Friday, December 30, 2011

Writing in a Book - How

To the best of my knowledge, there is no definitive method of writing in a book. There are some methods more popular than others perhaps, but I imagine the style and means and that one uses to mark a book is left up to the whim of the reader. In an attempt to encourage you to write in your own books, I'm going to share, with visual aids, how exactly I write in a book and why I use those methods.

My Technique
Let me begin with a visual showing what my marking up of a book looks like:
As you can tell, this picture requires an explanation. So, let me explain. My technique for writing in a book has evolved to meet my needs and purposes for doing so. As you can see in this post, my main reasons for writing in a book are threefold; reflection, refraction, and reference.The impetus for employing various symbols has to do with why I want to remember, and in the future reference, something from a book. Originally, I either highlighted or underlined sections or sentences for emphasis or future use. However, I made changes to how I would write in a book for pragmatic reasons. I should note that I no longer highlight or underline key excerpts. The main reason for avoiding these types of demarcation is because I think they result in too much of a visual distraction for future readers. Notes in the margins may distract, but they don't distract as much as markings in the body of the text. The easiest way for me to explain my marginalia is to deal with each type of marking.

Margin Blocks
I draw, by hand, various different rectangular blocks in the margin of books. Again, here is a picture of what they might look like:
This picture clearly shows various types of rectangular blocks in the margins. In my process of reading and writing in a book, rectangular blocks in the margin represent larger excerpts that I consider exceptional. They are noted for the purpose of future reference. When I come across excellent writing that is several sentences to several paragraphs in length, I indicate my appreciation by drawing blocks in the margin. The number of blocks side-by-each is an indication of the level of appreciation I have for the excerpt. One block equates to modest appreciation. Two blocks is indicative of significant admiration and my ultimate acknowledgement is three blocks. Basically, any block in the margin is noteworthy with more blocks pointing towards incrementally better excerpts.


Margin Circles
I use circles in the margins, as seen above, to designate what I term "tweetables". Tweetables, in my confusing literary-reflective world, is a memorable single sentence that I might wish to tweet in the future. In another post I will describe in detail how and why I tweet through a book. For now, all you need to know is circles in the margin are evidence of a superior sentence delivered by the author.


Margin Arrows
Margin arrows are another type of marginalia I subscribe to:
Any time I find sequential ideas or thoughts shared by the author that I want to relate to each other or earlier passages, I connect those thoughts and ideas by drawing an arrow in the margin between the two. These arrows may be short, connecting two ideas on the same page, or, they may be long arrows that connect concepts several pages apart.


Margin Writing
As seen in the top two pictures, if I deem it necessary, I will write in the margins. I generally do this in two circumstances. First, if I disagree with something the author has propounded, I write my disagreement in the margin. Second, if I think there is some reason I might not remember why I thought a passage was exceptional, I'll write in the margin an indication of why was significant about the section in question.


Margin Xs
I have recently the "X" as a symbol for my marginalia. I have the opportunity to review books on my blog and I'm doing more of that now than before. I have found it useful to mark portions that will help me review a book with an "X". The "X" is functional in that it can go inside of rectangular blocks or margin circles.


Suit Yourself
I think one of the keys to becoming a top-notch marginaliaist (I made that word up) is to develop your own system for writing in a book. Try out different ideas; see what works for you. Don't be afraid to experiment in order to find out what type of hieroglyphics or chicken-scratching you find effective. Then, fine-tune your approach so that, as I indicate in this post, you can become a better reader.

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