How To Write Like James Patterson
Former ad man tuned bestselling author, James Patterson, is one of the most profilic authors of all time.
His approximately 95 novels have sold more than Dan Brown, John Grisham and Stephen King combined.
How do you write like him? Well, first of all, you write a lot. And you sell a boatload – make that a Titanic load – of books.
11 Ways To Write Like James Patterson
- Focus on the story not the sentence: For the “P” man storytelling trumps all else. While sentences matter, story matters most. You can write 300 pages of beautifully crafted sentences that no one reads. Well, except maybe English Teachers. However, if the story is built on a framework of compelling structure, readers will forgive a few lackluster sentences.
- Write short, punchy chapters: Patterson is known for short chapters that are just long enough to propel the story forward yet short enough to convince the reader to “just read one more chapter”.
- Pretend you’re telling a story to a good friend: Patterson uses this psychological trick to keep his writing clear, down to earth and personal. This involves the reader in the unfolding experience of the story, shrinking the “distance” between reader, character and story.
- Outline: The dreaded “O” word. Not all bestselling authors use them – Koontz and King for example – but plenty do. Outlines come in many shapes and sizes. You can be hyper detailed with every beat defined or looser with a structure that leaves lots of literary wiggle room. The most important elements are to know the characters, the conflict, the stakes and the setting. Changing any of these in a rewrite is like dental surgery by a masocist.
- Capitalize on Cliffhangers: Not only does Patterson pen short chapters, his chapters end with a bang – an action, twist, conflict, reveal or threat. You simply can’t put the book down. You have to know what happens next!
- Write in the morning: JP sticks to a regimented writing schedule. Each & every morning. It’s when he is most fresh, brimming with creative energy that overflows onto the page. After some experimentation, this is also when I write.
- Write in boxes every day – 4 or 5 hours: James writes in “boxes” or certain time periods – usually 4 or 5 hours a day, every day. This is equivalent to a part time job just for writing. That doesn’t take into account time involved with other writing-related tasks like surfing the web, staring mindlessly at the wall or blaming all your psychological scars on your parents.
- Be a collector of ideas – Have a folder of ideas – He has one with 400 ideas in it. Collect stories, images, quotes, characters, words you love, settings, ect.
- Write at a “blistering pace”: Patterson is a master of pacing. Pacing is the speed of the story. Every story is a mix of fast and slow (or slower) scenes. James falls heavily on the “faster” side, sprinting through scenes at a breakneck pace. He does this, in part, through motivated characters and constant conflict.
- Turn on the projector in your reader’s head: Paint vivid word pictures in the minds of readers. This is to say, “show don’t tell”. Use sensory language. Invite readers into the sensory, mental and emotional experience of the story.
- Be entertaining on every page: Patterson reminds writers to keep the main thing the main thing. Storytelling is entertainment. It is other things as well, but unless it engages in every page, the reader will not stick around to be inspired, informed or transformed. So entertain. On every page.