Wordy Wednesday with Susan Kelley!


I write fantasy and romance. I read fantasy and romance but I’d like to talk about why I read nearly all other genres of fiction and some nonfiction.


I love mystery and suspense. I don’t just enjoy the story, I study the way the author escalates tension, saddles the protagonists with setbacks and sets the reader up for surprises. I like when I get to the end, and my writer-self is awed by the clever way the plot zigzagged to the finale. When the ending is a surprise but the only logical explanation, the writer has created a masterpiece. I can learn from that. Have I ratcheted up the tension with every scene? Have I planted the seeds to grow a twisty vine that will blossom into the conclusion I want? Will my readers say, yes, I should have seen that coming?


A few times a month I pick up a book labeled literary fiction though I’m not entirely clear on what earns a book that title. When I read a book that has less external conflict and more emotional conflict and growth as the plot, I put in on the literary list. Again I study the techniques used by the writer. Do they use unique descriptions of character emotions? Do they delve into a twisted mind? What interesting take is there on family dynamics? Is there a new slant on society and its norms?


I have a few favorite authors of what some people call, ‘men’s fiction.’ These action heavy novels ran at a racehorse’s pace from one fighting scene to the next. Something is always happening. Heroes are in constant jeopardy, overcoming terrible pain, wounds and losing comrades in arms. Don’t forget all that information about weapons I can learn. Men’s fiction seldom has a ‘sagging middle’ because it’s one big slugfest from start to finish. I read with envy the fast pacing of those novels and try to insert some giddy-up in my novels.


While winding the lessons I learn from other genres into my own books, I hope to improve my writing but I also must follow the conventions expected in my chosen type. Romance readers expect a happy ending. That is not true in other genres like literary fiction. Epic fantasy readers expect good to win out over evil in the wide world. They expect heroes and heroines to rise and put the greater good before their own desires. Those conventions must be followed if I want loyal readers of the genres to become my fan.


As writers we need to read everything. We can learn from writers in other areas. What genres do you read outside the genre you write in? Do you read for pleasure only or to increase your knowledge and improve your craft? Do you write in more than one genre already?


The Marines Queen coverPlease visit my blog, say hello. I’m excited to have three books coming out this spring, two fantasy novels and a futuristic romance. The Marine’s Queen will be released at the end of March.


8 responses »

  1. Wonderful post, Sue! I confess I’m not nearly as well-rounded as you are. Everything I read is meant to improve my own craft, but I stop reading if I’m not enjoying, and I don’t read as broadly as I should. I’m trying to remedy that! 🙂

  2. Natalie, I don’t know why you don’t read more. It’s not like you have a million things going on all the time.
    Thanks, Ava, for following me over here.
    MJ, your reading habits sound a bit like mine.

  3. Great cover!

    I read very widely too – across age levels and genres. I’m writing contemporary romance for now. My favourite genres include romance, rom susp, fantasy, sf, mystery, suspense and adventure. So many great books. I wish I could say I study the styles well, but I tend to get too caught up in the stories! 🙂

  4. Very cool cover, Susan. Congrats on your upcoming release! Genre labels don’t influence me, and I read whatever catches my interest. I pay more attention to the blurb – and the cover.

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