Can James Patterson Teach?

In one of our writers’ meetings at the library recently, one of the members told us about something they’d seen pop up in their Facebook feed…a writing course taught by James Patterson. They had no other details, but it sounded intriguing. After all, James Patterson puts out about a million books a month (yes, I’m exaggerating, but only slightly), and we can assume he’s doing quite well by it, so a writing course might be something of value.

12275830396489850044So, when I came across this article by an author, Joyce Maynard, who took the course, I was interested to see what she thought. Ms. Maynard explains that she has written 15 novels over the course of her writing career, all of which have sold modestly, and while she earns her living through writing, she is not earning by James Patterson standards. She was curious as to what Mr. Patterson might teach her–clearly admitting that he must know something she doesn’t about the business of writing—and forked over the $90 for the 22 sessions in the James Patterson MasterClass.

The classes are well organized on a special website, and students can work at their own pace, accessing any of the lessons in any order they prefer. Maynard got right to it, deciding she’d spent enough of her life trying to write a best-seller, and worked through the lessons in about three hours, avoiding the exercises for the most part. Going in, she was slightly skeptical, but upon her “graduation”, she held a new respect for Mr. Patterson. While most of the topics were not new to her, she found that Jim, as she liked to refer to him now, talked most importantly about storytelling, and the art of creating stories that will grab the readers and not let go.

His most valuable piece of advice, according to Ms. Maynard? “Don’t set out to write a good thriller. Set out to write a No.1 thriller.”

Good advice. I think I’ll bring this course back up to the writing group later this month. It might benefit some of the more seasoned writers and give them something new to work toward. While Maynard claims Patterson’s course is not without cliche, or geared toward those who want to write poetic, epic stories, she believes every writer could learn something from this best-selling author.

Maybe there’s a lesson in there for all of us. The people who are doing the job and doing it well enough to earn their living, must have the right formula, whether you “admire” that person’s skill or not. Can you learn from it?

 

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