It is often said that writers should read more to improve their writing. If I only have limited time to read, should I stick to reading only the genre that I am focused on writing or will devoting a percentage of time to other genres be just as beneficial?
I think you should definitely read outside of the genre you intend to write in.
Reading only in the genre you love will lead to a greater tendency for your work to be derivative of what already exists in the genre, without bringing a new voice.
Reading in other genres will bring new influences to your genre, which will allow you to elevate the genre and stand out in the marketplace.
I think you should even practice writing in other genres. Just like athletes cross-train, this will make you more robust, adaptable, and increase the value of your voice in your primary genre.
I agree with Jessie, you should absolutely read broadly, in the same way that you should experience life broadly in order to find inspiration. I know a lot of writers travel, or go abroad for school, or at least actively seek out new experiences in order to fuel their inspiration for writing. In my opinion, the same applies to reading: the more you read, and the more widely you read, the better developed your own writing becomes. Even if it’s not the same genre, you might be really inspired by the theme, or certain character traits or motives 🙂
My personal opinion would be no, that you should read broadly. At least, I certainly feel like reading outside my genre has helped me.
My favorite way to find stuff to read is by skimming writing books for examples I find interesting. Like if I’m struggling with stakes, I’ll go to the stakes chapter of my favorite writing book and see what novels are used as examples. That way, even if it’s outside my genre, I know it will still be relevant to what I’m working on.
Fun story, in 2020 that’s how I discovered what is now one of my favorite books of all time! Someone on the Writing Excuses podcast used All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy as an example of using style to set mood. It’s a Western, which is a genre I never even considered picking up of my own accord, but it immediately became a huge influence on my writing. I was hooked by page 6.