Writing · Writing Process

5 Lessons from James Patterson’s Masterclass.

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?

Advertisements
Writing · Writing Process

Writing In a Different Genre.

As an unpublished writer, I have the luxury of experimenting with what I write and how I write it. Recently one morning I woke up with an idea for a story title. I thought it sounded good – if I wrote in that particular genre. And therein lay the problem. Was my subconscious mind trying to tell me something?

For years I have struggled with this. No, I do not write romance, simply because I do not always like to see a happy ending. And right there are two important words – not always. So, sometimes I do like to see happy ever afters. In my teenage years I devoured Sweet Dreams Romance books, was introduced by a friend to Mills & Boon and enjoyed reading Jane Austen so much, back then I wanted to write just like her (yes, seriously). And just for balance I also read a lot of Stephen King (can you see my dilemma now?) 😉 This is why I believed my writing would be more suitable to women’s fiction, and my longest short story so far reflects that as there is no happy ending.

After I left High School, I wrote to Mills & Boon and received submission guidelines and a tape on how to write for them. Try as I might, I just couldn’t do it. I believed I could not write a romance, but perhaps the real problem for me was that they were too formulaic.

Perhaps, also, my greatest resistance to writing a romance is because I always looked at it in terms of the novel. As I enjoy writing in the shorter form and thanks to self-publishing, lately I have some ideas for romances of short story/novella length. It is a starting point to stepping out of my comfort zone and experimenting at the same time. Who knows if it will lead to something or not, but clearly such thoughts have remained repressed for some time. It just needed a little push. 😉

Do you write in different genres? Have you resisted writing a particular genre or are you happy to experiment? Has your subconscious told you something about your own writing and have you acted upon it?

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and never miss a post. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing · Writing Process

Emulating Other Writers

anne-hathaway-in-becoming-janeYears ago when I started taking writing seriously I wanted to emulate a particular author I was reading at the time. By this stage I had done a fair amount of reading and I was doing a couple of writing courses by correspondence. It may sound silly now, but back then I was a Jane Austen wannabe.

In High School, some of my reading involved books such as the Sweet Dreams series (which I bought by the truckload) and borrowing Mills and Boons romances from one of my girlfriends. I was smitten by the ‘love bug’. I began writing my own romances, but I soon abandoned them as my plots were paper thin.

After leaving school, I persisted with the romance genre, despite my poor writing efforts. Romance novels were popular; there must be something I was doing wrong. So I sent away for a tape from Mills and Boon on how to write a romance novel. I went over that tape a number of times; trying to work to their formula, but still I couldn’t master it. It was around this time that I had moved on to different reading material, such as Richard Laymon and Catherine Cookson – I even struggled through Lord of the Rings (and struggle I did, but I eventually made it to the end). I even read the Brontes, re-visited some Stephen King and an old favourite, a gothic romance named Dragonwyk.

I soon discovered I had moved away from being a Jane Austen wannabe. I could never really write a Mills and Boon; there was no ‘passion’ in it for me as a writer (although these days I may still try writing romance – never say never  😉 ).

It took a while, but I found that there’s no harm in emulating other writers when we start out. It helps us to learn our craft through reading; we discover our strengths and weaknesses, our likes and dislikes, our genre or genres, as well as finding our own voice. That’s the time when we need to stop emulating others. Just like there is only one Jane Austen, there is only one you. Let your voice be heard.

Have you found your voice by emulating other writers? Who was your ‘wannabe’ author? Have you tried writing in a genre that just wasn’t really your ‘thing’?

Enjoy this article? Subscribe to my blog and never miss a post. You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Writing

Genre Writing – Gothic Fiction.

Recently I have been questioning what my chosen genres as a writer really are.  Then I experienced my ‘light bulb’ moment and wondered why I had not thought of it before.  I was about ten years old when I discovered Anya Seton’s Dragonwyck.  That book really reeled me in and I’ve read it many times since and it inspired me to read more within the genre of gothic fiction.

Gothic fiction combines both horror (psychological and/or physical) and romance.  There is a heavy emphasis on atmosphere in order to help build suspense.  Gothic fiction usually deals with past eras, using medieval settings or in more modern times Victorian England and pre Civil War Southern United States.

Gothic elements usually include some of the following:

  • Medieval setting, usually in a castle or 19th century mansion
  • An atmosphere of mystery and suspense
  • Supernatural or other inexplicable events, which can include ghosts, werewolves and monsters
  • Women in distress
  • An ancient prophecy, omens , visions, dark secrets
  • A tyrannical male, villains and Byronic heroes
  • Mad characters
  • Romance

Stories that are considered gothic fiction include The Mysteries of Udolpho, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Rebecca and of-course Edgar Allan Poe.  Some of the works by Charles Dickens and Stephen King are considered to be that of gothic fiction.  And who could forget Jane Austen’s take on it all in Northanger Abbey?

What I love about gothic fiction is that it combines horror, suspense, mystery/crime, the supernatural, history and romance – all genres I enjoy reading; it all fits under one big umbrella.  So that’s who I am – a writer of gothic fiction.

Do you enjoy gothic fiction?  Do you have a favourite?  If you’re a writer, have you experienced a ‘light bulb’ moment in your chosen genre/s?

Free image by Simon Howden courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Writing

Writing with Passion.

These past few weeks I’ve been doing a bit of ‘soul searching’.  Basically, after reading Get Known before the Book Deal, I’ve been concentrating on platform building.  This involves taking some time to work out my interests as a writer.

Years ago, I experimented with writing different genres.  One that I particularly remember was romance writing.  I read ‘how to’ books, listened to tapes, even joined the RWA.  I was foolish enough to believe that writing in this genre was easy, but I actually found it difficult.  Why?  I think it was because (pardon the pun) my heart wasn’t in it.  I wasn’t interested in the ‘girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl wins boy’ scenario: in fact it bored me.  Personally, I don’t mind reading romance in a story as part of the sub-plot, but the main story has to grab my attention and pure romance wasn’t doing it for me.

I grew up reading and watching suspense, mystery, crime and horror.  History always fascinated me as well, so by combining all these elements I have now come full circle.  I have come to understand who I really am as a writer.  In order to be successful as a writer, one needs to write what they are passionate about.  Anything else and you’re not being authentic and true to yourself.

So this Valentines’ Day, listen to your heart when it comes to your writing.

Are you following your passion as a writer?