What I learned from James Patterson


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  1. #1

    What I learned from James Patterson

    My favorite authors that I grew up reading were Dostoevsky, Kafka, Camus. These writers, Tolstoy especially, are known for being masters at exploring themes on very deep levels, deeper than most people are willing to go. They question everything, including the validity of morality, and their books are just as much works of philosophy as fiction.

    A few months back, I decided to expand my horizons a bit, and focus more on genre fiction, designed specifically to entertain. I picked up one of the so called bookshots (which are really just another name for novella) by Patterson. While reading, I could not help but think "Is this guy for real? This us such cliche-filled garbage! Just a bunch of action. Where's the depth?"

    Before I knew it, I had finished the book in just over an hour. That got me thinking. Although I found them lacking in style and depth, they kept me entertained enough to complete reading them! And although I complained about it in my head, curiosity over what would happen next kept me going. As far as I'm concerned, the author succeeded in his misdion to provide me with a moment if fun, just like an episode of CSI.

    So that leads me to my question: what really makes a good writer? Would you say writers like Cussler and Patterson have talent? If not, what makes us read them? Clearly people buy their books.
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  2. #2
    Good is a subjective term that really doesn't apply to fiction writing because there are no objective standards to apply. Some writers technically proficient at constructing sentences and paragraphs -- which used to be more important than it is today, regrettably. But even the most skilled wordsmith isn't 'good' unless his readers enjoy what he writes. For instance, James Joyce is considered by many to be one of the 'great' writers of all time. I can't stand his work. Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray were enormous successes, but the writing in them is objectively terrible. Does that make them 'bad'? Or are they great books because a lot of people liked them? Everyone will have their own answer to that.

    James Patterson, in my opinion, is the absolute paragon of sell-out writers. I very much enjoyed his early work. His first few Alex Cross novels were strong stories and well executed. But, with success, he started to become very formulaic. His already diminutive chapters shrank even more, eventually getting to the point where the word count barely met the standards of a novelette. Then he started to farm out the actual writing to 'co-writers', and the content suffered. But he still has many fans who consider him a 'good' writer. I have no problem with authors writing to entertain more than to be philosophical, or to spread a message. Hell, that's what I write, so, of course, I'm going to think that an author who entertains well is a good writer. Some of my favorite living writers are Michael Connelly, Stephen King, Robert R. McCammon, and Ramsey Campbell. To me story is 80% of a novel, with the other 20% being split between style and execution.
    “Fools” said I, “You do not know
    Silence like a cancer grows
    Hear my words that I might teach you
    Take my arms that I might reach you”
    But my words like silent raindrops fell
    And echoed in the wells of silence : Simon & Garfunkel


    Those who enjoy stirring the chamber-pot should be required to lick the spoon.

    Our job as writers is to make readers dream, to infiltrate their minds with our words and create a new reality; a reality not theirs, and not ours, but a new, unique combination of both.

    Visit Amazon and the Kindle Store to check out Reflections in a Black Mirror, and Chase

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  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Terry D View Post
    Good is a subjective term that really doesn't apply to fiction writing because there are no objective standards to apply. Some writers technically proficient at constructing sentences and paragraphs -- which used to be more important than it is today, regrettably. But even the most skilled wordsmith isn't 'good' unless his readers enjoy what he writes. For instance, James Joyce is considered by many to be one of the 'great' writers of all time. I can't stand his work. Twilight and Fifty Shades of Gray were enormous successes, but the writing in them is objectively terrible. Does that make them 'bad'? Or are they great books because a lot of people liked them? Everyone will have their own answer to that.

    James Patterson, in my opinion, is the absolute paragon of sell-out writers. I very much enjoyed his early work. His first few Alex Cross novels were strong stories and well executed. But, with success, he started to become very formulaic. His already diminutive chapters shrank even more, eventually getting to the point where the word count barely met the standards of a novelette. Then he started to farm out the actual writing to 'co-writers', and the content suffered. But he still has many fans who consider him a 'good' writer. I have no problem with authors writing to entertain more than to be philosophical, or to spread a message. Hell, that's what I write, so, of course, I'm going to think that an author who entertains well is a good writer. Some of my favorite living writers are Michael Connelly, Stephen King, Robert R. McCammon, and Ramsey Campbell. To me story is 80% of a novel, with the other 20% being split between style and execution.
    I agree that it is subjective. I think a lot of what makes a novel good or bad, are what readers bring with them.

    Two of my favorite writers at the moment are Neil Gaiman and Susan Hill. Those fall into the category, in my view, of 80% story and 20% execution. Susan Hill has a certain "flow" to her writing that makes her books real page turners imo.

  4. #4
    It's good to read some current crap.
    Sun Szu said "Know thy enemy"

    While it is good to love classic books, their writing style may not fly anymore. So classics are good for reading, but not so good for getting a bead on modern commercial fiction (unless you wanna be totally derivative.)

    So read new stuff. A professional stays abreast of changes in their industry. Study what sells.

  5. #5
    I read a Patterson book that was disappointing throughout. (A seriously disappointing ending, a supposedly intelligent main character making the same mistake over and over again, a supposedly happy romantic resolution that made me cringe, and a start I would use as an example of how a book shouldn't be started.)

    Anyway, I thought there must be something good about that book, so I listed the things I could think of, including have not one but two gorgeous hooks. When I was done, I found everything on my list was in the blurb.

    So, he writes great blurbs.
    How to write a good start: Hidden Content . Useful, original information. Long and thorough.
    Includes Hidden Content (do you start with description?), Hidden Content (a favorite with publishers apparently), starting with Hidden Content (a lost art), and more.

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