What I Learned from James Patterson by Mark Sullivan (link)

What I Learned from James Patterson

A coauthor shares some advice he gleaned from working with the global bestseller

by Mark Sullivan

Link: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/columns-and-blogs/soapbox/article/55152-what-i-learned-from-james-patterson.html


Here’s an interesting little explanation about what it’s like to work with James Patterson. I like the emphasis on story telling, but I don’t think I agree with analysis about show vs. tell. I can’t say for sure, as I’ve only read one of James Pattern’s novels (and I was inspired by the short chapters, as can be seen in Dispensing Justice and the forthcoming The Red Rook). It seems to me that in Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment there is a great deal of telling over showing (frankly, a natural result of the terse prose style), but maybe Mark Sullivan’s work is different.

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An open letter to anyone who wants to be a writer

In response to Kat B’s post: “i wanna be a writer what is your best advice” at Writer’s Discussion Group (Introductions) – Google+


The hardest thing for me was figuring out how to get writing done. It took me years, but I eventually figured out what motivated me to finish a story. I think this should be your first priority. Once you’ve found the formula that leads to “The End” you’ll be ready to deal with everything else. (Another way of saying this is focusing on the mechanics of storytelling is like fussing around with the ingredients when you’re hungry. Cook the food, so you can eat. Improving the recipe comes later.)

A few things to try are:

  • Don’t tell anyone your story so you’re forced to finish it before anyone else can get the story.
  • Join a writers group. Having to show up with something for other members to read is the motivator.
  • Sit down for an hour a day (or so) and do one of two things during this time. Write or nothing at all. (This advice came from Daniel Pinkwater.)
  • Get a calender. Every day that you write, put an X. Then don’t break the chain. (This advice came from Steve Martin, I think.)

What worked for me was similar to the “don’t break the chain” method. I started a spreadsheet and kept track of how many words I wrote each day. Progress became tangible to me, and the effect snowballed. I completed my first novel within a year of discovering this method.

As to writing advice in general, I suggest you always prepend “What works for me” in front any and all writing advice to remind yourself that all writing advice/rules/etc are idiosyncratic. (There is an assumption that what they are relating actually works for the advice giver, but give them the benefit of the doubt.)

Good luck,


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