What James Patterson Told Me About Writing

    “Would you like to have lunch with James Patterson?”

    I would.

    So would many of you, I guess.

    I’ve been a James Patterson fan for quite some time.

    So when I had the opportunity to have lunch with the world’s bestselling author in Sydney, Australia in May this year, I immediately finalized my travel plans.

    The lunch was organized by Dymocks Bookstore as part of their Literary Events at the luxury 5-star Shangri-La Hotel in the Sydney Rocks area, and was attended by 240 James Patterson fans.

    Mr. Patterson was here to promote his latest venture into children’s books; a passion of his to get young people back into reading. As part of his visit he would also donate books worth $100,000 to local school libraries.

    On the day, I flew in early from Brisbane, and checked into my hotel to relax and prepare for the event. I wanted to ensure I got the most from the lunch.

    And I wanted to ask James Patterson a question.

    At the venue, I was shown to my table, perfectly positioned in the front row right in front of the stage. I couldn’t have been happier.

    Introductions were made—the 9 other guests at my table included the editor of a leading magazine, and an author of 6 novels.

    Through the hour that lunch was served, James Patterson sat on stage being interviewed by a leading Australian radio personality.

    Here’s what I gleaned from their conversation:

    • It’s never too late to start writing. Just start!
    • Work hard—there is no shortcut. He might have up to 50 projects on the go, 13-15 of them being in active mode. You need to put in the hours to complete this workload.
    • Read, read, read. Reading helps improve your life and your writing. Encourage young children to read.
    • Authors can ‘outdo’ actors. He told a funny story about having dinner with Clint Eastwood and a movie director in an Italian restaurant in Washington one night. A lady came up to their table and asked him for his autograph. Clint Eastwood commented that he “really needed a hit movie quick” after being overlooked by the woman.

    The conversation was light-hearted, fun and entertaining. James Patterson came across as both down-to-earth and engaging.

    Then it was Question time.

    Of the 6 questions taken, I got the first one in.

    “As a newbie author, how can I get my books seen so that I can sell more books? What marketing tips can you give me?”

    Here’s what James Patterson told me:

    • Don’t worry about marketing. Leave that up to your publisher to figure out.
    • Learn how to plot and outline better. James Patterson told the audience that he writes outlines of around 80-90 pages and submits them to his co-author who then fleshes out his work. The co-author submits their progress work every week, which James Patterson edits and resubmits. This process continues until the whole book is complete.
    • Have a hook at the end of each chapter. It keeps the reader turning the page.
    • Write more. The more you write, the better you can potentially become. The more books you have out in the marketplace, the better the opportunity to make money.

    Boom! Short and succinct.

    Now while I did agree with the last two points, I was skeptical about ‘not worrying about marketing.’

    As a newbie author trying to sell since February 2015, with no marketing muscle behind me, I was having very little sales success.

    I also found myself being drawn into the marketing hype bombarding my email inbox on how ‘a particular software or a book promotion idea’ would solve all my sales dilemmas and catapult me to the top of the Amazon bestseller lists.

    But I was willing to put his ideas into action.

    After lunch, I thanked him for his advice, grabbed a signed copy of Truth or Die, and left.

    When I headed home the next day, I was ready to act on his words of wisdom.

    To help improve my plotting and outlining skills, I bought James Patterson’s Masterclass on Writing.

    The course consists of 22 videos, pdfs and an outline of his book Honeymoon. The videos are entertaining, but the real juice is in the PDFs, work assignments, and the outline. You can even submit your work for critiquing; if you are game.

    At $90 it’s a very worthwhile investment in your writing career. Grab it.

    But the best advice I got from James Patterson was simply to work hard and write more.

    After 5 months as a mystery, thriller and suspense author, my output has dramatically increased, with 4 novellas hitting the Top 10 in their respective categories, 2 of which hit #1 in both the US and UK.

    Thanks, James Patterson, for your great insight. I’m now chasing you!

    What part of his advice resonates most strongly with you? Share in the comments and on social media, please.

    Patterson course image WTD.001

    About the author:

    C T Mitchell is wary of anybody carrying a Honma golf club, an AK47, or even a strawberry tart—all have been used as murder weapons in his books. He is the bestselling author of thrillers and suspense novels. Grab a FREE copy of his book REJECTION at www.CTMitchell.com

    About the author

      C T Mitchell

    • this is awesome man, I really enjoy it… Thanks for sharing

    • thank you for the information you share, this article is very useful for many people ..

    • Congratulations on getting that first question! Can’t agree more with his latter points about writing a ton and reading. But I imagine Patterson hasn’t had to worry about marketing for decades. For those of us without a large audience, we’re still in the trenches….

    • Michele says:

      I’ve begun the course – enjoying it & is helpful!

    • It must have being a very fun time for you Mitchell,
      That’s why it is good to be attending such workshops because you will certainly go home with something very amazing if you pay attention.

      I agree with him that the more we read and write, the more we become very good at writing and that’s what i will be doing henceforth.

      Will take a look at the master-class.

      Thanks for sharing.

    • Really great post, Thank you for sharing This knowledge.Excellently written article, if only all bloggers offered the same level of content as you, the internet would be a much better place. Please keep it up!..

    • Debra says:

      That would be the greatest, having lunch with your favorite author. The piece of advice he gave that I like is its never too late. and write write write… Just turning 50 I always worry its too late ( even though I have 3 books out plus a few written under a publisher.) I have so many projects started and only a few that are complete. waiting for rewrite.

      What I’d love to know is how Mr. Patterson chooses which project to work on when he has several going at once.

      When I can’t go see my favorite author in person I will look them up on line and watch them through a screen. Learning from someone like Mr. Patterson, Mr. King ,Mr. Castle, or Patricia Cornwell, is the best thing ever- they have been there and done that, paving the way for us. And give us some great stories to read while we are writing ours…

      • Debra

        Online access brings us into their world and provides us with
        a connection as if we are actually there.

        The other great thing about accessing online videos, articles etc
        is that you can do it in your own time……..and repeat often

    • Annamarie says:

      That really hit the spot for me too, about never too late, for I have left it extremely late, for my very first book. I am brimming with courage after reading those comments.
      Thank you so much for all the mail I have recieved so far. Even a cloudy day is suddenly filled with light.

      • Good to hear Annamarie.

        Believe me – the world is waiting to hear your story.

        Please share it

    • Judy says:

      ‘It’s never too late’ has always been a reassuring echo for me as I grow older and continue to write, however, the ‘Read, read, read point you made made me sit up.

      I love to read. I love literature and I love the written word that can be ‘described’ in harmony with the imagination.

      It is the accomplishment of finishing a book, of writing a novel, of using the pen to express what’s in the heart. For me it all fits in a place where happiness dwells.

      My life is a passion of pens, paper and imagination.

      • Great passions to have Judy.

        Sounds like you enjoy life. Thanks for posting here – I appreciate your insight

    • Erica says:

      I have always been a James Patterson fan ever since Along Came a Spider. It must have been such a joy to be able to ask questions of him.

      However, I am also skeptical about the “don’t worry about the marketing” part. And the reason why he would say that is because he is already a big name in the industry so his name alone attracts attention at bookstores and libraries. The second reason is that he is published traditionally.

      If you are trying to self publish then you will definitely need advice in the area of promoting your own book. You have the dual task of creating stories and having to create marketing plans- Yikes!But I think marketing skills is invaluable for any author traditionally published or not.

      Good article!

      • Yes Erica marketing is essential for your books, even for Mr. Patterson

        Learning to market is a whole new skill. There are plenty ‘teachers’ who
        tell you how to market, but very few can actually show you. Working out
        which teacher actually delivers is a skill in itself.

    • Thanks for all your comments. I’m glad the “it’s never too late to start writing” comment has resonated with many of you.

      It’s absolutely true that you can start at any time. But what is most important is that you must START.

      Here’s an interview with Lee Child that will give you more encouragement

    • I appreciate the information but have a question. Do you believe what you learned in the writing course is applicable to all fiction, not only thrillers or suspense?

      • Absolutely Mona.

        The course gives you the fundamentals that are applicable to any genre.

        Naturally there will be things that you feel won’t suit you; so ignore them.

        But when you have the biggest selling writer giving you tips, there’s plenty to take in.

    • Mary says:

      I agree with the quotes: “It’s never too late to start writing. Just start!” “Write more. The more you write, the better you can potentially become.” and “Have a hook at the end of each chapter. It keeps the reader turning the page.” Fear of rejection and lack of confidence in writing I suspect many newbie writers have (I know I do). However, you must put in the writing time, polish the piece, send it off to a publisher and stop fearing rejection.

      • You’re right Mary. Fear is a very crippling disease that stops us in a lot of things.

        But when I realised that I was writing to entertain, the fear of my work being rubbish ran out the door.

    • Virginia says:

      Fun article to read and informative too. Being a James Patterson fan for years, I was glad he openly stated that he works with someone else to flesh out his books. These folks are not always acknowledged for helping the writers look so good. May we have many more books from this top notch imagineer.

      • Yes Virginia he was very complimentary of his co-authors.

        Thanks for posting – I appreciate your interest

    • I’d be skeptical about not worrying about the marketing thing, too. It’s easy to say when you’re as popular as him. I guess he missed that part where you said you’re a newbie writer, because newbie writers tend to get the short end of the marketing stick with publishers. But I like the “it’s never too late to write” quote. Kinda like saying “It’s never too late to be who you want to be.”

      • Yes Evolet – we’ve just got to start…..and then keep going.

        Keep the vision in front of you at all times

    • Krithika says:

      Like him or hate him, James Patterson is a legend! Few authors write as much as he does – I am so glad you got to chat with one of your favorite authors, Mitchell! #HUGS


      • Thanks Krithika. It was an inspiring lunch…….and the food was pretty good to.

        It gave me a lot of confidence as well. I stopped worrying about writing to win the ‘Nobel Prize for Literature’ and started writing for entertainment.

        #HUGS back. Thanks for the good feeling

    • S.Krishnamoorthi says:

      It is never too late to write- I liked it veru much because I have started writing at 71

      • WOW What a great achievement. Starting at 71 !

        Can I get a signed copy of your book when you hit 100?

    • First, WOW! What an amazing opportunity to listen to one of the greatest authors.
      I agree with your view point on marketing. I published my first novel in March 2015 and am struggling with all the tasks to keep increasing sales. Marketing, to me, is a vortex that sucks you in, leaving you on a trail far from your original ‘daily plan’. Yes, I am a victim to ‘The Vortex’, as I am sure is the case for many other DIY Authors. I WISH I had a team to help me write, edit, market and do all the other time consuming activities required to be a published author. Unfortunately, I have yet to sell the quantity needed to hire an assistant. So for now, I will wear all the hats.
      My biggest take -away was the encouragement to write, make that task your primary activity, leave the marketing for later in the day. Recently, I read someone had adopted a routine from Stephen King, each day write ‘X#’ of words per day- FIRST! If it takes 2 hours or 5 hours, either way you have accomplished YOUR PRIMARY job. I find this an excellent strategy and am implementing it currently. I will say however, it is hard to break old habits!
      As for, Mr. Patterson’s other noted advice, I agree wholeheartedly! Either be writing or reading, both help improve your skill.
      Thank you for sharing your exciting experience!
      Christina Mitchell
      ‘The Italian Rose’

      • Thanks Christina. Remember 1 is better than 0. ie writing one page today is better than doing none. Reading one chapter tonight is better than reading none.

        Do your best and don’t compare yourself to others. The world is waiting for more ‘Christina’

    • Sheilah says:

      When I read “it’s never too late to start writing,” I felt enthusiastic for the first time in years. When I was younger, I wrote a lot and let people read what I wrote. Now, though, if I put one word on the page, I erase it and deem it trash. I THINK ABOUT writing EVERY DAY, but now I think I will actually begin. Thanks for this.

    • Sheilah says:

      Hearing that its never too late to start writing gave me a renewal and permission to begin. I THINK ABOUT

      • Glad you are thinking about it. Now it’s time to take action. Keep moving forward and don’t look back

    • I saw your post title and I had to click through — ever since James Patterson read a blog post I wrote about him a couple of years ago, and even retweeted it, I can’t resist anything he’s associated with. (Yes, I framed a copy of the post and yes, I’m taking his course.)

      First, I love that the very first point you gleaned from the conversation was that it’s never too late to write. Not only is that the title of my blog, but it’s my mantra as I dust myself off to get back at it.

      The point about marketing is an interesting one. I know I have to stop being drawn to all of the marketing stuff that arrives in my inbox; the more writing I can get out there the better, and marketing can become a time consuming distraction. It has its place, but writing must come first.

      Thanks for a great post!

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