I have now finished the first week of the James Patterson Writing Masterclass, following the suggested timetable in the course notes. I have completed the first six video lessons and I'm working on the associated assignments. I am finding the course quite enjoyable and even inspiring. Though the information passed on by Mr. Patterson in the video tutorials is nothing new, he delivers it in a relaxed, conversational way that makes the lessons seem intimate.
The topics covered so far are;
- Introduction to the class
- Passion - Habit
- Raw Ideas
Passion - Habit dealt with the notion that you really need to be passionate about writing in general and in your current project in particular. If you are not passionate about your story, how do you expect readers to be. So, keep the passion alive, love what you do, believe in yourself and learn to endure rejection. Makes sense to me. The habit part dealt with stressing the need to write every day, to make writing a habit, a part of your daily schedule. How can you call yourself a writer, if you don't write?
Raw Ideas. This one was interesting. Mr. Patterson says that it is really rare to find a new and fresh idea, but finding ways to put several ideas together in a new and fresh way can create a unique story. He writes his ideas down and keeps them in an ideas folder. There is nothing new in this information but it is still good solid advice. The other thing he stressed in this lesson was to "read widely and learn about lots of things." You can't come up with ideas about things you don't know and you never know what piece of obscure knowledge might spark that brilliant idea for a book.
Plot. This lesson wasn't so much about how to plot a novel in a nuts-and-bolts way. It was more about the necessity of raising the stakes in your story and about creating a worthy villain for your hero to face. The challenges to your hero both internally and externally need to be challenging and interesting. One thing he said resonated with me. "Condense your plot, concentrate on causality. The king dies - then the queen dies is a story. The king dies and the queen dies of grief, is a plot." I thought that was an interesting way to put it.
Research. This lesson stress the need to git it right. Know the details, know the locations, know your vocations because if you get it wrong, there are readers out there who do know and you will lose them forever. If you are conducting interviews as part of your research, make sure the interviewee is verbal. Finding a talker who is passionate about their field is like striking gold. Another point was not to be a know-it-all. Some writers decide that if they have done all this research, by god the reader is going to know about. They drop huge - pointless to the story - info dumps so the reader can see how clever they are. Mr. Patterson also stressed that there are no excuses. With the internet, there has never been an easier time to do your research.
Outlines. This lesson has been split into two parts. It is the lesson I have been the most excited to get to because outlining is one of my weakest skills as a writer. I took pages of notes on this session. It was set out in a practical way, working through the process he uses to outline his books. Starting with jotting down everything he can think of that happens in the story, just one or two lines for each thing. Sorting through, discarding some ideas and adding more, then ordering them. He then takes the time to expand on each idea with just enough detail to know what happens in that scene. Mr. Patterson says that sometimes he might spend up to three months getting the outline right. He believes this is one of the most important aspects of writing a novel and can save so much time and heartache in the long term. The best part of this lesson is the fact that he has included, in the workbook, the complete outline for one of his favourite books, Honeymoon. Reading through this outline has given me some invaluable insight into the process.
Stay tuned for week three.