Friday Links: A Mishmash of Inspiration for Your Weekend

Happy Friday! Hard to believe we’re halfway through November. For those of you diligently toiling at NaNoWriMo, I hope you’re making excellent progress. Actually, I wish you all excellent progress, no matter what you’re working on.

The weekend looms, however, and so I offer you this advice. Don’t forget to take a little break. Yes, I know you have words to write. I know you have work and family and other obligations. But take time to recharge a little. Read something fun. Go outside. Rekindle a hobby that’s fallen by the wayside. The rest of the year will only get busier, so take a moment to breathe while you can.

I hope these links provide a little inspiration and maybe some useful information. It’s a mishmash–something for everyone. Have a terrific weekend, and happy writing!

This Week’s Links:

Shelf Mythology: 100 Years of Paris Bookshop Shakespeare and Company. – This month marks the 100th anniversary of the famed Parisian bookstore. The Guardian offers a nice little history of the shop.

The Secret Society of Women Writers in Oxford in the 1920s. – A look at a group of women writers who supported each other in their literary efforts and ambitions considered inappropriate for women of their time.

Go Beyond Sally Rooney with These 13 Irish Women Novelists. – A nice roundup of titles you might consider for your TBR pile.

What Makes Good Comfort Food? Writers in Conversation. – Everyone always asks the literary dinner party question. What authors, deceased or living, would you invite to a literary dinner party? No one asks what everyone would eat. This seems to remedy that.

Reedsy Plot Generator. – For anyone needing a jumping off point for a new project or something to inspire a new tangent. It’s a fun exercise to help you run through a bunch of ideas fast and works across genres. With thanks to Yvonne Shiau for bringing it to my attention.

For N.K. Jemisin, World-Building Is a Lesson in Oppression. – Check out this world-building workshop that addresses the structural forces that lead to inequality.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice for the Impatient Writer. – Some wise (and often tongue-in-cheek) thoughts for anyone frustrated with various aspects of their writing career.

Friday Links: Inspiration and Influence

We discuss inspiration a lot when talking about what we write. We want to read, to fill the well, to take in new ideas. Things inspire you to go in a particular direction with your work-in-progress. Sometimes it’s a snippet of conversation or a bit of reading, other times it’s more nebulous. Colors in the trees. A flashy outfit on a woman across the street. A moment of fear when it looks like something terrible might happen.

Girl_on_mountain_stretching_at_sunset

But past influences? I think we mostly discuss those in relation to published writers, asking them to look back at who they’ve read and what they’ve experienced that made them a writer. It’s harder to think about it in the moment, to look at your half-formed manuscript and recognize the pieces of your past that form the roots. It’s something to consider, next time you hit a wall or find your momentum slowing. Think about where you’re going, but also about where you’ve been. Ask what brought you there. It might help you figure out what comes next.

Along those lines, I offer up this week’s Friday Links, with plenty of inspiration and maybe a few looks at influence, too. I hope they give you a push in the right direction. Wishing you a wonderful weekend and productive writing!

This Week’s Links:

Five Books about Artists and the Magic of Creativity. – Maggie Stiefvater discusses the natural melding of art and magic and how that comes across in books.

The Second Shelf. – A peek into the world of A.N. Devers’s wonderful second-hand bookshop, located in London, where books by women get a second life in a market that is traditionally dominated by male writers.

Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of November. – Some great new titles topping the list per Amazon.

How to Unlearn Everything: When it Comes to Writing the ‘Other,’ What Questions Are We not Asking? – Alexander Chee looks at the importance of including diverse characters versus what it means to let a person tell their own story.

Explore the List of 100 Novels that Shaped Our World. – The BBC shares a broad list of titles voted on by a collection of writers, critics, etc., focusing not on what books are “best,” but on what works had the most influence on them and their surroundings.

Philip Pullman On Children’s Literature and the Critics Who Distain It. – The author looks at the what the label “children’s literature” actually means, and why these books are no less worthy of an adult’s attention than any other type of writing.

How to Review a Novel. – Advice on the process, but also something interesting for fiction writers to consider. Reviewers and pleasure readers can have very different perspectives.

A Roundup of 2019’s Major Science Fiction and Fantasy Award Winners. – Pad out your TBR list with some of these amazing award-winning novels.

Friday Links: New Year Booklists

New year booklists are one of my favorite things about January. If December brings lists of the best books of the previous year, the new year’s lists focus entirely on anticipation. These lists give me something to look forward to, rather than reminding me of what I wish I had a chance to read already. So this week’s Friday Links offer up lists of a ton of great books coming out in the months ahead. Be warned: your to-be-read lists might explode as a result. Mine certainly looks unreasonably long, as there are some fabulous sounding titles on the horizon. I’ve tried to include a good mix of genres and so on, and of course not every link leads to book recommendations. But there are a lot of new year booklists out there. I hope these will be sufficient to inspire you.

New Year Booklists: Piles of books to read in 2019

No Time to Read

I also want to point out that, for those of you hoping to read more books this year, the upcoming 24 in 48 Readathon provides a great chance to get a jump start on that TBR. It takes place the weekend of January 26th and 27th, and the idea is to read for 24 hours out of a 48-hour period. It’s the sort of readathon that encourages you to get some sleep, go for a walk, and live your life, even as you put in some serious reading hours. You’re also free to join in for fewer hours if you’d rather, or if you have a busy weekend. Sign ups are open over at the readathon website, and you can find more complete details there regarding how the event works. It makes for a fun, weirdly social weekend considering that it revolves around reading a lot.

With that, I’ll head right to this week’s Friday Links. Wishing you a fabulous weekend, filled with lots of reading and writing time. Enjoy!

New Year Booklists and More:

Most Anticipated: The Great First-Half 2019 Book Preview. – This bi-annual list features a huge collection of books releasing in the coming months. Always an excellent roundup, filled with titles that might otherwise not be on your radar.

105 Books Sci-Fi & Fantasy Editors Can’t Wait for You to Read in 2019. – Pretty much what it sounds like. Tons of great-sounding titles.

The Most Anticipated Crime Books of 2019, Pt. 1. – Enormous list of mysteries, thrillers, etc.

2019 Preview: Most Anticipated Romance. – A terrific list of upcoming romance novels, including titles by TKA clients Nalini Singh, Alyssa Cole, Melonie Johnson, and Cat Sebastian.

28 Young Adult Books Coming Out in 2019 that Will Seriously Get You Pumped for the New Year. – Like the title says…

How to Make Your Imagination Work Harder. – Great advice from Danny Gregory for anyone feeling a little overwhelmed, burned out, or possibly even blocked.

What We Gain from Keeping Books–and Why It Doesn’t Need to Be ‘Joy’. – In the midst of the backlash from booklovers against Marie Kondo’s method of cleaning out bookcases, a lovely look at what books do for us.

Yay, Yea, Yeah, or Yes? – A quick look at these often-used, but only sometimes interchangeable, words.

Friday Links: Year’s End Review

I’m squeezing my year’s end review in with Friday Links today because, in many ways, I’ve already started to tally up 2018. I discussed book lists for the year, plus some of my own favorites, which leaves some thoughts on the year overall.

year's end review over coffee

It’s been a lovely year for book deals and for reading wonderful new books by my clients. On the submissions front, I fared a little worse, having a hard time getting through all the projects coming across my desk. One of my first goals for 2019 involves catching up there and continuing to work our new query system. But goals call for a different post.

Outside my little book bubble, the world continues to rage and distract, from politics to tragedies to the loss of various public figures whom we’ll miss. Put this way, it sounds much calmer than if I go into specifics, so I won’t. We all know the chaos brewing. May we find a saner middle road in the year ahead. I hope to post a much more positive year’s end review come next December.

On the personal side of things, good and bad news seemed to take turns. This year saw close friends moving away and others coming to visit. My parents continued to get older, as people do. I managed some great travel for work and pleasure, and met a few new people I’m excited to know better. It all seems to balance out.

This week’s links reflect my year’s end review mindset in many ways, some looking back while others look forward. It’s an eclectic mix, so I hope you find them interesting and inspirational. Don’t forget to keep writing daily if you’re participating in the December Writing Challenge. Just a few days left! Have a great weekend.

This Week’s Links:

The World of Nora Ephron: A Reading List. – In honor of the 20-year anniversary of You’ve Got Mail, a lovely look at Ephron’s approach to filmaking and writing. Great suggested reading list, especially if you’ve never read any of her work.

10 Books by Debut Authors to Watch in 2019. – A wonderful list that includes the debut women’s fiction by my client Erin Bartels.

Tired of Series? Try These 10 Standalone Fantasy Novels. – I love a good series, but committing to yet another one can make me twitch. Some great recs for anyone who feels the same.

Megan Abbott’s Work Diary: ‘My Psychiatrist Notes How Tired I Look, Which Is Great’. – A peek inside the busy life of a successful author.

28 Young Adult Books Coming Out in 2019 That Will Seriously Get You Pumped for the New Year. – Pretty much what it says on the wrapper.

12 of the Best Romance Novels, According to the Author of The Proposal. – Jasmine Guillory shares some of her favorite reads from the past year.

From Dragon Riders to Winter Slumberers: Winter’s 10 Hottest Sci-Fi & Fantasy Reads. – A roundup with something for everyone.

A Guide to Short Story Contests in 2019. – Start marking your calendar now.

Holiday Reading Binge: Catching Up on the TBR Pile

I firmly believe in the power of the holiday reading binge. The days following Christmas can be a fabulous time to squeeze in a few good reads before the new year. One year I’d love to visit Iceland, where this post-holiday reading time even has its own word: jólabókaflóð. Icelanders traditionally give a large number of books for Christmas, and then take the time to binge read. Sounds heavenly.

Holiday Reading Binge: Girl reading by the Christmas tree

My holiday reading time shrinks a bit each year, as my parents get older and demand more attention during my visit. But I’ve been known to forgo sleep after they’ve gone to bed to squeeze in a few pages. I’ve also taken to listening to audio books at bedtime. I plug my earbuds into my phone and listen for an hour or so until I start dozing.

This December, I’m trying to finish the Alexandre Dumas classic, The Three Musketeers. It’s long, and I’ve been at it for months in fits and starts, but I’m hoping to finish in the next couple of days. I’ve also got some great audio books on loan from the library, including Mackenzi Lee’s The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which I’ve had on my TBR list for ages.

All in all, it’s been a great year for reading. The busier I get with work, the fewer books with covers I seem able to read, but it’s quality, not quantity. Or so I tell myself. Though I’m not quite through with my holiday reading binge, I thought I’d share some favorites from 2018. These are in no particular order.

Favorite Reads of the Year:

The Lady Astronaut series by Mary Robinette Kowal (The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky). – A wonderful alternate history that puts women smack in the middle of the space race.

The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook. – A young adult mystery about a teenager using her psychic ability to help the police locate a missing girl.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. – Because I am always trying to catch up with the fun bestsellers I missed when they originally dropped. An epistolary novel about a young woman who travels to Guernsey from London in the wake of World War II, in search of a subject for her latest novel.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Earnshaw. – A young adult novel about a small Oregon town where three young women were drowned as witches two hundred years ago, and future generations have been forced to pay for the deed.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays by Alexander Chee. – Part memoir, part writing advice, these essays paint an interesting picture of Chee’s life and experiences so far.

Book-List Extravaganza: Titles to Give or Keep

Come December, there’s a book-list extravaganza, when every vaguely bookish periodical, website, and newsletter starts to post their “best of” lists for the year. I groan when it happens, mostly because I think at least half go up too early. What about all the December books? Don’t those count? It seems premature to announce your favorites before you’ve even taken out the Thanksgiving trash.

book-list-extravaganza

Still, the lists show up, and I take note. Because however early they’re posted, those lists always include some fabulous book I missed when it first published. And I love poring over them, searching for the perfect gift for a friend, or a terrific holiday read for myself. My favorite lists take a more personal approach, including the best reads from various contributors instead of an anonymous editorial board. I also love lists that focus on books read over the year instead of those published in the previous twelve months. I’m more likely to discover something wonderful that way.

With all this in mind, I’m here to share a number of great book lists with you. I’ve tried to post a diverse set of lists, including a variety of genres, age groups, and publication dates. Please note that I most definitely have not read all of these titles, so this is in no way a personal reading recommendation. I’ll be back in a few days with a post more along those lines. These lists simply offer a huge range of book titles their individual compilers found worthy of discussion. I hope you find some great gifts for your friends and family, or some wonderful ideas for ways to treat yourself. Happy reading!

Book-List Extravaganza:

Best Books of 2018. – The editors and contributors to Bookriot share their favorite reads of the year.

World Literature Today’s 75 Notable Translations of 2018. – A fantastic list, especially for anyone looking to globalize their TBR.

Lit Hub’s Favorite Books of 2018. – Lit Hub‘s contributors offer up 59 of their most recommended reads, including some wonderful sounding small press titles.

The Best Reviewed Books of 2018: Mystery, Crime, and Thriller. – Books to keep you on the edge of your seat.

100 Notable Books of 2018. – The New York Times compiles their annual collection of the year’s best reads across genres.

The 25 Best Young Adult Books of 2018. – Bustle‘s list for younger (or young-at-heart) readers includes a few really important reads. It was a wonderful year for YA.

The Millions Year in Reading 2018. – Each year The Millions invites writers, editors, and contributors to share a snapshot of their year in reading, which results in vastly different posts discussing all types of books, new and old. Always one of my favorite “lists” of December.

Best Books of 2018. – Library Journal features subgenres under both fiction and nonfiction, plus a section on graphic novels. So many great titles here.

The 10 Best Romance Novels of 2018. – A list of really wonderful books from Entertainment Weekly.

Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2018. – An assortment of this year’s best science fiction and fantasy, plus one or two outliers, from various Tor.com reviewers.

Friday Links: Being Thankful

The importance of being thankful gets a lot of attention this time of year. With Thanksgiving next week here in the U.S., the subject has started coming up. The holiday brings some problematic historical baggage along for the ride, particularly in light of ongoing racial strife and feuding over immigration policies, but I prefer to focus on the sentiment of the word rather than pilgrims and turkeys. In difficult years, I think it’s more important than ever to consider what makes us grateful. Holding on to the good things gives us strength to push through all the rest. Especially when all the rest feels completely overwhelming.

Being Thankful fall image

In daily life, I tend to frame my gratitude as an afterthought. It comes out sort of like, “I gained so much weight this year, I have to stop sitting so much, but at least I can afford new clothes.” This probably isn’t the best approach. Being thankful should be a conscious choice. Taking a step back and considering what you appreciate in that moment. That has impact. When life ramps up and the world feels like it’s spinning faster, it makes a difference if you pause and think, “Hey, I accomplished this,” or “I’m so glad I got the chance to see so-and-so.”

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take a moment before posting this week’s links to list a few things I’m thankful for this year. No disclaimers beyond stating that it’s incomplete and a work in progress. As it should be.

I’m thankful for:

  • My family and friends, the whole crazy bunch.
  • That my parents are still alive and independent into their eighties.
  • My coworkers, who are always ready to chat books and publishing, and to trade information about our work.
  • My clients, with their talent and persistence and willingness to dig in cheerfully to make their wonderful stories even more wonderful.

On the smaller side of things, I’m thankful for a year of delightful books and movies–so many great discoveries. For entertaining writing challenges like NaNoWriMo and 4thewords, that keep ideas and words flowing. I’m grateful for the lovely spaces in my town that allow me to take a break and clear my mind. For houseguests and visitors. For writers conferences and other opportunities to travel and see new things. For relatively good health and a functioning car and an apartment I like.

Being thankful mostly feels like a small, quiet thing. But when you start listing all the things that come to mind–that bring you joy or relief or just allow you to function–it can feel much bigger. What are you thankful for today?

And on that note, I offer up this week’s Friday links. They’re kind of a mishmash, but I hope you find something entertaining. Wishing you a wonderful weekend, because I’m thankful for all of you. Happy writing!

This week’s links:

You Can’t Rely on Inspiration: Essential Writing Advice from J.G. Ballard. – Thoughts on writing and keeping the words flowing.

Writing Excuses on NaNoWriMo 2018. – The podcast offers up a mini episode with advice and encouragement.

7 Free or Cheap Writing Residencies to Apply for in 2019. – Pretty much as stated. For anyone looking to get away to write.

Applications Now Open for the Sesame Street Writers’ Room. – Information on how to apply before the December 3rd deadline.

Anyone Obsessed with British Authors Should Add These 4 Literary Destinations to Your Travel List. – Great spots to visit if you’re a fan of Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters, Virginia Woolf, and/or Agatha Christie.

Having No Time Is the Best Time to Get Writing Done. – An argument for being forced to write when you can squeeze it into the rest of your life.

Friday Links: Online Listening Edition for Podcast Fans

Happy Friday, everyone, and welcome to the online listening edition of Friday Links. This week I’ve been obsessing a bit about podcasts. I’m not a regular podcast listener. I don’t subscribe to any, and normally I end up streaming them from their websites rather than through iTunes or the like. My listening depends on my running across something interesting more than any adherence to a specific thing. Not to say I don’t enjoy them, because I do. But podcasts fall into the same category as audio books for me. If I am listening while doing something more complicated than driving or walking, I tune out. It’s just how my brain works. I’m more of a visual person. I like to read print. My mind wanders if I’m listening to something recorded without a corresponding image. But this week was a bit different.

microphone for online listening

It actually started with Audible, not with podcasts. I do have an Audible account and will listen to books while walking or driving more than 20 minutes or so. But Audible really got my attention by adding two additional freebies to membership. They now offer two downloads of Audible Originals per month, from a list of six titles they choose. No extra fee, no credits required. So suddenly I had more listening material at my fingertips. Mind you, I’m already working my way through The Three Musketeers (unabridged and over 20 hours), but I like having a variety. But then came the email from Danny Gregory about his latest podcast episode of Art for All–featuring an interview with Austin Kleon.

I believe firmly in branching out when it comes to seeking advice on a creative life. I like to dabble in arts and crafts and photography when I’m not nose-deep in a book. And I check out books or websites by various types of artists, as well. So I’m a fan of Danny Gregory, and Sketchbook Skool, the online art class platform he co-runs. I gave his newish podcast a try when it first started, but it didn’t really capture my attention. This week’s episode, however, was a different story. Gregory’s interview with Kleon covers so many aspects of the creative life. They discuss Kleon’s system of journaling, working on paper versus digitally, and his thoughts on why so many people are trying to turn their art into a career. So interesting, and relatable to many artistic endeavors.

Unlike many podcasts, this one wasn’t streaming from the landing page, so I ended up listening on iTunes. When I finished, I went scouting for more things to listen to and came up with a handful of other recommendations. They’re all related to books and/or writing and creativity, and I’m bookmarking for future listening binges. I’m also adding them here to the rest of this week’s links. I hope you find something fun to check out over the weekend for a bit of reading and writing inspiration. Enjoy!

Online Listening Links:

Art for All. – The main page for Danny Gregory’s art-related podcast focusing on the creative life.

The Librarian Is In. – A fabulous podcast run by the New York Public Library, featuring two very entertaining hosts, frequent guests, and diverse book recommendations.

Overdue. – A podcast where the hosts finally get around to reading (and discussing) those books that have been lingering on their TBR lists way too long.

Other PPL with Brad Listi. – An old favorite of mine; one-on-one interviews with authors.

First Draft. – Another favorite. Interviews with young adult and middle grade authors.

Lit Up. – More great author interviews.

What Should I Read Next? – A book rec podcast run by Anne Bogel, of the popular blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy.

A Few Other Links:

Romance Bookstore The Ripped Bodice Poised to Bring the Genre to Television. – Announcing the store owners’ deal with Sony TV.

Bloomsbury Group’s Countryside Hub Opens to Visitors Year-Round. – In case you’re making literary travel plans…

23 Book Cover Designers to Follow on Instagram. – Pretty much what it says.

Regency Rendezvous: Inside the World of Jane Austen Fandom. – For diehard fans, a chance to step into the period.

 

Friday Links: Vacation Land Edition

Greetings from vacation land! I’m oficially off this week, though unofficially still doing a few things here and there. My travels involve driving to see friends for the day and wandering around Los Angeles’s prettier sites, rather than jetting off to some hot spot. But even while vacationing, I think about writing and reading. I work in publishing for a reason, after all. So the blog marches on. Now that I’m getting back in the swing of posting, I don’t want to spoil my streak.

blogging-in-vacation-land

That said, this week’s links are on the sparse side. I have spent very little time online this week (see: vacation land) and so did not discover the usual wealth of tidbits to share. But I’m excited for the ones I found, so I hope you find them inspirational and informative.

Also, if you didn’t see it earlier this week, I posted my thoughts on marginalia and whether or not taking notes in the margins as you read a book can make you a better writer. I got inspired by Austin Kleon’s post on Reading with a Pencil. so check out Kleon’s thoughts and then see my take on the subject. Please feel free to comment about your own experiences with making notes while reading. I’m curious as to how many people still use marginalia as a way to engage with their books. And if you’re an e-reader, those electronic notes you can take on Kindles count, too (though I’m not sure Kleon would agree with me). I’ll respond to more comments on that post once I’m officially back to work.

I plan to do some housekeeping here in coming weeks, both in terms of agenting and more general information. Longtime readers probably know this blog is only partly work related. It houses writing and publishing tips, book talk, and so on. But I also keep my public face here, in many respects, and I might do more of that in the future. Meanwhile, I bring you links from vacation land. Wishing you a wonderful weekend and some good writing time. Enjoy!

This week’s links:

Tin House Is Accepting Unsolicited Submissions for 2019. – Guidelines for submitting to the literary magazine.

How to Write a Traditionally Published Book: A Behind the Scenes Look. – One writer shares her experience building a writing career.

All the New Fantasy Books Coming Out in September. – Tor offers a great list of books to add to that TBR pile.

Francine Prose: It’s Harder than it Looks to Write Clearly. – The writer offers advice on saying what you mean in a readable way.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: I Became Black in America. – The author discusses feminism, race, and perception in Nigeria and the U.S.

Margin Notes: Does Marginalia Make You a Better Writer?

Do you scribble margin notes in your books when you read? I never really adopted the habit of keeping marginalia, but this past week I read Austin Kleon’s post, Reading with a Pencil, so now I’m thinking about it. He claims marking up your reading material serves as a gateway to becoming a writer. It forces you to read with a writer’s brain. I can see why he says it, but I wonder if it’s true.

Stack of books with pencils

Margin notes felt wrong to me when I was a kid. My mother trained me early on not to write in books. She took me to the library weekly, so there was a specific logic in her insistence I treat the books well. It carried over into how I kept my own books. I recall going through a very brief period at about four when I underlined (in pencil) words I recognized. I say recognized rather than read because “kitten” isn’t difficult to pick out with the book is The Three Little Kittens. But I outgrew the habit quickly, probably about the time my mother realized what I was doing.

Through school, I took notes separately, in my notebook. Teachers handed out all of our textbooks at the start of the year and expected us to return them in good condition in June. The habit was so well ingrained that by college, when I was purchasing my books, it took conscious effort to highlight the text. Even then, I reserved margin scribbles and highlights for my math and science books. As an English major, I mostly read novels in thin-paged editions I tried to keep clean. Ink would have bled through those pages. Pencil would smudge and become illegible. Writing in them felt impractical.

But occasionally I’d come across books with margin notes. At the library, used bookstores, in a friend’s loan. I read enough literary criticism and biographies of authors including references to marginalia to become curious. What process of reading resulted in these small comments? So I decided to give it a try.

Armed with a few sharpened pencils, I crashed on the couch with my latest book and set to reading with a pencil in hand. But it wasn’t a particularly successful experiment. I’d get involved in the book and forget to make any notes whatsoever. Or, I’d grow so self-conscious about needing to take notes that my reading slowed to a crawl.

Looking back having now read Kleon’s post, I understand that the slow, thoughtful reading necessitated by making margin notes helps you read more closely. It forces you to analyze the text in a different way. But at the time, I tried to take notes more because I wanted to be a person who left witty comments in the margins than from a desire to read deeply.

Which brings me to my question. Does keeping marginalia automatically give you a leg up on becoming a writer? It no doubt makes you a better reader. You read more thoroughly, think through the narrative on a different level. You engage with the content. And the act of writing notes has been proven to help you recall what you’ve read. But is that the same things as reading like a writer?

I once read a book on how to write romance–maybe twenty-five years ago, so I can’t recall the title. The author recommended taking a favorite romance novel and marking it up with a color code. Plot development should be underlined in one color, characterization in another, action a third, and so on. I gave it a very brief attempt before giving up. First, writing is not that clear cut; sentences serve multiple purposes at once, so what color to choose? Second, the slow, frustrating task had me ready to throw my colored pencils out a window after less than a chapter. I’d never make it through underlining the book. Still, the process of trying to separate out those differen parts of the text showed how well the author had entwine them. It served as a lesson on book structure, which was ultimately the point.

Marginalia can include the reader’s thoughts on many aspects of the text. Looking through books with margin notes, you’ll find lovely quotes underlined, disgust expressed at purple prose, and comments on the sanity of the protagonist. Readers focus on whatever captures their attention, but not everything readers note will be helpful to their writing process. I’d argue marginalia can definitely be helpful to the developing writer, but that the most helpful marginalia occurs when the writer reads with that specific intention. A reader who reads for pleasure and happens to make notes won’t engage on the same level as one hoping to improve their writing.

What are your thoughts? Do you write in your books? Is it something you feel helps you understand how the author approached their work? I’d love to hear some other takes on the subject.