I have Facebook to thank for this one. I’d never heard of Masterclass until the Facebook ads, in their infinite targeted wisdom, displayed a page for James Patterson’s 2017 Co-Author Competition. Of course it caught my interest right away. Author a book with James Patterson? Yes please!
The contest was simple: submit a 1,000 word sample chapter and a 2 sentence book hook. It wasn’t open to just anyone, though, only students of James Patterson’s Masterclass. If you’ve never heard of Masterclass, it’s a site where experts from almost any field you can think of offer online classes teaching everyday people how they do what they do. I’ve only taken the one class, but others include: Steve Martin teaches comedy, Gordon Ramsay teaches cooking, and Reba McEntire teaches country music. You get the idea. Currently there are at least 20 classes offered. $90.00 signs you up for the class and grants you lifetime access to all the lessons and materials available.
So I signed up. The lessons are all videos that you move through at your own pace, each lasting up to half an hour. James Patterson discusses his own writing process and coaches you on how to emulate him in your own work. As the bestselling author in the world, he’s worth listening to.
I learned a lot from James Patterson. He’s a very interesting man, and he shares many anecdotes and life experiences over the course of the class. That being said, I don’t think I’ll be taking all of his lessons to heart.
There are some points that are basic to every story, regardless of what the author is trying to accomplish. You need to have believable characters, you need them to have engaging dialogue, you need to keep driving your plot forward with each chapter. These lessons I’ll keep. But.
If you’re familiar with James Patterson’s books then you know that he has a very distinct writing style. His chapters are short, often less than 1,000 words, and are action-filled and dynamic. This works great for a thriller, but not so much for other genres. I’m currently writing a fantasy, which doesn’t lend itself well to short chapters and non-stop action.
Another thing I disagree with him on is outlining. His outlines are impressive, there’s no denying that. He spends months writing outlines, and every single detail is laid out before he actually begins writing chapters. I can’t do that. I tried. I probably could, if I wanted to spend the time learning the process and working at it, but I have no desire to. I have my own process, and I feel no need to adopt his.
I rarely outline. Or rather, I write very brief outlines. I have a basic plot, an idea of where my characters need to end up and what needs to happen to them along the way, but all the stuff in the middle is up for grabs. I enjoy the freedom it gives me. Not that I’m right and he’s wrong, just that our processes are different. Then again, he’s a best selling author and I’m a nobody, so there’s that. Still. I believe that my comfort level is an important aspect to any process I use, and I’ll continue to ignore outlines until I feel otherwise about it.
What about you? Writing friends, do you use outlines, or do you just wing it? Let me know!
As always, comments and subscriptions are appreciated!