4 Things James Patterson Told Me About Writing Over Lunch

James Patterson

I’ve been a James Patterson fan for quite some time and when the opportunity to have lunch with the world’s bestselling author in Sydney, Australia in May 2015, I immediately booked my ticket, grabbed a flight and finalised my travel details.

The lunch was organised by Dymocks Bookstore as part of their Literary Events at the luxury 5 star Shangri-La Hotel in the Sydney Rocks area and was attended by 240 James Patterson fans. Mr. Patterson was here to promote his latest venture into children’s books; a passion of his to get young people back into reading. As part of his visit he would also be donating $100,000 worth of books to local school libraries.

On the day of the lunch I flew early from Brisbane, about an hour’s flight from Sydney, checked into my hotel and settled into a nearby coffee shop to relax and prepare for a great lunch. Having flown specially to be here, I wanted to ensure I got the most from today’s lunch – I wanted to ask James Patterson a question.

Arriving at the venue I made myself known to the key organiser and was shown to my table; perfectly positioned on the front row in front of the stage. I couldn’t be happier and introduced myself to the other 9 guests on the table which included an editor of a leading magazine and an author of 6 novels.

As lunch was being served, James Patterson sat on stage being interviewed by a leading Australian radio personality for around an hour. Here’s what I gleamed from his conversation:

*It’s never too late to start writing. Just start!

*Work hard – there is no short cut. In his office he may have up to 50 projects on the go; 13-15 of them being his most active. You need to put in the hours to complete this work load.

*Read, read, read. Reading helps improve your life and your writing. Encourage young children to read.

*Authors can ‘out do’ actors. He told a funny story of having dinner with Clint Eastwood and a movie director in an Italian restaurant in Washington one night. A lady came up to their table and asked him for his autograph. Clint Eastwood commented that he “really needed a hit movie quick” after being overlooked by the woman.

The lunch conversation was light hearted, fun and entertaining. James Patterson came across as a very down to earth person and was engaging with the audience. Questions were then invited. Of the 6 taken, I got the first one in.

“As a newbie author, how can I get my books seen so that I can sell more books? What marketing tips can you give me?”

Here’s what James Patterson told me:

  1. Don’t worry about marketing. Leave that up to your publisher to figure that out.
  2. Learn how to plot and outline better. James Patterson told the audience that he writes outlines of around 80-90 pages, submits them to his co-author who then flesh his work out. The co-author submits their progress work every week from which James Patterson edits and resubmits. This process continues until the whole book is complete.
  3. Have a hook at the end of each chapter. It keeps the pages turning.
  4. Write more. The more you write, the better you can potentially come. The more books you have out in the marketplace, the better the opportunity to make money.

Boom! Short and succinct. Now while I did agree with the last two points, I was very sceptical about not worrying about marketing. As a newbie author since February 2015 and no marketing muscle behind me, I was having very little sales success and was being drawn into the marketing hype bombarding my email inbox on how ‘a piece of software or a book promotion idea’ would solve ALL my book sales dilemmas and catapult me to the top of the Amazon bestseller lists. But I was willing to put his ideas into action.

After lunch I thanked him for his advice, grabbed a signed copy of Truth or Die and eventually headed home the next day to put his words of wisdom into action.

To help improve my plotting and outlining skills, I purchased James Patterson’s Masterclass on Writing. The course consists of 22 videos, pdfs and an outline of his book Honeymoon. The videos are entertaining but the real juice in in the pdfs, work assignments and the outline. You can even submit your work for critiquing; if you are game.

At $90 it’s a very worthwhile investment in your writing career. Grab it.

But the best advice I got from James Patterson was simply to work hard and write more. And after 5 months as a mystery, thriller and suspense author my output has dramatically increased with 4 novellas hitting top 10 in categories; 2 of which hit #1 in both the US & UK.

Thanks James Patterson for your great insight. I’m now chasing you!