Before the end of 2018, I was given an early Christmas present. It was for James Patterson’s Masterclass. I had heard about this course for some time and had been wanting to do it for a while. I was introduced to James Patterson some years back, when I read his first book, Along Came a Spider, the first in the Alex Cross series. Since then he has produced so many books, it’s been difficult to keep up! It’s no wonder he has gone on to become the world’s bestselling author.
The course covers a lot of information and is great for new writers and for writers like myself, who already have some writing knowledge, but could do with more advice. With that in mind, here are five of the best things I learned from the Masterclass:-
1. Write Fast
In order to get the story down, you need to crash through. If you’re struggling, don’t torture yourself, just write ‘to be done’ and move on. This is helpful to avoid the dreaded writer’s block. The more you write, the better you get.
2. Work with an Outline
Everything needs to be in the outline. The outline should have lots of promise, so you can’t wait to write each scene. When you’re writing an outline, you’re thinking about the story. Write the story! James demonstrates this process in a detailed outline guide, and you will need to do the course in order to learn more.
3. Create Complex Characters
You want readers to love your characters or hate them; make the reader ‘feel’. Create characters the reader is not going to forget. In order to understand your character, you need to see the other side to that character by making them more complex and well-rounded. Villains need to be smart, clever and need to surprise you. The more you humanise the villain, the better.
4. Keep Raising the Stakes
Know your genre – know what’s out there in order to avoid it. Don’t write stuff that’s already out there, put a new twist on it. Find something that’s fresh and new. One of the biggest secrets of suspense is setting up questions the reader must have answered. Keep raising the stakes. Keep the reader guessing. Don’t give the answer away too quick; give it away slowly. Don’t assume that anyone is safe.
5. Stay Positive While Editing
Don’t start re-writing until you’ve written one draft. With the first re-write, try to get to the heart of your story. Keep moving forward; make it so that the pages turn themselves. Stay positive during the edit, break it down into parts to make it manageable. Think of editing as making it better. You didn’t make a mistake; you’re making it closer to what it should be.
The biggest take-aways for me were writing fast and working with an outline. Because I tend to think too much over my ideas, by the time I get to write them down, I can sometimes lose interest and look for the new shiny. 😉 Outlines have always been a part of my writing routines, but after doing this course, I’ve been using James’ method ever since.
The course comes with video and workbook, and you can work through them at your own pace. The video contains about twenty-four lessons and the course also contains access to the Masterclass community, so that you can share work and join the discussion with other students.
Because the course covers a wide range, some information you may have heard already, but it does contain advice you may never have heard of before, let alone considered (the gender breakdown of his readership, and how that influences his content is one example).
I felt one of the drawbacks was that James focused on writing thrillers, which is understandable as that is his genre, but it may not be what writers of different genres want to know about. Also, the course covers the topic on writing for Hollywood, which may be interesting, but not necessarily helpful to writers who don’t plan on going down this path.
If you haven’t done the course and you want to know more about it, you can read this helpful post to find out if it is worth your money or you can jump right in and sign up for the Masterclass.
‘If you don’t love it, you’re not going to finish the book. That’s okay. That’s telling you that’s not what you’re going to do. You have an interest in it, but you’re not that passionate about it. If you are passionate about it, you can’t help yourself; you have to write it. You’ve got to write that book’.
Have you done the Masterclass with James Patterson or are you thinking of doing so? What were your main take-aways from the course? What course have you done recently that you found beneficial to your writing?