Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

I mentioned last week how much I’ve been enjoying reading Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and since then I read something in there that I think is pretty useful, particularly if you’re going to do NaNoWriMo.

It’s Alice Adams’ formula for writing a short story. But it would work just as well for the first draft of a novel, I think. It’s ABDCE:

A Action

You begin with the action that is compelling enough to draw us in, make us want to know more.

B Background

Background is where you let us see and know who these people are, how they’ve come to be together, what was going on before the opening of the story.

D Development

Then you develop these people, so that we learn what they care about most. The plot – the drama, the actions, the tension – will grow out of that. You move them along until everything comes together in the…

C Climax

… after which things are different for the main characters, different in some real way.

E Ending

What is our sense of who these people are now, what are they left with, what happened, and what did it mean?

What do you think? Would you find that useful? Particularly for NaNoWriMo? What’s your favourite writing book?


7 thoughts on “Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

  1. Yes, this is really helpful!
    I am panicking about NaNoWriMo…no plot yet…
    I find it really hard to find a decent writing book. My boyfriend got me ‘The Writers Block’ by Jason Rekulak which is cute and had loads of ideas (which I struggle with) and I did buy Chris Baty’s (of NaNoWriMo) ‘No Plot? No Problem’ which is really good on making time for writing etc.

    1. So sorry, Fiona – your comment went to spam for some reason. Only just saw it.

      The best writing book I’ve ever read is The Writer’s Tale by Russell T Davies, writer of Dr Who. I’m not a big Dr Who fan at all, but I was obsessed with the book. It comes over so clearly how hard it is to get on with writing and also how plots come from nowhere. I loved it.

  2. Ooh that sounds really useful. I’ll definitely bookmark it to think more about.

    I’ve only read a couple of books on writing and not found them useful. Unless you would include “The Writer’s Tale” in the category and then that I think is fabulous!

  3. I quite like that formula. As for writing books I like, there’s a very small book called The Writer’s Block. Full of photographs to get your creativity going, or a trigger word or phrase.

  4. I’m reading this at the moment and just read that exact same bit this morning! I’m loving it, it makes me feel motivated and inspired and it’s also comforting in an odd way.
    My other all time favourite writing book has to be Stephen King, On Writing. Genius.

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