On twitter, I've talked about the advice to read newly released books in your genre, but I never really did a blog post about it. In fact, I never knew the importance of that advice until I wrote my fifth manuscript.
You see I got an agent with my fourth manuscript. It was a humorous middle grade, and it never sold on submission. I'm pretty sure now that was because I hadn't read enough middle grade books before I wrote it. I usually read in adult fantasy with the occasional middle grade thrown in.
Then while my MG was out on submission, I did this thing called sign up for NetGalley. NetGalley provides free advance copy ebooks in exchange for honest reviews of those books. It's one of the main sites used by book bloggers. I'm not a book blogger per se, but I love reading. And there's never enough money to buy all the books I can read. So NetGalley provided me free books and all I had to do was write a review on Goodreads.
Actually, I was getting so much more.
By reading books that were newly released, I learned so much. I'm not talking about plot trends. These books were purchased by the publishers a year ago or longer, so trends of plot have passed by the time the public gets to read them.
No, I mean writing style and pacing and timing and so many other important things. Such as, how long you should wait before an inciting incident? How to space out your action chapters for your genre? What sort of pace is too slow? How much world building should you do? What sort of prologues work? How unlikable can you make your characters and still have people tolerate them? All sorts of information comes from reading lots and lots of recent books.
I find that I've developed an inner rhythm to writing now. My manuscripts fall right into the sweet spot for word count without my having to try. I know how much description works and what sorts makes a reader bored.
My gut tells me it's time to add some action or to slow things down. I sense when the characters need a building relationship scene so they can bond. I believe I know when the story needs new elements added to bring up the interest. At least, I hope I've gotten pretty good at judging these things now. The reviews for Grudging so far have been pretty strong. (And I'd appreciate your support!)
Regardless of what genre you enjoy, there's a lot to be said for spending a day on the couch just reading. Consider it research!