Dec 052011
 

My highest compliment: A marked up first edition of my book. (Photo by Jo Stougaard)

You’ll probably get on a plane soon, off to see grandma, friends or kids. Why not spend your plane time reading a how-to book?

No, not the ones about making money or dieting! I mean books about writing and publishing. Put your tray table down and furiously underline, fold pages over, add sticky notes, and fill pages with highlighter. The only hard part is adding a beverage without spilling.

It took me years to mark up my non-fiction books. Now I take it as the highest compliment when readers tell me they’ve violated Will Write for Food in the same way.

Although sometimes it sounds a little extreme. One reader told me she tore the book in half so she could read the unread part on a plane!

After the first edition came out in 2005, Jo of MyLastBite, a respected Los Angeles blogger, sent me the above two photos of my book, with an email about her mark-up system:

“My copy of your book is never far from reach. When I read books, my system for flagging specific pages are: 1) Flagged page on top means “great quote.” 2) Flagged page to the right means “action” or “get more info.”

“After I read your book (the first time), my husband made fun of me because almost EVERY page was marked with a flag on top, AND on the right.”

What a huge compliment. And I encourage you to do the same with whatever book you’re juggling on your tray table. How-to books are made for destruction, and we authors don’t mind.

Here are five books to improve your writing and knowledge of the publishing industry, from the classics to the newcomers:

1. Bird by Bird: Some instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott. I never tire of recommending this book, just as I never tire of re-reading it. And most importantly, Lamott is the one who came up with “shitty first draft.” I never tire of using that term as a writing coach and teacher, either. It always gets a laugh, but mostly because Continue reading »

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