Thursday, April 17, 2008

Thirteen Tips About Writing From Anne LaMott's Bird By Bird


The more I write, the more I appreciate the advice Anne LaMott shares in her books. Today I’d like to serve up 13 of my favorite tips from “Bird By Bird.”
Anne titled the book after instructions her father, also an author, gave her brother about a bird report he was struggling to write. Her father basically told Anne’s brother to take the report one bird at a time. Anne employs that advice in her book’s structure, delving into areas of writing one step or one subject at a time.



Thirteen Tips About Writing From Bird By Bird

1.) Start writing.
2.) Write something even if it’s mediocre or less than smooth. All first drafts tend to be feeble.
3.) Set a small, attainable goal -- like 300 words. If you write more, great. If you achieve the goal, pat yourself on the back.
4.) Your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, trying too hard for perfection can ruin your writing. Perfectionists can freeze themselves by being too self-critical.
5.) Write about things you know. Tap into your memories. Look back into your life experiences. You actually have far more information in your head than you might imagine.
6.) It’s okay if you don’t know how things will turn out when you start writing. Part of writing is discovery along the way.
7.) Try to know the characters you write about. Think about them when you’re not writing. Ask yourself such questions as, “What would this character write in a journal?” or “What would this character eat?”
8.) Anne says, “Plot grows out of characters.” If you know your characters and you set them in a place and ask them to interact, plot will follow, she says. Things will happen and that can lead to a plot.
9.) If you practice listening to people, your dialogue writing will improve dramatically.
10.) It’s okay to start over.
11.) “Writing is about learning to pay attention and to communicate what is going on.”
12.) Listen to your inner voice. It guides you in knowing what to do.
13.) Jot ideas on note cards. Or find another way to record those brainstorms of yours. Don’t trust them simply to memory. Ideas can vanish or lose their intensity, just as morning’s dense fog dissipates by noon.


If any of these tips sound interesting, check out Bird by Bird. Anne elaborates and expresses these bits of wisdom with more wit and skill than can be found in this blog. And she has the answer to how a writer knows that his or her manuscript is done. I’m not going to share it with you, but it’s in her book. Plus a whole lot more.


In the meantime, this is your chance to pass along some writing wisdom.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone
who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow
Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your
Thirteen in others comments. It's easy and fun! Trackbacks, pings,
comment links accepted!




31 comments:

  1. those are so concrete and very good I esp like 9 for everyone.

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  2. I actually have this book on my thursday thirteen list from last week. (books I've read more than once.)I love this book. Great list.

    Thanks for stopping by my blog. Have a great day. =)

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  3. It's good advice. I hear a lot of people tell me, "I want to write too." My advice is for them to do it. DOn't worry about making the Great American Novel, just write. Write till your voice comes out. Don't try to write like anyone else. Just be you.

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  4. I must investigate this book... I can relate to point 4, I freeze myself, and it is so unnecessary.

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  5. Excellent advice--now I see why so many of my favorite authors rave about this book! :)

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  6. I'm not the world's greatest writer, but this advice makes perfect sense to me! This is a very interesting TT, I like learning new skills!

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  7. Great advice! :) Gosh, I don't think I've read that book. I appreciate you sharing the wisdom that made sense to you!!

    Happy TT

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  8. Good tips. I've never been a writer, but I do think that everyone has a story. I'm adding you to my blog list so I can come check out some more stuff. Great TT.
    http://www.wheretheroadtakesus.blogspot.com

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  9. An excellent post... and amazing how many people I know have the hardest time with #1.

    As for #9, I'm reminded of something I read (and heard) in an episode of the "Sharpe" series... We have two ears, but only one mouth... so we should try to listen twice as much as we speak. It's amazing how many novice writers forget about making conversations between characters sound somewhat natural!

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  10. I was introduced to this book last summer. Awesome book! I also really love Dorothea Brande's "On Becoming A Writer" Lots of motivational and conversational writing in that one.

    I like the idea that you can do anything for 15 minutes. This applies to much more than getting yourself to write, but I find if I can make it through the first five-ten minutes, then it's much easier to keep going. Someone else said, write just 10 words. Betcha can't just stop at 10 either. =)

    Great TT, Brenda!

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  11. I have the book, but I don't think I read it all the way through (was moving at the time). I'll have to put it near the bed so I can get to it again!

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  12. This book is wonderful I was so happy when Michelle Rowan suggested it for my writing. I love all the advice!
    Great list and thanks for stopping by!

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  13. Love #10! I am a writer, too (I'm in advertising) and I have to remind myself to give myself permission to just admit this concept isn't going anywhere and maybe I should just "start over." (Thanks for visiting my TT)

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  14. I used to write in a journal all the time. I have stopped that, and need to get back to it.

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  15. Thanks for these tips. It sure sounds practical. I actually need these suggestions.

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  16. Thanks for posting these. Sometimes you get caught up in the complications of writing and it makes it easy to forget the simplier steps to getting it all done. I appreciate the reminder and will seek out the book:)

    Happy TT & Thanks for coming by.

    ~X

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  17. Some useful tips there, although I disagree about only writing about what you know. I think this is too limiting. We should strive to find out more, and we also have intelligence and imagination that can often grasp things we didn't realise we knew about.

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  18. I read this book last year and found it very helpful in many ways. It was easy and enjoyable to read as well. Nice TT!

    Thanks for stopping by!

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  19. I love writing, but I won't say I'm good at it. I'm better some times than others, and I have to be in the mood. It sounds like a good book for the aspiring writer, with sound advice that's attainable! Thanks for sharing!

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  20. Thanks for the wonderful list of tips in writing this.

    And thanks for visiting my blog, hope you stop by again soon!

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  21. I am an 8th grade Language Arts teacher who just finished a unit on creative writing and the advice you gleaned for #9 is so spot on! I can not tell you how hard I tried to impress this on my students. They must listen!

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  22. Great advise. Thanks for sharing:) Happy TT and thanks for stopping by.

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  23. those are all great tips. Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks also, for visiting my T13.

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  24. nice list! thanks for dropping by...

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  25. Wonderful tips! Start writing and just keep going are rightly at the top. My husband's cousin is a writer who says the first draft of anything can be the most fun because you're as free as can be while you do it. That's the spirit that gets it done!

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  26. I love Natalie Goldberg's books too. She really resonates with me.

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  27. I adore Anne Lamott and my favorite piece of advice from her is about sh*tty first drafts. Just write it.

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  28. Bird by Bird is a great book. Thanks for sharing these tips, it helps to be reminded that it's okay to write crap as long as it doesn't stay that way.

    Francesca

    http://francescasmindstream.blogspot.com

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  29. These are really really really great tips that I can really really use as you can really tell. LOL. Great TT - I like it when I learn something and I definitely just did!

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  30. The most useful comment is the first!

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