The Writer’s Mentor by Ian Jackman, Editor
Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham
Summary Both books purport to offer advice and insights to help you improve your writing.
While neither of these books was worth keeping, at least “The Writer’s Mentor” lived up to its title. It’s quotes and anecdotes made me realize that even well-known authors can sometimes struggle with a story, maintain a regular 9-to-5 job despite being published and lauded, and don’t always consider writing as less than a full-time, underpaid vocation.
After reading this book, I felt mentored. I truly felt as if someone with more experience and a different perspective took my hand and said, “Look, others have felt like you feel, and others have gone through what you’re experiencing.”
However, if what you’re looking for is step-by-step instruction on how to write, “The Writer’s Mentor” is not the book for you. But then, neither is “Scene and Structure.”
Jack M. Bickham, author of “Scene and Structure,” is (supposedly) a well-known author. I, however, have never heard of him or his books. Despite that, I went through this book hoping for some nuggets of insight that might help me improve my own manuscripts. Unfortunately, I failed to find anything useful.
As a technical writer, I expect a certain amount of usefulness and help in a how-to book. (It’s why they’re called how-to books or self-help manuals.) What I found was dense passages of rhetoric and mind-numbing paragraphs that had to be read several times before I could glean his point. These were combined with self-promoting examples from his books, which did little more than shout, “See what a great writer I am?”
I don’t normally disparage the use of one’s own works when giving examples or helpful tips (heck, I do it myself), but in this case, I think it was greatly overdone. In addtion, the examples were not always applicable to the point he was striving to make.
So, if you’re seeking wisdom and instructions on how to improve your writing, skip both of these books. If, however, you need a morale boost, then at least try “The Writer’s Mentor.”