Each year I take a few writing classes online because I think writers should always be learning new techniques. I’m a commercial fiction writer and I enjoy using different styles of writing. This year I came across a Master Class offering with James Patterson. The price was right ($90 USD), and it sounded like fun.
Well, it was fun, and I actually learned a few things that I could start using right away. What you should know about me is that I was a Pantser until this class. (A Pantser is someone who writes by the seat of their pants, usually without a hint of an outline). I’ve changed my thoughts on outlining as a result. Not only is online super helpful when you start writing, but it can also help you figure out whether your book idea is really worth pursuing. If you can’t get past chapter 10 in the outline, should you really pursue writing it at all? If you’re not in love with the story and the characters, it is time to pull the plug before you invest a month writing and stumbling through it.
While this may not be earth-shattering information, it was enough to re-invigorate me and get me excited about writing again. In less than three weeks I’ve managed to outline a 70-chapter book and begin outlining a second. I’ve written several chapters in both books and am really enjoying the process. I get up in the morning excited about writing, and I have a little trouble falling asleep because murder mystery ideas keep bombarding my brain. (I’m not complaining!)
Back to James Patterson – this class is comprised of 22 video lessons, as well as a PDF class outline with writing assignments. If you’ve ever taken an online college class, this is just like one, complete with an online forum for each individual lesson. James Patterson is easy to listen to and he appears to speak to you personally in each video. His stories are informative, and he shares his successes and failures.
Recently Mr. Patterson ran a writing contest- enter to win a chance to co-author a book with him (the entry period is now over). Entrants had to write a 2 sentence hook, a synopsis, and the first chapter of a mystery written in Mr. Patterson’s style. As of this writing the judges at large are whittling down the entrants to 10 semi-finalists. I’m hoping to be included in this group as I too entered this contest.
Contest entry aside, I gained a lot of knowledge and tricks to propel my next novel forward. One tip I’ve taken to heart is simple – write quick, snappy chapters that always propel the story forward. If you get stuck or blocked, jump ahead to the following chapter and write ‘TBD’ for the chapter you got stuck on. Give yourself permission to jump ahead if you know where the story is going (if you wrote an outline, this is a no-brainer). Again, this may sound simple, but how many of you have gotten stuck and never moved past that point? How many unfinished manuscripts are laying in your home office abandoned at chapter 4? Personally, I have a virtual graveyard of unfinished manuscripts on my shelf.
I have no problem recommending this class to fellow mystery writers, especially if you are someone who is always getting stuck several chapters in, or can’t figure out how to finish the novel. You will gain knowledge about writing mysteries, the publishing industry, and about Hollywood in general, should your novel be published and turned into a movie. Some of the lessons include: raw ideas, plot, working with a co-author, creating characters (think ‘worthy’ villains and heroes), outlining, writing dialogue, writing suspense, and much more.
If you are interested in taking this Master Class, visit MasterClass.com. There you will find this writing class as well as other classes (such as acting and voice) taught by successful professionals in their field.