Thursday, July 9, 2015

I Bought James Patterson’s How To Write Class For $90 So You Don’t Have To

First an announcement. I am in the process of writing a memoir. Don't ask me why, I'm not dying or anything, it just seemed like something interesting to do. I have decided to put it up in installments as a blog, which can be seen here. Be warned, there's bad language, X-rated situations and a few deaths, but it's mostly a paean to a small town in West Virginia, circa 1959. Let me know what you think and what you remember of your own distant past.


If you haven’t read last week’s entry, (see below) shame on you. To recap, James Patterson has been badgering me on Facebook to buy his master class where he teaches the tricks and techniques of writing a bestselling novel. In the spirit of generosity to my fellow writers, both published and unpublished, young and old, and my ongoing desire to make fun of whatever I feel deserves criticism and ridicule and the off chance that I, and then you, will actually learn something, I ponied up the $90 and downloaded the class. Writer pal Joel has agreed to go along with me on this journey and help write the novel that Mr. Patterson is going to tell us how to produce. No matter that I’ve already published ten novels, none of them were bestsellers and as Thriller Guy always says, you’re never too smart to learn something new and useful. Will we actually write a book? Who knows, but we’re going to push this thing until we fail, succeed, or just get sick of it. And we will report back to you, Thriller Guy’s faithful readers. If it looks like a good deal, we’ll tell you and you can spend your own $90. If it’s bogus, we’ll tell you and maybe we’ll all get a few laughs along the way.

I downloaded the class, which was easy enough to do. It comes in 22 installments, which they figure you can cover in six weeks, but you can view them in whatever speed you like. I also printed out the workbook, though the idea of actually filling it out is a little daunting, but, in for a penny, in for a pound as John LeCarre might say. I then watched the first two classes, which ran about 15 minutes together. These consist of Patterson sitting in several indoor locations and talking to the camera. One of the rooms he’s being recorded in looks like a very nice office/den. The others don’t have much character. Patterson speaks in an amiable, conversational tone, familiar but not overly so. He gives a general overview and then in the second entry he talks about how he got started in the business, and how you have to have passion if you are going to undertake writing a novel.

Here are my first impressions.

In the opening section, he missed a spot back by his right ear while shaving the morning of the taping. This didn’t really bother me all that much, but I noticed it and was happy in later shots when that was corrected. I liked his shirts, and in one sequence he was dressed in a navy blue mock turtleneck and a suede sport coat, which is a classic writer’s outfit. The suede sport coat seemed a little dressy for the informal setting, but it was saved from being rich-guy and pretentious by being sort of beat up. What impressed me most is that he and I share exactly the same taste in shirts!  In three separate shots his shirt looks exactly like three of my own shirts. And I often wear a sport coat with a mock turtleneck, though I ditched my brown suede jacket after the swinging sixties. But the similarities were astonishing. Obviously, I am well on my way to being a bestselling novelist.

In the writer’s den setting, where Patterson seemed the most comfortable, I noticed several important details. In the back, on the right on a shelf are a number of wine bottles in a row. And on his desk, from behind which he is giving his lecture, you can see the top third of a bottle that is obviously some sort of spirit. A quick shot a few minutes later shows a bit more of the bottle, and to me it looked like a dark rum, possibly Gossling’s. This was exciting because it spoke directly to me, as I also like wine and have a great fondness for Gossling’s dark rum!!! If I needed any more proof that the class was going to be a perfect fit for me, this was it.
James Patterson, not me. Note shirts just like mine, bottle of rum on desk and bottles of wine in back on right.

My overall takeaway? So far, I like it. He tells some jokes, curses but not to excess, makes a few mistakes (at one point he says his first book was rejected 31 times and ten seconds later he says it was rejected 34 times) and generally presents himself well and makes the writing a novel process at least sound doable. It’s clear the guy sees novel writing as a business that one can succeed at if one is willing to put in the work. No blabbering about writing as art and that nonsense. Even Thriller Guy would hold off making fun of him.

OK, it’s a good start. Don’t send him your $90 yet, we’ve got a long way to go, but so far I’m on his side.

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