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If only she'd stick to writing about writing...
on 14 November 2005
I bought this because I was writing a novel in a month with Nanowrimo, and so many people on the forums recommended it. People who write novels in a month ought to know an inspirational book when they see it, I thought. Wrong, wrong, wrong...
The subtitle, "Some Instructions on Writing and Life", ought to have been a warning. But I was overwhelmed by delight in the title itself: Lamott's young brother had, in a single evening, to complete a school project on birds which he should have been writing over the previous three months. "Just take it bird by bird, buddy," was the sensible advice offered by their father.
Lamott herself, however, takes a different line: "just do it my way, buddy". She (presumably; like so many people who write books about how to write novels, I've never even seen one of her novels in a book shop) writes character-driven novels. Therefore, so should we all: don't worry about plot, or settings or anything else, just let your characters do their thing. This is doubtless very good advice for those who also write character-driven fiction, but if you're like me, and begin with a plot and then wonder what sort of people would get into such a ridiculous situation, Ms Lamott is not going to help you much.
I could have dealt with the book and found some useful insights in it were it not for the second problem: "... and Life". Lamott believes in God. Very much. There is far too much stuff here about what God wants for each of us and what each of us wants from God, for this to work for me, or anyone else who doesn't not share or wish to share Lamott's faith. If I wanted a book about fluffy Christianity, I would not have bought a writing book.