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.

51 thoughts on “James Patterson and Me, Part II

  1. “just because something is an easy read doesn’t mean it was easy to write”—That is so true. In fact, I think the easier something is to read, the more work perhaps went into it. It’s easier to let loose of the reins and go all loosey goosey in our prose. Paring it down to what’s most important to include can be trickier.

    Sounds like a great class. Nice of you to offer it to someone as a giveaway. I’ll certainly throw my hat in the ring.

    Happy 2016 to you, Maddie!

  2. I have not taken his class but I have read one of his books that I own. I love his writing. Good summary of the class. Good points. I don’t know if I could co-write. I think it would be confusing. I like following some rules and then also following my own for writing. Might be why I have chosen to self publish too. When that happens. Taking awhile but I want it to be good. I love your style of writing! It is easy reading and after reading a deep book I love to read an easy read to make me laugh and jump start my imagination. I am always trying to solve your murders in the Breezy series. 🙂 Sometimes I get it right. I have read the first book in the Murder series and love it. I think you are doing a great job of getting your name out there. 🙂 Happy New Year! 😉

    • Thank you, Julia. I’m really tickled that you like my work. You didn’t ask, but since you haven’t taken his class, I’m putting your name in the hat for the free giveaway. He has two of the people who collaborated with him talk during the lesson. They share how they worked with him. It was interesting, Happy New Year to you, too! 🙂

  3. I won’t be doing any serious writing, but enjoyed your summation of the course. I like your comment about probably not learning anything that you haven’t read or known before. I think seeing the information/ideas presented in organized lessons helps support your own thoughts. 🙂

    • Yes, and that was truly helpful to me. So much of the time I think I’m doing everything wrong. The class gave me more confidence, and when I was aligned with James’ thinking, it was a motivating boost. Thanks for stopping by. I hope to be in touch more this year. 🙂

  4. Maddie!!! Great summary of the classes. I laughed at the nose pick too. Guess that makes both of us a bit juvenile. 😉
    As for the classes, since some kind, loving friend already gifted me his classes last year I will let someone else put their name in the hat. Good writing and best wishes my friend! ❤

  5. You can do whatever you want as long as it works is right, but I also remember reading somewhere that you need to know the rules first before you can (successfully) break them. As you yourself have suspected, James Patterson has only confirmed what you already knew. I think that’s because you haven’t stopped writing since that first nano whatsis name challenge. You’re learning as you go. We’ll all be proud we knew you when, Maddie. 🙂

    • Mary, you are so right! I stumbled across a blog yesterday that said the same thing – when you know the rules, that’s when you can have fun breaking them. Not that it’s fun. When I’m going over a finished book, I look at every instance of passive voice (Word flags them for me), and I choose which to change and which to keep. I usually like quite a few of them. I certainly have been learning as I go, and I expect to keep learning. 🙂 You are always so kind, Mary. Thank you for commenting.

  6. Interesting read . . . your summary echoes mine from the workshop I attended. It did not change how I write, but I am a bit more aware of some things. Also, it was nice to get it all in one place.

  7. As I get older I’m sure I’ve heard, read or seen many things that are now hidden in the deep, dark recesses of my mind, so it is always good to re-read, listen to, or revise to bring the best ideas back to the top of the heap. Interesting summary Maddie.

    • A JP story would be great. My email address is on my About page. Obviously, there’s no rush to share. I’ll wait patiently – keep working on that serial! 😉

      You haven’t taken the class yet. I’m putting you in the hat for the giveaway!

      • I’d love to be put in the hat. I plan to take it at some point, but right now most of our money is tied up with paying down business debt from when we closed our business a year back. And I’ll definitely private email you!!!

  8. I had to come back to this. Took a bit of time getting here the first time around. I don’t write mysteries. I just love reading them and thank goodness there are people like you and Jackie to write them. I love the cover of your new book. Looking forward to reading it. Haven’t read much of James Patterson. Tend to lean toward women writers. You are too often overlooked as credible writers so I toss my few reading dollars in that direction more often than not. I’m a plain and simple, give em the facts writer of life so James and I won’t be sharing a window. Now if I could entice Janet Evanovich for a little one on one time, I might be swayed. Funny gets me every time. 🙂 Keep up the good work, Maddie.

    • Hi Marlene! I just started the latest Janet Evanovich (Tricky Twenty-Two) yesterday. She’s still my go-to author for a laugh. Thanks for coming back. I appreciate your kind words and am glad you like the new cover! 🙂

  9. The cover of your book is fabulous, Maddie (but then again, you always have great covers). 🙂

    “just because something is an easy read doesn’t mean it was easy to write” I marked this quote before i saw Carries comment, but I totally agree. The easier something is to read, the harder it has been to write.

    I love your sense of humour and the nose pick! It gave me a giggle too 😀

    • Hi Dianne! Thanks for the comment about the cover. I’m really tickled with the work my cover artist does for me.

      I’m making myself leave my computer today and head up to the pink tower for an afternoon of some of that “hard” writing. 🙂

      And I’m so glad you laughed at the nose pick. I had to rewind and look at it again, and it was actually a scratch that lasted a nano-second. It was a fluke that I caught it in a pause … so I could only assume it was there for me to use in my blog. 🙂

  10. I have not taken this class nor read any of Mr. Patterson’s books, but judging from this post, I apparently should go right now and purchase one of his books! He sounds like my kind of guy. =D

    I love what he says about cliffhangers. I find that I don’t mind them all that much in books ONLY IF the writer is consistent. For example, if I were to read Song of Fire & Ice, I would be endlessly furious with the author because of how long he takes to publish each book.

    • That’s what most people say – if they have to wait too long for the next installment, they get frustrated. What James didn’t say was that people hate cliffhangers in books, because if they didn’t know the cliffhanger was coming, they are angry that they are forced to PAY for the rest of the story.

      I’m putting you in the hat for the free class! And I miss your adorable avatar, but Snoopy is pretty cute, too. 🙂

      • Thanks for the vote of confidence on the cover. I love the Christmas lights hanging on “Murder” and wish I would have thought earlier to hang something on the word on all of the books.

        I put your name in the hat. If you win the class, James Patterson will encourage you to write a book – or publish your short stories. 🙂

  11. I’ve heard so much about this class that it was interesting to get the inside scoop. 🙂

    I’m right there with the dislike of book cliffhangers. So many books now seem to be part of serials (not the same thing as series), and I plan on never buying any of them. LOL! Thanks for the giveaway! 😀

    • Hi Jami! I’m reading a serial right now, but I went into it knowing that each “book” would be a short read with another installment coming every three weeks or so. I’m ok with it when I know ahead of time what I’m getting. I’ve been unhappy more than a few times when I realized I was at the end of a book – and it didn’t end. Cliffhanger!

      You’re in the hat! 🙂

    • Dallas! It’s so nice to see you. A belated Happy New Year to you as well. I’ve put your name in the hat for the drawing!

      Thanks for stopping by. I hope to catch up with you soon. I’d like to spend more time here this year.

  12. Advice on “finding your voice” generally seems a bit odd to me, given that the only advice that makes any sense is “Don’t imitate anyone else.” So I reckon you’re already on top of that. Congrats and class dismissed! 😉

    • Look at you – all snowy and frozen! I read an article that said “finding your voice” is absurd, because everyone speaks with their own voice in the first place, and your writing is a natural extension of yourself.

      I’m stubborn and am going to write the way I want, so yes, class dismissed! 🙂 Hope you are well!

  13. I don’t get it– if he wants to get better, Mr. Patterson shoulda taken a class from you, my dear Maddie!

    Very interesting read/review. I always kinda wondered what a class like that would be like. Funny, the bit about finding your voice. I’ve always thought your voice comes across clear as day when I read your posts. So I agree: don’t change a thing!!

    I have to agree with Mr. P. about cliffhangers, even tho I understand their purpose, and will admit to their effectiveness. I still remember reading From Russia, With Love and being incensed when ol’ James Bond goes down at the end after surviving horrendous perils and completing his mission. Mind you, I knew they’d find an antidote for the poison, and that he’d return good as new– but it ticked me off anyway, fume, fume!!

    Your new cover looks wonderful, and I’m always cheering for your continued success, my dear Maddie!!! : )

    • I’m always so happy to see your smiling face, Mark. The thing about my voice is that I’m staying the course. A friend cautioned me early on to be careful about reading too many books/articles about how to write “the right way.” He thought I had my own way of telling a story, and I’d lose my voice/style if I tried to be like everyone else. I think that was good advice, and as time goes by, I find I’m staying true to myself while getting better at the craft. It’s been quite a ride, but I’m much more comfortable now than I was – and I’m having fun.

      Thank you, as always, for your kind words. Hope the weather is turning warm for you. I’m writing with the window open beside me today. Spring is in the air! 🙂

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