Most of the queries that land in my inbox come from people who seem to genuinely love books, and their writing comes from that and reflects that. Every once in awhile, though, there is someone who seems to write just because, without having read a book in the last 10 years.

Here’s the deal, to be an effective writer, you really need to be a reader first. For one thing, it is important to keep up on what is happening in the genre in which you are hoping to be published. I am not advocating writing to trends, because by the time you get something together the trend may well be over, and if you aren’t writing from the heart your manuscript may not shine in a way that will attract agents and editors. You do need to have an idea of what is being published and what is doing well, however. If there have been a glut of books about flying monkeys and the new ones are just not selling, this might not be the time to start your flying monkey manuscript.

Perhaps more importantly, though, is that every writer can learn from reading other writers. You may be inspired by a way to get your main character out of the terrible problem she’s encountering, or read something you know that you never want to do with your own work.

Many authors don’t want to read in their own genre when working on a manuscript so that they do not inadvertently steal ideas, but even so, it can still be beneficial to read in other genres, as another way to hone your own craft. So if you’re writing about 11th century royalty, get thee out and grab an urban fantasy; if you’re writing about a bookstore cat who solves crime, grab some literary fiction. Keep reading, keep writing, and keep improving.