Okay, this is basically a how-to guide with some stories in it, not a novel or even a conventional memoir telling an overarching story about someone's life. Bird by Bird really doesn't have a plot. The good news is that the how-to guide style makes the book's structure pretty easy to follow. Lamott breaks it all up into sections, which we've turned into handy headings for you below.
This is where we get most of the standard how-to guide stuff on writing a novel or story, with lots of helpful tips and examples. Plus, we get plenty of sympathy from Lamott, who knows just how hard sitting down to write can be.
Not only can Anne Lamott tell us how to write a story, she can even tell us how to think like writers. That's what this section does.
Ever try and assemble one of those chairs or tables that comes in a box from IKEA? Sometimes you just need someone to hold two pieces together or help you find all the tiny nails that fell out when you opened the box. Writing can be like that, too, and here Lamott tells us how to get help when we need it.
This section talks about getting published, and it also gives some great ideas on reasons to write other than money and fame—just in case your English essay somehow fails to make the New York Times bestseller list.
Here's Lamott's final pep talk to her class, plus any advice she missed or wants to cover again. It's pretty inspiring. And kind of snarky.
And that's it. Check out our detailed summary for...a more detailed summary.