Welcome to my James Patterson MasterClass Review!
There are good reasons screenwriters should check out James Patterson Teaches Writing, and in this post I’ll review the course materials, give you the highlights, and share a few criticisms.
For those who are interested in writing stories that could work as novels or movies, here is my Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting MasterClass Review.
James Patterson Teaches Writing MasterClass Review - In Brief
You should consider taking James Patterson’s MasterClass if:
You want to learn more about story: Patterson’s lectures on the fundamentals of storytelling are compelling and a useful angle on breaking stories for TV and film.
You write suspense, thriller, mystery, or action: Patterson’s lessons are especially great for TV writers or screenwriters who work in the genres where Patterson has been successful himself.
You want to create compelling central characters: Perhaps Patterson’s greatest strength lies in his ability to consistently create enduring characters that can be placed in a variety of situations.
You would consider writing your screenplay as a novel: Many movies and TV shows are based on books. It’s worth considering how to write your story as a novel – and structuring that novel with an eye to how it could work as a movie.
You are feeling stuck: Patterson’s class is geared to novelists but is fundamentally concerned with story and the creative process. This can help you as a screenwriter by giving you a different way to approach what you are doing and overcome whatever creative obstacles are in your way.
“I don’t know if I can teach you so much as make you excited.” – James Patterson
What is MasterClass?
As you may already know, MasterClass is an online tutorial series where top writers, actors, athletes and musicians offer specialized courses in their craft.
For a reasonable fee, MasterClass gives students unprecedented access to the wisdom and insights of an impressive array of teachers.
Who is James Patterson?
For those who have never heard of him: James Patterson is one of the highest paid authors in the world, with more than 300 million copies of his books sold; and a reported revenue of $90 million dollars in 2014 alone.
Patterson also holds a world record in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first person to sell more than 1 million e-books.
He is best known for The Thomas Berryman Number, Women’s Murder Club, Maximum Ride, NYPD Red, Witch and Wizard, as well as the Alex Cross series.
Initial Reservation – Patterson Doesn’t “Write” His Books
James Patterson has always been a controversial writer.
Millions of readers have purchased his novels, and his books are nearly ubiquitous in airport bookstores. But he’s not thought of as a great writer, mainly because of his low-brow plots, lack of concern for critical acclaim or literary awards, and use of cowriters.
By his own account, Patterson collaborates with co-writers on the outline of his books before sending them off to do his writing. Patterson publicly acknowledges this aspect of his work.
While the average writer would be praised for turning around a book within a year, in 2014, Patterson and his co-writers published more than 14 books.
“Don’t set out to write a good thriller. Set out to write a #1 thriller.” – James Patterson
In this sense then, Patterson’s function could be more accurately described as being closer to the executive producer and showrunner of a TV show (with a team of writers) who receives “Created By” and “Story By” credits on each episode because of his creative contribution.
As a novelist, this is a minus – because most novelists will never engage in this collaborative effort even after finding success (e.g., Stephen King doesn’t).
But for a screenwriter, this actually is a plus. Screenwriting is collaborative and Patterson’s emphasis on story as well as collaboration makes his class even more applicable to film and TV writers.
Patterson’s Teaching Style
Patterson is a fun and engaging lecturer who is passionate about writing and has a sense of humor.
If MasterClass were a movie, Patterson’s lectures would actually skew towards a PG-13 rating, as Patterson take shots of hard liquor and swears on camera, though never with enough frequency to detract from his teaching.
“Don’t think about the sentences. Think about the story.” – James Patterson
The Guy Can Make An Entrance
If there’s anything that can be said about the highest paid author in the world; it’s that he knows how to make an entrance.
James Patterson opens his writing MasterClass by looking straight into the camera and uttering the words “Hi… I’m Stephen King” before segueing into the material.
General Course Overview
In addition to lessons about plot, characters, suspense, and editing, Patterson also delves into different aspects of the publishing process covering everything from book covers to publishing to his own personal journey to Hollywood adaptations.
One of the strongest of these lessons is when he talks about his work ethic and habit of getting up at 5 AM in the morning to write. (Patterson balanced writing with a career as an executive at an ad agency until he was in his 40’s.)
In my opinion, Patterson’s forte, much like a literary showrunner, lies in his ability to create characters that are enduring and can be thrown into various situations, creating a style and voice that are unique, but at the same time are replicable by his many cowriters.
“I need to feel as involved as I want the reader to feel” – James Patterson
Course Features And Highlights
Besides 22 video lessons from James Patterson (which has a total run time of a little over three hours), Patterson’s MasterClass also features:
A 72-page PDF with worksheets and assignments as well as Patterson’s never before released outline of his novel Honeymoon
Interactive writing assignments where you get to edit passages, write taglines, edit portions of a rough draft of Patterson’s work, and rate other student’s work.
Office Hours where you can upload and send videos to Patterson of yourself asking questions
A Student Forum where you can interact and collaborate with other students
A Co-Author contest where students have the ability to submit a book pitch along with a sample chapter to win a chance to be his next co-author.
Information About Publishing
In addition to talking about the essential building blocks of a good story, Patterson also goes in depth into the practical aspects of what it takes to succeed in the publishing industry: how to build networks and find appropriate agents, how to have great work ethic, how to market, to how to deal with novel adaptations.
A Few Criticisms
Patterson recounts his perseverance after 31 rejections of his first book a little too many times. While this starts off as inspiring, over the subsequent retellings, it becomes tiring.
Patterson devotes an entire lesson to book covers. I wasn’t too interested in his thinking about visual design, though it’s worth noting that part of what he’s talking about has to do with creating great titles, and that is absolutely a skill of his that is worth paying attention to.
“No book has ever been bought that hasn’t been picked up.”- James Patterson
FAQ About James Patterson’s MasterClass
Will This Make Me A Better Screenwriter?
Yes. If you apply the fundamentals learned in this course to your own writing, your ability to create compelling characters and break great stories will improve.
Will James Patterson read my writing?
Though it’s questionable whether James Patterson will personally read your writing, you should definitely submit to the co-author writing contest if you’re interested in working with him!
Am I Being Paid To Recommend This Course?
Yes. If you use this link to purchase the course at no cost to you, I will be paid a small commission.
I paid for this course myself, and while I did have some skepticism going in, after seeing the emphasis on story, characters, and Patterson’s practical sensibility, I was easily convinced of the value (especially compared to what you pay a lot more to get at a local college or university).
I would not have signed up to become an affiliate or written this MasterClass review if I didn’t personally believe in the value of this course.
Is There a Money-Back Guarantee?
Yes. MasterClass provides a 30-day money back guarantee.
James Patterson MasterClass - Verdict
If you are looking to break into mystery, action, suspense, or thriller genres…
If you want to learn more about breaking story…
If you want to create compelling, enduring characters….
If you would consider writing your story as a novel…
I recommend James Patterson Teaches Writing.
The video lectures, assignments, workbooks, writing contest, and the opportunity to upload videos and ask James Patterson questions place it on par if not level with a college writing course and at a much lower price point.
Plus, as always, MasterClass comes with a 30-day money back guarantee, so that you have very little to lose by trying the class.
Also, for those who are interested in writing stories that could work as novels or movies, here is my Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting MasterClass Review.