MINING PATTERSON TIPS: Culling Writing Tips from James Patterson Interviews

I decided to find out why James Patterson is the best selling author in history, so I looked up a few interviews with him online. The fact that he is a workaholic comes through pretty clearly, but a good work ethic alone does not make a writer popular. Though it helps. [By the way, Mr. Patterson is a generous contributor and advocate for children's literacy, local libraries, independent bookstores, and cancer research, among other important causes.] But here are the most important tips I found in a few online interviews (see below for links to the original articles):


1. A plain, readable storytelling style that captivates readers early on. 

2. He keeps readers in suspense so they always want to know what happens next.

3. The main goal of his writing: tell entertaining stories that captivate readers.
* He does not focus on artistry, social commentary, or realism.
* If you don’t have an engaging story, you have to work much harder at your prose to hold attention.
* If you’re goal is to just tell a good story, the writing is faster.
* The story idea should be able to be communicated in one paragraph that catches someone’s interest.

4. Fast pacing in the story, with each chapter and paragraph pushing the story forward. Imagine the book as an engaging movie, keeping audiences interested, picturing the scene in their heads.


1. He first writes thorough outlines
* This speeds his writing process. 
* He doesn’t waste time polishing sections as he goes, because he might delete them if they don't help the story.  
* His outlines are about 60 - 80 pages, with one paragraph devoted to each chapter. 
* The outlines include specific goals for each scene. 

2. To help with suspense: he imagines telling his story to someone sitting across from him, trying to get him to hang upon every word until the end. 

3. Limited description: he uses just enough description to help picture the scene and characters. 

4. He writes in short chapters that help quicken the pace. 

5. He works at finding the “voice” of the story first, then it’s easier to write it. 

6. He remains flexible with the novel, willing to change the outline for the sake of the story. 

7. He writes with confidence, so he isn't bogged down in the details of the writing. 


1. He writes seven days a week -- every week. 

2. His daily schedule: He gets up around 5:30am. After some writing (about 7am) he goes for a solitary walk for about an hour, then writes until 11 or 12. 

3. His office has few distractions. 

4. He writes about 900 pages of outlines a year. 

5. He has several projects at once. If something isn't working, he switches to another project. This helps remedy writer's block. 


There you go. You're welcome 

Here are the links to the original articles: 

     By Joe Berkowitz, Fast Company (April 16, 2014)
     By Lauren Schuker Blum, The Wall Street Journal (March 30, 2012)
     By Diana Page Jordan, Writer's Digest (May 19, 2009)
     By Noah Charney, The Daily Beast (January 29, 2014)

May 28, 2015

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