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?

Writing, Writing Process

New Writers: The Freedom to Write What You Want.

tea-381235_1280Some years ago, I read a particular piece of writing advice that has always stuck in my mind. That advice was this – ‘Don’t write what you want to write. Write what a publisher wants to publish’. Yes, I understand that in order to get published, one has to keep an eye on the marketplace and what is currently being published, however, such advice can be overwhelming for the new and unpublished writer.

As unpublished writers, one needs to spend time concentrating on perfecting the craft, finding your writer’s voice and even experimenting with genres and different styles of writing. Like any art form, writing is no get rich quick scheme. You need to be writing for the love of it, and if you really enjoy doing it, then you are prepared to work at it. You are willing to place some of your own heart and soul into your writing and it is this very emotion in your stories that readers remember and are prepared to come back to. If you don’t feel passionate about what you’re writing, readers will notice that too.

This is why lately, I have been thinking about this very subject and I’m so glad to have stumbled upon other writers who have been thinking the same way. Author Kyla Bagnall also believes in the value of the writing process and being familiar with your genre, while author Rachel Aaron suggests that if you write the book you love and do it well, it will sell; you will find your audience. I guess there is truth in the saying ‘If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it’.

Being creative is being free to express your artistic side, whether it be writing, art, music or film. We may talk about our fictional characters evolving; so too, should we allow ourselves as writers to evolve. Through experimentation, we may find ourselves going down totally different paths and therefore discovering something about ourselves. As long as you find something you are passionate about when it comes to writing, you will find your audience.

In an age where discoverability is important, do you think about your potential audience/readers when you write or do you prefer to concentrate on the writing process? Have you found a topic or genre that you feel passionate about?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing Blogs

A Month in Blogs – September, 2015.

tulips

Spring has finally arrived! The days are getting warmer, the birds are going crazy, the flowers are out and the scent of pollen is in the air (not good for those of us who suffer from hay fever). This month, I’ve found some helpful blog posts with a bit of a ‘back to basics’ approach to writing and social media. Happy reading!

Rachelle Gardener

Create a Compelling Book Title

Rachel Amphlett at Molly Green: Writer

Why Change Your Book Cover Artwork?

Kristen Lamb

Is Perfectionism Killing Your Writing Career? & The Secret to a Powerful Author Brand

Anne R Allen at Anne R. Allen’s Blog (with Ruth Harris)

Beware Groupthink: 10 Red Flags to Watch For When Choosing a Critique Group & Does an Author Really Need a Blog? 10 Reasons a Blog May Help Your Career

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing Blogs

A Month in Blogs – August 2015.

kermit-in snow

This month a touch of spring is in the air at long last, however, those winter frosts and rainy days refuse to give up just yet. This month, I’ve found some helpful blog posts on writing, blogging and social media. Happy reading!

Atulya Bingham at The Alliance of Independent Authors

Book Marketing: How to Use Your Blog to Reach Readers for Your Books

Anne R Allen at Anne R. Allen’s Blog (with Ruth Harris)

Why Social Media is Still Your Best Path to Book Visibility & What Should a Novelist Blog About? Do’s and Do’nts for Author-Bloggers

K.M. Weiland at Helping Writers Become Authors

New Story Ideas Distracting You From Your Book? Find Out What You Should Do

Susan Kaye Quinn at Writers Helping Writers

5 Tips for Success as a Self-Published Author

John Yeoman at Writers’ Village Wicked Writing Blog

Is It Worth Being An Author? (Truly?)

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing Blogs

A Month in Blogs – July 2015.

little-girl-snow

This month saw some good snowfalls in the Eastern States of Australia, and we were surprised to see that snow had fallen in our town. Years ago when we moved here, we were told it doesn’t snow – so this year the weather proved them all wrong! This month I’ve found some helpful blog posts to keep you motivated. Happy reading!

James Scott Bell at The Kill Zone

From Failure to Success in Writing

Jami Gold

Are You Dreaming or Doing?

Shawn Inmon at Indies Unlimited

If I Was Starting Over as an Indie Publisher

Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn

Writing Habits and Routines, Filling the Creative Well and More Tips on Writing and Productivity

Michelle Rene Goodhew

Is Short Story Writing Something You Should Do?

Kristen Lamb

No Success Without the GRIND & Is “Motivation” Useless? Are “Opportunities” Overrated?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing

Writing Short.

short breakFor years, writers had been lead to believe that the best thing for them to do was write novels. For writers like myself, who were used to writing short, this usually posed as quite a daunting task (still does). Thankfully, with the introduction of self-publishing, writing short could become a relief for those who enjoy writing in the short form.

As a subscriber to Anne R Allen’s blog, I can be thankful that I am one of those writers that have always enjoyed writing short. Anne has written a number of blog posts regarding short stories and I recommend you read them if you haven’t already done so.

For me, writing longer projects has always seemed daunting. A few years back I had some writing assessed. Being fairly new to a complete stranger reading my work, I felt the need to apologise for my writing. I felt it wasn’t enough; that there wasn’t enough description. The reader, however, didn’t have a problem with it, believing that sometimes ‘less is more’. That’s when I began to write even tighter. Years later, this would prove a valuable skill when I undertook University studies. I became used to keeping what needed to be said in as few words as possible. Writing short is a matter of getting your message across quickly and is good practice for that all important ‘hook’ at the very beginning.

Writing short can take some time to master and can be a great starting point for new writers. I’ve found that blogging can be a great help in keeping your writing ‘on topic’ with each blog post. Writing short pieces, short stories, even personal essays are a great way to build up your publishing credits and prepare you for longer projects.

Anne told me that my writing is ‘just right for today’s market’, so if you also struggle with the longer form and like to keep things short, don’t be put off by it; instead, embrace that skill. In today’s market, you’ll be rewarded for it.

Do you enjoy writing in the short form? Do you struggle writing longer pieces or shorter pieces? As a beginner, have you ever felt the need to apologise for your writing?

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Image courtesy of Pixabay

Writing Blogs

A Month in Blogs – June 2015.

storm

Winter has finally arrived here in Australia and the frosts have become heavier. Within the first week of June, the water around our water tank formed a stalagmite and the grass was literally ice underneath my feet. This month I’ve found some blog posts that I hope you find helpful with your current writing projects. Happy reading!

Debbie McClure at Molly Greene: Writer

The Writing Tsumani

Angela Ackerman at Writers Helping Writers

3 Quick Tips To Help Readers Connect To Your Hero

Author, Jody Hedlund

How to Keep Readers From Hating Your Characters

Robin Rivera at WriteonSisters.com

Writing Tips for First Person POV

Patricia Abbott at Elizabeth Spann Craig

Working My Way Toward the Novel

Anne R. Allen at Anne R. Allen’s Blog (with Ruth Harris)

14 Dos and Don’ts for Author-Bloggers

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Writing

How Music Can Help Writers.

harpwithflowersBecause writing is such a solitary pursuit and can involve a great deal of silence, listening to music can help break that monotony. There is a quote that I find seems to sum up music pretty well – When Words Fail, Music Speaks. Of-course, as writers, we don’t want our words to fail; however, there are times when music can help us find exactly what it is we are looking for. Here are some ways in which music can help us as writers.

Motivation

I find listening to music can be a great motivator. In order to help with a positive start to the day and even get some writing done, listening to certain music can help. Find the music that cheers you up and/or songs with lyrics that get you motivated. My ‘go to’ motivator at the moment is Butterflies and Hurricanes by Muse (preferably the live version) – brilliant song and the lyrics are well suited to start writing.

Song Titles

Song titles are a great source of inspiration. After reading Anne R Allen’s post regarding book titles, I googled the discography of one particular artist and wrote down song titles that appealed to me. As a result, I came up with 55 song titles that could be used for ideas for short stories, novellas or novels. Through various other song titles, I have also come up with an idea that can be explored within a genre I generally don’t write in.

Video Clips

Watching video clips can often spark an idea for a story. They can also help envisage setting and/or a particular mood. One video clip that has always captured my imagination is The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails. It has a wonderful gothic look and, combined with the lyrics, it helps conjure up ideas for one of my WIPs.

Soundtracks

Some people write while listening to music, but I find it distracting; however some music can be of benefit to setting a scene or a mood within our stories. Movie soundtracks, or music from video games or television shows can really fire up the imagination or bring a tear to the eye (The Death of Jane Seymour – A Howling Wilderness from Season 3 of The Tudors gets me every time). Feeling such emotions from the music we listen to can help transform that emotion into the scenes we write.

Can you think of any other ways in which music can help writers? Do you use music to help you get motivated? Have you turned to music for story inspiration? Do you listen to music as you write or do you prefer to write in silence?

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Writing Blogs

A Month in Blogs – May 2015.

polar-bears

Winter is almost upon us here in Australia; the last of the autumn leaves are still falling and light frosts have arrived. This month I’ve found some blog posts to help keep you motivated with your writing projects as we approach mid year. Happy reading!

Debbie A McClure at Molly Greene: Writer

Don’t Let Anybody Should On You! Take Charge of Your Life and Your Writing

Author, Jody Hedlund

4 Steps That Can Keep Writers From Dismal Failure

Anne R. Allen at Anne R. Allen’s Blog (with Ruth Harris)

10 Tips for Choosing the Right Book Title in the E-Age

Jeff Gerke at Jane Friedman.com

Begin Your Novel with Action: A Good Rule?

Claire DeBoer at Positive Writer

Writers: Your Voice Doesn’t Need to be Louder than the Rest!

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Writing, Writing Process

When Silence Can be Golden for Writers.

heart-lockRecently, I have been coming up with new ideas for stories, which has been great. At one point, I was unsure about how to approach one particular idea and was thinking of asking a question about it on an on-line writing group. I became hesitant simply because I was uncertain of the whole idea myself.

When we come up with new story ideas, it can sometimes be difficult to contain our excitement. We want others to be excited about it too. Many years ago, I would let my friends read the stories I was writing at the time. My friends were always interested in what I was writing and were eager to read more, but I would eventually reach the point where I had lost interest. I had no idea where the stories were going; there was no real plot and I only had the basic knowledge of my characters. It therefore came as no surprise to me that I never finished these stories, thus leaving my friends disappointed and I had many incomplete stories lying around.

Since that time, I have gone the other extreme and now think too long about my stories and characters, that I am lucky to send anything off (I really do need to learn when enough is enough). Whenever I am asked what it is I am currently working on these days, I only give the very basics away.

It may be different for other creatives, such as artists and musicians to describe a new project – people may have to see it or hear it in order to understand it better. For writers, however, we are perfectly able to give people the basics of what it is we are trying to create as these things are easier to put in words, which is our art form. Talking to others about our projects, before we fully understand them ourselves can destroy an idea before it really gets started.

So when you come up with a new idea for a story or working on something new, keep a lid on it; enjoy the process. You need to work it all out for yourself without having to let others either confuse you or discourage you. As Stephen King said: ‘Write with the door closed. Re-write with the door open’.

Do you tell others what you’re working on? Do you find it to be a help or a hindrance? Do you prefer to keep quiet about your work in progress? Do you find yourself thinking too much about a project before sending it off?

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