James Patterson is one of the most successful authors of all time, holding the New York Times record (and Guinness World Record) for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers by a single author. He’s written 147 novels and counting since 1976.
Some of his most famous works are the Alex Cross series, Women’s Murder Club series, and the Michael Bennett series. Some of his books have also been turned into films.
He’s one of over a dozen authors on MasterClass who has opened up his studio, so to speak, and shared his process and best advice on all things writing that he’s learned over the course of his prolific career.
Scroll to the end of the post for some of my favorite advice on writing from James Patterson from the MasterClass!
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James Patterson Teaches Writing
First of all, what is MasterClass?
MasterClass is an online course platform featuring a wide range of classes from 80+ of the world’s most famous in their industries, such as acting, filmmaking, writing, music, business, cooking, and more.
You’re probably wondering, is it worth it?
Absolutely. I’m a serial learner so personally, I was over the moon when MasterClass launched a few years ago. It’s like getting the opportunity to sit down with some of the world’s best in their field, have a conversation, and gain insight into their process on every aspect of their craft in order to enrich your own. To me, that’s invaluable. I’ve picked up so much wisdom over the years of having a membership.
With their All-Access Pass (annual subscription), you get unlimited access to every class in their catalog for the cost of 3 Starbucks drinks a month. It’s a steal, especially when you compare the price to many other online courses. And you’re learning from the best. Many of the classes are only 2-3 hours long so you can get through them in a day or two.
Who James Patterson’s Class is For
James Patterson’s class on MasterClass is for anyone who wants to improve their writing and storytelling skills to craft books that keep readers hooked from start to finish. He’s a master at writing books that people can’t put down.
If you want to make a living writing books, I think this class is particularly helpful. He has a background in advertising, so he shares his approach to making a book marketable, and he also goes into his process on how he’s able to consistently put out new books which helped his career take off as it did.
While he does focus a lot on how to write thrillers, there is plenty of content that is applicable to all fiction, so I never felt like I wasn’t getting enough value despite not being a writer of that particular genre.
His Teaching Style
His delivery is down-to-earth, straight-forward, and uncensored. He freely drops curse words throughout the class to punctuate his lessons and he doesn’t hold any punches. His dry sense of humor had me laughing, which made the class more enjoyable.
While he doesn’t hold back on the reality and challenges of writing books, especially if you want a career in it, he’s a very supportive force that encourages you to go after it if it’s something you truly love. He says that even after all of the books he’s released and decades he’s been writing, he’s still not bored with it, so if you have a passion for it, don’t let anything stand in your way.
He definitely fires you up to finish your book and put it out into the world, even if he may ramble and get a bit off-topic at times. There are nuggets of wisdom sprinkled throughout, though, so it’s worth it to stick through the parts that lag because you never know what you’ll pick up from them.
James Patterson’s writing class consists of 22 lessons that take about 4 hours to complete. One of the things I loved most about this class is that he covers some topics other authors haven’t, like marketing your book.
He takes you through every part of the writing process: cultivating habits and coming up with ideas, crafting the story and polishing it, choosing book covers and titles, and finally, marketing it.
He also talks about working with co-authors, which is something he has done frequently in his career, and a couple of his co-authors chime in to share their experience and advice on this topic.
Here’s the full curriculum:
- Passion + Habit
- Raw Ideas
- Outlines: Part 1
- Outlines: Part 2
- Writer’s Block
- Creating Characters
- First Lines
- Writing Dialogue
- Building a Chapter
- Writing Suspense
- Ending the Book
- Working with a Co-Author
- Getting Published
- Book Titles and Covers
- Marketing the Patterson Way
- Personal Story
The class also comes with a 66-page workbook that includes notes from the class, worksheets, and resources.
A Preview of the Class
Here is a short clip from one of the lessons where he shares his tips on how to get readers invested in the story through unexpected twists and turns.
Definitely worth a watch. He’s one of the most iconic authors and the class feels like having the opportunity to sit down with him for a drink and listen to him pour out his wisdom. It’s very conversational in style, which has its positives and negatives, but for me, it was definitely more valuable than not.
He’s known for living and dying by his outlines (which he goes in-depth on in this class) so that alone offers a lot of value. I’ve already applied his method to my current project and it’s improved my workflow immensely.
Quotes from the Class
Here are some of my favorite quotes from the class:
On always expanding your knowledge of the world and learning about new things:
“The more you know about, the more likely you are to combine things to make an idea that’s striking.”
On writer’s block:
“Do not sit there like, ‘Oh I don’t feel like it today. I don’t feel like it tomorrow.’ Feel like it! Do it! Force yourself.”
On keeping readers hooked:
“Everything you write should be moving your story forward.”
On writing the stories you’re passionate about:
“When you start doing this, if you don’t love it, you’re not going to finish the book, you’re not going to finish the outline. And that’s okay. All that’s telling you is – that’s not what you’re going to do. You have an interest in it, you like it, but you’re not passionate about it. If you are passionate about it, you can’t help yourself. You have to write that outline, you have to write that book.”
On embracing challenges:
“The greater the challenge, the more impossible it seems – the better chances that it’s really going to be something fresh. And in doing it, you write something like nothing’s been written that way before. Because nobody would be that stupid to solve those problems – except for you and me. We’re dumb. But that’s how we get rich, by being dumb.”