WEDNESDAY WRITING TIP: On Not Being James Patterson

Posted: March 17, 2010 in Uncategorized, Wednesday's Writing Tip
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James Patterson sells a few more books than me.

It makes the way we write a little different.

He has someone who actually does the writing for him after he comes up with an idea. I have one of those pesky 40 hour a week day jobs. I teach college two nights a week, write freelance articles for money and I travel a lot judging boxing as a job too.

James probably heads to a home office after awaking and having a breakfast.

James's Headshot

I write fiction before the day job and in between freelance assignments. The first alarm rings at 4:30 am.

James flies around the country in first class on junkets set up and paid for by his publisher.

I drive my 2001 Lincoln Town Car to basset hound events to sell my books and give the money to the rescue organizations. Driving 9.5 hours in a Lincoln with my wife and three hounds crammed in is different than first class.

James goes to dinner with Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd and the others who star in movies made from his books. I eat dinner standing  at the breakfast bar with three hounds snapping at my plate.

You can buy James Patterson books at drug stores, gas stations and airports. Sometimes it’s a little tough finding my books on shelves.

James’s advances are often in the double digit millions. That’s more than TWICE what I get!

My Headshot

Patterson’s books are in every language on earth. Mine are in English, French and, pretty soon, German. I’m looking for someone to get my books into Japanese, Arabic and maybe Canadian.

It’s 7:04, which is late. I over slept this morning because of a bad headache and got up at 6:14. I have to decide if the dogs need a walk, then feed them and get to the office. I’ll have to skip my fiction writing today nad haven’t planned tonight’s lecture.

Riley the basset bloodhound just jumped on me and the three of them are starting to bark and chew things.

I better not skip the walk.

Riley and Roxie are playing tug-a-war with my wife’s leopard Snuggie.

I wonder if James is up,

  1. Jen Forbus says:

    Awww, the world doesn’t need another James Patterson. We’re happy we have you.

  2. Mark Terry says:

    Yeah, but I like you better. (gee, only twice as much?)

  3. marycunningham says:

    Just got back from the 2nd of many school visits and booksignings I’ve planned (myself) for this spring. I sold 15 books, which will just about pay for the time I spent doing 4 slide presentations. It was a good day, though. The students and teachers were enthusiastic and actually had blueberry bread, coffee and fresh fruit set up for my arrival! Most times I just bring my own coffee and snacks. Think James ever has to brown bag it?

    Anyhoo, your writing is far superior, plus, you have those adorable hounds and he doesn’t. So there!


  4. Once took issue with Stephen King when Writers Digest pubbed an article he wrote which was full of venom and its main push was “There’s only one good reason to write — for money.” I took issue as a professor of English and Education and I teach creative writing and functional writing, and there are as many reasons to write as there are people who write, like the elderly gent who thanked me for the class on its ending because as he put it, “Your class kept me writing and it was the only time I could get my mind off my wife’s cancer.”

    The reason I bring King up and this article that is maybe 30 years ago now, was the reaction I got when I responded to it. Writers Digest refused my letter to the editor, saying it was too long to print (bullshit); when I sent it to the Horror Writers of America newsletter they printed it – horrah! But the only response to my letter were letters from idiots who just chalked my thoughtful reply up to being jealous of King’s success (bullshit). I got that slap down on and off thereafter if I said word one about The King. Now here is Patterson who we are exchaning jabs about at MurderMustAdvertise and I have done s at other chat groups and guess what, Tom — I am just jealous of Patterson’s success. When I first picked up a Patterson novel and read a few pages, I knew that he was not the writer that King is; King is by all measure an excellent storyteller with excellent abilities. I can accept King’s success without the least argument; he is a master craftsman and many other young writers can learn a great deal from studying his hand, but I cannot say that about Patterson even when he did write his own books. The only thing one might copy and copy at his or her peril about Patterson is the tiny chapter…the chapter that as editors say and now often ask for –the chapter that can be read during an elevator ride or at a red light– which I find silly. A play has three acts with scenes within each act. Imagine a play wherein every scene and act is a paragraph long. You would have a two page, three page Play.

    At any rate I am sure now that I sounded off on MMA that once again I am labeled a green man but then it is St. Pat’s Day now isn’t it? Have a great St. Paddy’s.
    Paddy Wagon – derrogatory caliing a police wagon a Paddy wagon for all the drunken Paddys. Point of fact not crap. Finally, yes Tom both your writing and mine way far outshine Patterson’s – that is the books he pens?


  5. As somebody who used to work with James Patterson back in the days when he wrote hamburger commercials for Burger King, take heart. He did the same thing you are doing. He came into the office at 5 a.m. before the cleaning crews were there, locked his door, and wrote his novels for 3-4 hours before launching into his day job as Creative Director of J. Walter Thompson, NY – one of those 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. type jobs. He probably went back to work writing on his books after talking to his last client late at night. The thing to remember about Patterson’s career, he started the same way many of us have. His early books (the first one won an Edgar) did not sell in the bajiliions. It wasn’t until Alex Cross came out in his third, maybe fourth book, that he started breaking through and was able to quit his day job.

  6. tjs9261 says:

    Hey Chris!

    Thanks for writing in and excellent points! My piece wasn’t meant to disparage JP but rather to illustrate how the world of publishing differs at different levels.

  7. D. B. Dean says:

    Funny thing success – I just want to finish a book and see it published.

    You are my James Patterson…

    J.K. Rowlings is said to have written her book while her kids were napping – at least thats what a friend keeps telling me. Which means I should have written my books while I was off of work on maternity leave. Now they are to old to nap and I am stuck in this box…errr cubicle.

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