James Patterson and Me, Part II

MasterClass

James Patterson is a patient man. He’s been sitting in the bay window next to me since June of last year. I tossed a couple of my manuscripts on top of him, but I don’t think he read them. Nevertheless, I finally dusted him off and listened while he presented the next eleven lessons of his MasterClass.

Here are some of my notes as well as some of my thoughts.

Lesson 12 – Building a Chapter. James wants us to choose a viewpoint. He writes in first person with limited third person. Others have told him that’s cheating, but he says, “I don’t give a shit. It’s my creation. I can do whatever I want.” I thought that was rather funny. His reasoning? There are no rules, and you can do whatever you want as long as it works. Ahh, a man after my own heart.

James also wants us to find a voice. I think I’ll save the challenges to my voice for another blog post. Let’s just say, I like my voice in my writing, and one of the most consistent comments in my reviews is that my books are an easy read. I contribute that to my writing style – my voice. I read once that just because something is an easy read doesn’t mean it was easy to write. So true!

The lesson also covered using each chapter to grab the reader’s attention and propel them on to the next chapter.

Lesson 13 – Writing Suspense. We are encouraged to know our genre and what’s already out there. Not to imitate it, but to avoid it. Be fresh, new, and fascinating. Intrigue your reader. Set up questions that the reader must, must, must have answered.

James said he doesn’t always write realism. One of his characters is a detective with ten adopted children and a wife dying of cancer. It could happen, but it’s not a likely scenario. We have to be willing to allow our readers to suspend disbelief. I liked that, and I think that’s what makes writing fiction so much fun.

Sidebar. Do you have a DVR? Do you ever pause a television show and see you have captured an actor with a less-than-flattering look on their face? I pause James frequently while I’m taking notes. I couldn’t stop laughing for a few minutes when I realized I caught him mid-pick. I’m sure he would proclaim, “There was no pick. I did not pick. There was no pick.”

JamesPatterson_Picks

Lesson 14 – Ending the Book. James asks us to think of the endings to books and movies that we have enjoyed and to think about why we liked those particular endings. He also addresses cliffhangers. Cliffhanger for a television show = ok, fine. Cliffhanger for a book = people get mad. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write them, but there will some fallout from people who despise them.

James also imparts an activity for the ending of your book that he says is the secret to all great endings. He claims this one tidbit of information is worth the price of admission to the class. I don’t know about that, but I did think it was a good idea. I won’t share it here. I’ll let James tell you if you choose to take his class.

Lesson 15 – Editing. Not your editor’s editing, but the editing and polishing you do yourself. Keep these thoughts in your head at all times: move the story forward and hold the reader’s attention. If your words don’t do this, rewrite. Remove distractions in your writing and cut the boring stuff – in dialogue, too. Stay positive during your edit. You didn’t make mistakes; you are making your story tighter and better.

I starred this item: Pace will pay the electric bill. Write a page-turner. I love when people write to let me know they couldn’t put down one of my books. And yes, I am paying our electric bill. Maybe one day I’ll be able to replace the wiring in our old house. Or the evil plumbing. Or maybe we’ll just move.

Lesson 16: Working with a Co-Author. Now that I’ve made James sit in my bay window for six months, and then showed him mid-pick, I’m sure he won’t be calling me anytime soon to co-write a book with him.

However, he does clear it up once and for all that writing with another person is a true collaboration with both people writing the book.

Lesson 17: Getting Published. He gives good advice on how to handle your query letters. Publishers are spared my query letters, and I am spared rejection letters, by simply self-publishing whenever I have a book finished. In fact, I published my latest on December 10 but neglected to stop in here to show it to you. Have a look:

Murder_Between_Covers_blogpost

Lesson 18: Book Titles and Covers. James didn’t go into what’s good and what’s not with a cover. He mostly wanted to impart that your cover will draw the consumer to your book and communicate what’s inside. A tag line, blurbs from other writers, and your own information will sell your book. I’m happy with all of my covers. My pink covers convey the light, breezy aspect of the stories (also the chick-lit genre), and you can’t miss that the books in my second series have a murder in them.

Lesson 19: Marketing the Patterson Way. James suggests we brand ourselves. I think I did a pretty good job of establishing my Susan Hunter brand. I’ve used pink and her face everywhere. James says that we also establish a relationship between the consumer and ourselves.

James Patterson = page turner
Maddie Cochere = humorous mysteries

What’s your brand?

Lesson 20: Hollywood. I got a kick out of this lesson. The lesson to be learned is if Hollywood comes calling, take the money and run. Everyone will lie to you (even if they don’t have to), and the movie will most likely not resemble your book at all.

Lesson 21: Personal Story. James shares a bit about his life and how he came to be a writer. Very nice.

Lesson 22: Class Closing. Thank you James Patterson for taking the time to present your MasterClass.

So, the bottom line. Was it worth the $90 I spent?

I don’t believe I learned anything that I haven’t read or heard before, but I’m glad I took the class. James’ thoughts and insights helped to reinforce my belief that I’m on the right track, and it was good for me to hear how he writes. He’s also an engaging and motivating speaker. The class was worth the price for his passion, motivation, and encouragement alone.

He finished with a thought that made me smile. He said we don’t have to blindly follow the rules that have been set down for writing. (I split an infinitive to tell you that.) People get too into the rules. Just because it’s been done forever a certain way doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right. You don’t want to walk away from what’s been done, but “we do new shit.”

If you’ve read both of my blog posts about the James Patterson MasterClass, and you think this is something that might benefit you, please tell me in a comment below. On January 15, I’ll be randomly gifting one class from all interested parties. If you’d rather send a note directly to me to be added to the giveaway, my email address is on my About page.

JamesPatterson_gift1

Have you already taken the class? What were your final thoughts?

EDITED TO ADD: 1/15/2016 – All names in the hat for the free class were assigned a number. I used the random number generator at random.org … and the winner is … Jami Gold! Thank you to all who participated.