Firstly, I have NOT taken James Patterson’s MasterClass on writing. Please take note of that.
Secondly, I know people who have paid Mr. Patterson for his time and videos.
Thirdly, I am about to tell you what Mr. Patterson (and other successful authors) knows about being a “successful” writer.
Are you ready?
It’s all about developing good writing habits.
There. That’s it. That’s what you are paying Mr. Patterson to learn. Yeah, $75-$100 just to learn that. I’m not saying he isn’t worth listening to, or that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. In fact, the consensus of what I’ve heard and read about his MasterClass is that most people think they got their money’s worth. He talks about storytelling, not specifically writing. He discusses characters and dialogue and outlining and action/suspense. He believes in hard work and discipline. But not necessarly style. You aren’t setting out to write a classic novel, just one that sells. Obviously, Mr. Patterson, whose name is everywhere on the bookshelves, knows how to sell a book.
But you have to remember, James Patterson started out like any other writer. He had to develop certain traits. So, what are these traits? Google “habits of successful writers” and you get a long list of sites telling you what makes a successful writer. Guess what the first one (almost always) is?
- Write! Write daily.
As if you didn’t already know this one. But it’s the most highly effective trait to cultivate. Write write write. Even if it’s just for a few minutes every day. This is the one you MUST be strict with yourself about. Writing every day makes you a better writer. It is the difference between being a good writer or a great one. Even if you aren’t James Patterson Successful, writing every day is essential to your own personal success.
Read often. Read in the genre you are going to be writing in. This, too, is essential. You learn the tropes of your chosen genre. Examine the sentences, the dialogue, the character development. Pay attention to the opening sentences and how well the story holds your interest. You can learn more from reading than you can by paying someone to tell you the same information you are already absorbing from a story. Read good writers. Read great writers. Read bad writers. You will learn what to use and what to avoid.
3. Keep some kind of writing material handy.
You never know when an idea is going to strike. The most handy tool today is your mobile phone. If you own a smart phone, you have in your hand the most readily available notetaker/organizer/idea keeper. There are apps for everything. Download a voice recorder app and speak your ideas into an easily downloadable file and transfer them to your computer via Dragon software which automatically translates your voice into the written word. If you are old school, carry a pen and paper around. But keep it with you. Those ideas can happen out of the blue.
4. Join a community writing group.
I can’t tell you how great a circle of other writers is at keeping you inspired, encouraged, supported. Writing may be a solitary experience but you aren’t alone. There are so many other aspiring successful writers out there and being a part of this group is a huge boost for your esteem and well-being. They are a wealth of information as well. Got a problem with one of your scenes? Someone can help. Having trouble writing dialogue? Someone in your group probably writes great dialogue. Find them and make friends. Plus, other writers “get” it. They understand, and will often enable your crazy.
5. Nurture your inner schizophrenic.
I LOVED this one when I read it on one site. The person who wrote it was talking about how as a writer you have to be two people with your writing: a dancer and an ax murderer. The dancer agonizes over how interesting the story is while worrying about grammatical errors, etc. The ax murderer brings a cold eye to the finished work.But I translated it into being more than that. You have to embrace your crazy, neurotic side. So what if you have conversations with imaginary people in your head? You’re a writer, you’re allowed to be eccentric. Just make sure you write everything down. And that person who just cut in front of you or is too perky in the mornings? Let your inner Dexter take care of them in your story. You could use a psychotic character in your story, right? Just, you know, don’t actually REALLY act like a homocidal maniac.
6. Develop a thick skin.
You are going to receive criticism. You are going to fail at something. Not everyone is going to like your writing. Let it go and move on, gracefully. Don’t let the trolls get to you because a troll’s job is to discourage you and keep you from succeeding. And just remember what happens to trolls…
“The big billy goat flew at the troll, and poked his eyes out with his horns, and crushed him to bits, body and bones, and tossed him out into the cascade, and after that he went up to the hillside. There the billy goats got so fat they were scarcely able to walk home again. And if the fat hasn’t fallen off them, why, they’re still fat; and so,
Snip, snap, snout.
This tale’s told out.”
Will these habits make you successful? Obviously, not as successful as James Patterson who also had help along the way from knowing how to sell himself and having a good agent and taking advantage of his advertising knowledge.
They WILL make you a better writer and that’s half the battle.
And guess what? I just told you all that for free.
P.S. Add any other tips and habits in the comments. 🙂