We all know that one of the foremost pieces of advice for writers in general is to read what you write. For us, obviously, it's middle-grade.
But we hardly have enough time to squeeze in a daily (or weekly) spurt of writing time. As well, the perennial fear of losing one's "touch" if we start a new novel in the middle of writing our own pops up. And then there's the issue of what to read, exactly. If I write contemporary, does that mean I can only learn from like contemporary novels? It's enough to turn a writer off books totally. ...Well, probably not. After all, we loved books enough to try our hand at this career.
The best way to tackle these problems, for me, is to set a reading goal.
Kind of like a word quota, this reading goal will be specific, achievable and balanced. (I'm feeling like a personal trainer of some sort now, hehe...) For a very basic guideline, all you have to do is set a specific number of books you want to have finished by the end of the year. Of course, being the type A personality that I am, I came up with two more guidelines you can apply to build your to-read list:
Age category & genre. If you'd like to focus on sci-fi middle-grade and dabble in fantasy on the side, go ahead and tweak your list. A while later you might want to get back into the groove of writing contemporary. In that case, switch a few titles up your list, easy-peasy.
Checkpoints. Saying you want to read fifty books by the end of August is perhaps just a little too broad. Checkpoints are dandy little things that can help keep you on track. (Okay, now I really feel like a personal trainer.) Try setting a goal to read a certain number a month -- and make adjustments for holidays, too. For example, spring break's just started. So, I decided to plow through at least ten books in my ginormous stack of library books this week. I might not make it, but then again, I might! (And if I don't, I'll probably be paying some fines pretty soon...)
Over the book blogosphere you'll find tonnes of reading challenges in all varieties aimed specifically at helping you, well, read books. Or you could keep it simple and just aim for a number. Whichever route you choose, you can't go wrong; after all, you're reading. What could be more right?
PS: As for me, I've read thirty-four books so far. Seeing how it's only March... I'm optimistic. ;) What's your goal this year?