This week, I’m reviewing this:
It’s the book I won from a lovely agent named Linda Epstein. Upon first inspection, it seems like a “how-to-write” book and…well…it kind of is but there's SO much more in Bird by Bird than just writing advice. And the best part is that it's funny!
** Disclaimer: There’s quite a bit of cursing in this post. Not by me, but by the author. I’m sure after the intro describing Bird by Bird as a "how-to-write" book, you’re wondering where the cursing would come from. Well, you’ll just have to read my review to find out. I just thought I’d warn you first about the potty-mouth situation (potty-keyboard? Haha). **
Okay, back to the hilarity that is Bird by Bird. I think it’s best if I just share a few snippets.
From page 2:
“Every morning, no matter how late he had been up, my father rose at 5:30, went to his study, wrote for a couple of hours, made us all breakfast, read the paper with my mother, and then went back to work for the rest of the morning. Many years passed before I realized that he did this by choice, for a living, and that he was not unemployed or mentally ill.”
First paragraph of Chapter 1:
“The very first thing I tell my new students on the first day of a workshop is that good writing is about telling the truth. We are a species that needs and wants to understand who we are. Sheep lice do not seem to share this longing, which is one reason they write so very little.”
Still, not convinced that this is the greatest book about writing, ever?
That’s cool, I can keep going.
Chapter 3 is called: Shitty First Drafts. Seriously. I just about choked when I read the title. Mostly because it’s totally true. All first drafts are shitty. Oh, so shitty. Especially mine (ha).
But to read another writer acknowledge, nay – SUPPORT – the Shitty First Draft, well – let’s just say it kept a smile on my face for days. Ms. Lamott explains that the purpose of a first draft is just to get things down, which is one hundred percent true. Scenes/plot twists/characters - they can be fiddled later but you need something to fiddle with or…well…you’ll be stuck fiddling your first few pages over and over and over (wow, not only is there a lot of swearing in this review but a little pervy-ness too. Something tells me that Ms. Lamott wouldn’t mind. In fact, she’d probably love it. Moving on...).
There are chapters about finding good critique partners, sketching out a plot, developing authentic characters, and a whole lot of other good stuff. There’s even a chapter about how to deal with your inevitable jealousy of über successful writers (and you can only imaging how Ms. Lamott handles that one). And that’s what’s so great about this book. Ms. Lamott manages to find the most perfect (and funny) stories from her life and uses them as examples for the point she’s trying to make.
There really is nothing like a learning sneak-attack.
Bravo, Ms. Lamott. BRAVO!
So, if you love to write, are thinking about starting, or just want to read something that will make you laugh, pick up Bird by Bird. There are more than a few reasons it’s a National Bestseller.