Confession: I Didn’t Really Like ‘Bird by Bird’

I feel like I’ve been hearing about Anne Lamott’s writing advice guide Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life for ages now. Vicki Boykis says she read (and reread) it while writing her book. I’ve seen it recommended on other websites. So finally my mom read it, and then I read it, and my final verdict is this: I didn’t like it.

Basically, the one thing I learned can be distilled into one pithy phrase: know your characters. She has an entire chapter about how you have to start with your characters and let them make the plot, not the other way around. That was basically the one useful thing I learned, as I knew a lot of the other advice, such as the fact that first drafts are terrible, writing takes forever, and getting published is really, really hard.

I think the main reason why I didn’t like this book was the tone. There were parts that were meant to be funny, but I personally didn’t find them funny. (Though I’m sure if you have the same sense of humor as the author, you’d quite enjoy the book.)

In my opinion, there are probably better books out there if you want to learn about writing. If you don’t know anything about writing and want to get a start, this book could be useful, but it’s certainly not indispensable. (But the character section is. I know this review isn’t exactly glowing, but read the chapter on character anyway, as it’s very useful.)


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