed-in on ourselves and our own thoughts and prejudices.

Reading in new genres can keep us from going stale, from becoming so set in our ways that we can’t appreciate anything that departs from the familiar.

We can all learn from genres we’re not familiar with—I challenge you to learn something new about the craft of fiction writing simply from reading novels you typically wouldn’t read.

Read something new this year, keeping in mind that new for you may mean the classics.

Read a few novels from a bestseller list. I’m not asking you to tackle the top 100 books of all time, just a dozen (or more if you want a bigger challenge).

Read two or three of the classics you couldn’t finish in high school.

Read an author from a country different from yours.

Accountability

If you want to commit to read a dozen books outside of your favorite genres and need accountability, leave a note in the comments. We can revisit this article throughout the year to see how you’re doing. (Yes, a public declaration does help us to complete our pledges.)

If you want to tell us what you’ve read (or what you plan to read) and whether or not you enjoyed a particular book, that would be great too. Maybe you can recommend a book that surprises you.

Need a list of genres to choose from? I’ve included a list of the most common genres. Most genres have multiple sub-genres, so if you’re looking for something such as paranormal mysteries or time-travel historicals, you’ll be able to find plenty of offerings in that category. For more on the genres and sub-genres, check out the Breakdown of Fiction Genres.

Adventure

Fantasy

Historical

Horror

Literary

Mystery

Romance

Sci-fi

Suspense

Thriller

True Crime

Western

Women’s Fiction

Young Adult

_______________________________

I hope you’re accept this challenge and see it through. More than that, I hope you learn something new about writing or about the fiction elements, maybe about ways to appeal to the reader. I hope you’ll push yourself enough that by the end of 2015, you’ll be a stronger writer and/or editor, with a wider repertoire of skills and a greater appreciation for a variety of fiction genres.

Here’s to a productive, and creative, 2015.

***

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7 Responses to “Challenge for the New Year—2015”

  1. Hi, and Happy New Year! I accept this challenge. I am a reader, and I do read a variety of story styles, but have avoided the following:
    Women’s Fiction, Romance, Westerns, True Crime, and Horror. I will read a least 12 books in these genres in 2015. It is so easy to fall into the comfortable rut of reading the familiar–so tempting–but life, and the writing life, should be about learning, growing, and not be one to limit experiences. Since turning 69 last August I have noticed a tendency in my day to day of choosing the familiar and easy over the exciting and challenging. This Challenge will send me in a more freeing and interesting direction. Every little bit helps. And, hopefully this will help with my own writing endeavors. Thanks for the idea. — Anita

  2. Anita, glad to hear you’re accepting the challenge. I too hope it will help with your own writing projects.

    I’m also looking for my 12 novels. One place to start looking is with the popular lists at Goodreads. There are a handful of different lists in one place, all good for giving a reader ideas about what to read next.

    I wish you unqualified success.

  3. Liz says:

    I accept. I volunteer as tribute. I ave avoided:

    Historical

    Horror

    Mystery

    Romance (the erotic kind)

    Suspense

    Thriller

    True Crime

    Western

    What is Western fiction, anyways? I shall find out. I’m starting the year with a historical novel, appropriately called The Historian. Yays!

    • Good luck with the challenge, Liz. I hope you find something unexpectedly wonderful. Keep us updated.

      Westerns are somewhat out of favor these days, though they are still being written. But major writers in the genre have included Zane Grey, Louie L’Amour, and Larry McMurtry. The stories are typically set in towns in the Western U. S., although what is considered west has changed over the years. We also have a western/sci-fi combination that can be described as cowboys in space. Here’s a link to a list of 10 must-read Westerns.

      Have fun with the challenge and thanks for letting us know you took it on. Help keep the rest of us on our toes.

  4. Update on my challenge—

    I haven’t put together my full list yet, but I know it’ll be heavy with classics and literary novels—there are a lot I simply have not read. But I have begun two—The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird.

    I tried to read Mockingbird more than a dozen times over the last 12-15 years, and never got past the first two or three pages. I’m happy to say I’m halfway through and enjoying it. The balance of the story is far better than the opening. (I’m not trying to step on any toes; if you love the opening, I’m glad. But I found it difficult to get into.)

    I’m reading Huck Finn in fits and starts, simply picking it up when I have a moment or two. I probably should dedicate a couple of hours to it in one sitting, but when I have that kind of time, I want to read something of a different nature. something I can be sure I’ll get lost in.

    I’m trying to figure out how I can work A Game of Thrones into a genre I wouldn’t typically read so I can add it to my list of 12. I haven’t read any of the series yet, but they are books I would read, so I can’t honestly include them in my challenge stack.

  5. This blog is so very inspiring because you give practical advice about everything a new writer like me has questions about. So began the reading challenge immediately…have already read 4 novels that were mentioned in the Good Read site…and am thrilled at how much one can learn from just reading. The best so far, Mark Twain’s Joan of Arc. Amazing how he did this..it took him 13 years to write it…and he says his desire to write Joan of Arc’s story is why he became a writer in the first place. I look forward to continue studying all the lessons in this blog, taking advantage of the consulting work offered, and do all the work required to write well. Thanks again and again for creating this blog.

    • Carolyn, I’m so glad you’re finding info you can use at the blog. I hope you continue to find helpful tips for many years.

      Great job on the challenge! You’re far ahead of me. I need to find a few books and dive in. I may have to read Twain’s Joan. I admit I’ve not heard much about that one.

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