googlead166c37c697d4d3.html Glenn Ashton Author Blog: You & Your Bestseller: A Lesson from the James Patterson Writing Machine?


Friday, October 19, 2012

You & Your Bestseller: A Lesson from the James Patterson Writing Machine?

We’ve all heard about James Patterson, the best selling author of mystery novels. The man who made a fortune from his craft, and is enjoying it:

“I don’t take myself very seriously,” he says on the phone from what the Wall Street Journal described as his 20,100-square-foot, five-bedroom, 12-bathroom, beachfront home in Palm Beach, Fla. Bought in 2009 for $17.4-million, it includes a 75-foot pool, gym and media room…

If Wikipedia is accurate, his total estimated sales (150-million) would place him well behind the likes of Jackie Collins (250-million), Robert Ludlum (290-million) and Agatha Christie (four-billion), among others, but ahead of Robin Cook (100-million), Stephenie Meyer (116-million) and Dan Brown (120-million).

Not bad. Perhaps you should cut out the Wikipedia details of the earnings of the top writers and paste it above your desk – for constant inspiration …

The Patterson Writing Machine:

Patterson is now spinning off novels to the tune of almost two dozen a year, using a mini-factory of writers.

How does he do it? This way:

Of course, Patterson’s astonishing productivity owes a great deal to the roster of about a half dozen associate writers he has on contract, some of whom eventually merit credit on book jackets, albeit in smaller type than his own name.

His standard approach, he says, is to write a 60 to 70 page outline of the prospective novel, then hand it off to one of his staff. He annotates their draft, sends it back for a rewrite and polishes the next version. He still works, he says, seven days a week. “But it’s not work – it’s play. People ask me when I’m going to retire [he is 65]. You don’t retire from playing.”

Patterson makes no apologies for the committee approach to commercial literature. Most scripts for feature films and TV shows, he argues, are the product of similar team arrangements, as is virtually every advertising campaign. Why should popular books be any different?

Hard to argue with that. Perhaps you need to start accumulating a stable of co-writers for your slew of bestsellers?

Patterson is following in the footsteps of Tom Clancy, who also co-writes his novels.

If you are thinking of copying Patterson’s example, you  might want to take some advice from Blake Snyder, of Save the Cat! Fame, about how to use The Board to plan your novels

And don’t forget Dan Brown of The Da Vinci Code fame’s Seven Powerful Tips on Writing!

And check my earlier post on how to create your villains and heroes. And take a few hints from Stieg Larrson, who wrote The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, about who to use as the model for your protagonists.

He knows his target market:

This is how he defines them:

But I love the idea of writing for audiences that just want to take off for a couple of hours. Put it on my tombstone, I don’t mind: ‘Jim kept a lot of people up late.’

For more hints of how he goes about writing his novels and promoting them, read the article.

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