I did kind of an odd thing a few weeks ago. It was one of those rare afternoons when I didn't have to worry about being anywhere or looking after anyone or even cooking anything, and I had no responsibilities whatsoever, and I had an assignment for this class I'm taking, so I holed up in the YA section of the bookstore and I just read. And read. And read. And took notes. And read some more.
The assignment was to write the beginning of a novel, so that's what I read - the beginnings. Seventeen Prologues/First Chapters in one afternoon. I made myself stop at the end of Chapter One every time, but I made a note of the books I wanted to get back to.
It was eye-opening, guys. Firstly, there is an actual formula to these things. Did you know this? I would never have picked up on it if I had read each novel in its entirety before moving on to the next one, but reading just the beginnings back-to-back like that it became really obvious. And there is a definite "tone" to the paranormal books. (My WiP is a paranormal, so I stuck to that genre.) And when I came across a book that had a really unique voice or a really unusual beginning, it jumped right out and grabbed me. It was awesome! Like reading extra-super-incredibly high-quality slush, except even better than that. The difference between the books that have that buzz surrounding them and the books that don't was really clear to me after reading their beginnings.
So, that's my wisdom. Read widely, but don't only read in the usual way. Read with the intention of picking out the hidden formulas, and of picking out those things that stand out, that are unique, and that break from the mold and are better for it. Read to figure out what makes these books work.