Friday, October 23, 2015

Thus Ends My MasterClass Teachings From James Patterson

I change my weekly update day to TWO possibilities - Monday or Thursday – and I STILL can't manage to post on time?! Geez. I'm really sorry about that. I've just been on the run nearly every day. I really haven't been in my house at all this past week. However, this does bring me to my next point.

I love that my husband bought me a new battery for my laptop! I feel so free without the power cord. Before, if I decided to move, I had to wait at least seven minutes before I could actually do anything. I had to sit though two or three different warning messages about the computer not shutting down properly. Then I had to fix the date and time after it factory reset. It was annoying. It was cumbersome. And it irked me that I had to make sure I was done with everything I had open before I went anywhere.

Now I don't have any of those worries. I can start working on something, decide to move to another room, or keep working on it while at the laundromat, and I don't skip a beat. I close the laptop, move, open the laptop, and keep going. It's fantastic! And I've already expressed my love for being able to work outside again. Heaven.

I'm actually working on this opening portion of the blog in the work break room! I haven't done that in over a year! I love being able to just pack up my laptop, bring it with me to work, and write while on my breaks. I miss being able to do this. I feel bad that the writing notebook I had in my purse has been neglected since July, but who cares when I can go straight onto a computer? I work so much faster this way. I can get more accomplished, and I don't have to worry about wasting time writing everything out and then doing so again when I type it up. Once and done!


It's funny what little bit of your routine can really make or break you. Having that umbilical cord of a charger really broke me. Having to write by hand while on work breaks broke me. Having to stay inside to write on the computer broke me.

I'm so glad to be back!

Alright, enough of that elation. Let's talk actual writing progress.

This past week I finished up the MasterClass lessons. It's kind of like graduating high school or college again. I enjoyed learning something new every week, and now it's over. It was sort of bittersweet. I loved all that I learned, I enjoyed the way that James Patterson presented the lessons, and I was proud of myself for following through. Honestly, I had forgotten the almost obligatory need to finish due to the money spent on the class; I just really wanted to go through it and learn more and more and more. And now it's done. I won't learn anything else from James Patterson, at least, not this way.

I have some solace in three facts:
  1. I can go through all of my works-in-progress and apply what I learned in order to at least complete one manuscript, if not actually use it to springboard myself into a writing career.
  2. I can teach my fellow aspiring writers what I learned; deepening my knowledge while paying it forward. Patterson taught me, and I shall teach others. Not just you fine folks here – some of you, I'm sure, aren't planning on becoming authors – but my writing friends over at the Writers’ Huddle or Struggling Writers Society. Maybe even other writers I meet along the rest of my journey.
  3. I still have others to learn from. There was a free webinar series that I had signed up for, but the live video conferences always took place while I was out somewhere – work, a wedding, visiting a friend or family, etc – and with the Patterson MasterClasses, I didn't bother going through the recordings of the video conferences. I also have webinars that Ali Luke has up on Writer's Huddle. Still have much to learn.
I have already attempted to utilize at least one piece of knowledge learned from MasterClass. On Saturday I contacted Ronoxym about Please, Let Me Explain. We talked it over a little bit, why we're struggling, and how to move forward. I decided to give Patterson's preaching about outlines a shot. I told Ron that I was willing to go through the 27pg story so far, and break it down into an outline for him to read through faster. Get the basic feel of the story back into his head. It might also help me better see where we repeat ourselves, as well as sections that don't seem to fit.

In fact, I already found at least two short sections we can probably cut, as well as one more place that we may be repeating earlier thoughts. It's fantastic to see the story from a little further back in order to better pick out what needs to be reworked. I attempted this before when I was editing PLME back in March, which is how I picked up that the third-quarter of our story seemed to completely ignore the first half.

Well, the beast of a project as our story is, it kept me until Wednesday morning to finally finish up making an outline of everything. Ron and I were chatting all Sunday night while Hubby was at work. Stayed up until 7am. I was slowly chipping away at the outline the whole time. I think we have a bit of a spark back, and I think we might be able to go in a good direction with this story now.

I want to go back through the outline and make ANOTHER one that's not as sentence-specific. More of a “broad strokes” kind of outline. Especially since the heavily detailed one I just finished is still about 8pgs long; and still seems a bit overwhelming to Ron. It should be faster work to go though an 8pg outline and write out broader strokes about each scene. This would make everything less overwhelming, I think, plus it would be a great way to really get at the feelings and message getting across in each section. With both outlines, I can make sure there's a common thread throughout the whole thing. Make sure we figure out the core of what we're trying to say in the story, and that everything sticks with it. As Patterson taught in the editing lesson, you have to make sure that everything moves the story and/or characters forward.

Considering how long the current part we're bogged down in is, I'm assuming I lost the story among all the arguing between Devon and Willow. Both of them go from aggressive to being on the defense to depressed. A wide array of feelings, but do they all deserve to stay in the story? I have to be able to cut my beautiful scenes if they don't work. The best way to make sure something does or doesn't work? The outline will point those parts out.

As I already said, after the first outline I found at least two scenes that might have to go on the chopping block.

I'm just really, REALLY hoping that this tactic will help Ron and I get and stay focused so we can get this story done. I want to complete a story so badly. I haven't done so in years.

Besides, it sounds like he already has one or two new X-Future/Devon-themed stories in mind, and it would be nice to clear this one off his plate before he tries tackling those other ones. Plus, he has a modern-fantasy/mystery story he's been brewing for a while. It might be nice for him to clear his head of the Devon/Willow tale so he might be able to tackle his original story during NaNo.

Oh, and while on that note, I'm opting out of NaNo again this year. November is just such bad timing. I'm most likely going to use that time to work more on building the story concept thought up for the MasterClass, or to continue X-Future: The Second Generation Begins. Ya know, whenever I take a break from cleaning and crocheting Christmas gifts.

Perhaps by the end of November, though, one of my writer friends will have completed something that I can send your way. Or, better yet, maybe I'll have a new TSGB chapter or the start of my Percy Jackson fanfiction.

In the meantime, I'll keep chipping away at the MasterClass assignments I haven't finished yet.

To start, I decided to stick with Devon when I worked on the one-paragraph suspenseful scene description. Back in like May, I was supposed to write the scene where Devon and Nys meet up with Trish, and Devon had his epic battle with her.


For the suspense scene I decided to go ahead and write one of the opening paragraphs of the fight. I had to work my way up to it. I started with mostly dialogue, but after about a page I made it to a full paragraph.

Here's my attempt at suspense:
“Don’t worry, Nys, I’ll get you and your folks out safe.” He started scanning the room for escape routes, and a way to get Nyssa’s parents away from that gasoline. Something about the room was off, though. It wasn’t just because the place was bare. There were stains all over the otherwise pristinely polished hardwood flooring. They were mostly along the edge of the room, but the stains zig-zagged along the floor and pooled around the Breafords. Devon took a deep breath. Just as he suspected. The smell of gasoline was too great for it to just be wafting from that barrel. It was splashed all over the room. One false move; one spark, and the entire place will go up like a Michael Bay set. He couldn’t use his pyrokinetics against Trish in order to take her out, but what was stopping her from using hers against him?
I realize now that Devon probably wouldn't need the added incentive to not use his fire manipulation; it probably didn't even occur to him to use it against Trish in the first place. It would have been useless since she's fireproof.

I'll have to rethink the closing line of that paragraph. Hey! Maybe that's what I'll do next month; I'll finish writing this scene finally.

Getting back to the MasterClass assignments, I haven't attempted the co-author one where I have to write a scene about a woman seconds away from burning alive in her bayside cottage. It does seem like a fun one, though, the next time I have two seconds I may have to try that bit. Hopefully, I'll have it set for next week's post.

The first lesson from this week's worth of classes is how to market yourself similar to James Patterson. He starts right off the bat by letting people know that to sell yourself as an author, you need to brand yourself. So you really need to figure out what you want to be known for. Patterson gives an example on how a story he wrote was originally rejected because it wasn't a thriller, and the publisher and public thought that was his brand. He was the “suspense novelist.” He fought that misconception, and now his brand is the way he want it. An author so skilled at captivating his readers that “the pages turn themselves” - as a review once stated. It doesn't matter the genre, if you pick up a Patterson novel, you'll know you won't put it down again until the story is done. THAT'S the brand he wanted.

Other authors have the same sort of branding. Rick Riordan writes Middle-Grade stories about young teens discovering ancient mythology is real and in the modern world. J. K. Rowling's brand is simply Harry Potter. Even with the saga done, lord bless that woman if she tries to write something that isn't connected to the Harry Potter universe. Steven King – while capable of writing non-horrors; like Patterson – is usually branded as a Suspense writer.

Branch out to directors, and you have Michael Bay who will almost guarantee explosions galore. Even though a growing majority of his movies don't include one, M. Night Shyamalan is still thought of as "The Plot-twist Guy." So much so, that there's a joke about the movie “The Happening” where the plot-twist was that there was no plot-twist.

So, what will your brand be? What will mine be? I'm still nervous that my “brand” is “Fanfiction Author” but I guess I'll take it for now.

Now that you have a brand for yourself, what else will move your books off the shelf? You need to market them too, obviously. So, the assignment for this lesson – and the last one of the MasterClass series - is to come up with three taglines. Given the fact that I'm still not entirely sure about a title or the characters, I should probably work on those first. However, I'll see if I can get some taglines done for next week too.

Once you have a brand for yourself, and a marketable tagline for your book, what's next? Well, to push your publisher to get some great reviews to help promote the book. Have your publisher convince newspapers, magazines, and websites to plug the story. Patterson warns that the publisher may try to half-ass this part of his or her job, and so it's your job to remind them why they were so excited to buy the book in the first place. Remind them of the money they thought it would make, or how great they felt after reading it.

You have another large job, too. You need to hop on social media and promote the junk out of the book. Go on Facebook, and Twitter, and Tumblr, and Instagram, and your blog, etc. Sure, you don't need to be on ALL of those different groups, but the more the better in order to hit a wider audience. It's all personal preference, though.

This is even more crucial if you decide to self-publish, because you don't have your publisher doing a large portion of the work. Ali suggests adding a virtual “book tour” to your social media promotions. This means tracking down blogs that you can write guest posts for, and tag on a mini promo for your book at the bottom of it in the “Author Bio” section. People who faithfully hit up blogs, but may not know about you, can find you this way. I know it's how I found Ali in the first place.

Alright, so, you promoted your book, it sells well, and it catches the eye of Hollywood! What now?

I had a few chuckles as I watched this lesson. First, I laughed at the page of the workbook for this lesson. Normally, it gives a quote from Patterson, has an assignment, and has a “take it further” section that lists ways to learn more about the subject.

The lesson on Hollywood, on the other hand, simply says this:
“Take the money. And run. And pray... That's the best advice I can give you." - James Patterson
Sit back and enjoy as James shares entertaining stories from his adventures in Hollywood.
The other thing that made me chuckle were all of the great quotes I was getting off of Patterson in regards to working in Hollywood. Something, by the way, he highly recommends against.

In fact, just about every author does. I honestly don't know how the past decade or so seems to be flooded with book adaptations – so much so that there's an Oscar category specifically for “Screenplay Adaptation” - when nearly every author can't stand the idea of their books as movies.

Sure, it may be a great dream of a lot of authors going into it. The thought of your characters given life on the Silver Screen. Maybe not enough authors are hearing their colleagues' lamenting their involvement with Hollywood. Still, aside from a small few that are powerful enough to be a valued consultant on the movie, or – better yet – are gifted enough to adapt their own story into a script that is barely tampered with, just about all authors seem to greatly regret selling their story to movie producers.

Patterson even warns that just because Hollywood buys the rights to make your book into a movie – this is called “Optioning the Book” - it doesn't mean it actually WILL become a movie. They just figure it's popular enough that they MIGHT want to make a movie, and if they decide not to, at least their competitors can't make the movie either. So, even if your book is Optioned, there's no guarantee a movie will come out of it. Ask enough authors and they'll probably tell you that it's probably for the best.

Because, seriously, unless you can find a production house that REALLY wants your book bad enough that you have all the cards during the negotiation, or the movie is being made by true fans, it probably won't be close to an accurate portrayal of the story you wrote.

I'd give a list of examples, but you probably know enough already. And it might be a shorter list to name off the ones that WERE book-accurate.

Patterson gives two amusing examples of his realization that the movies will never be book-accurate.
 Patterson: This is the honest to god truth, the only thing in the screenplay that was in the novel was Alex Cross's name. They had changed literally everything in the book. Every single thing.

The other example comes after he watched an early screening of the one Alex Cross movie while attending a Press Junket. There was a woman who ONLY appeared in the second scene of the movie, was never mentioned throughout the rest of the film, and the context of the scene wasn't enough for Patterson to figure out who she was supposed to be. So, he asks Morgan Freeman, who played Alex Cross. Freeman responds that the woman was Alex Cross's sister. To which Patterson replied, “Oh, I didn't know Alex had a sister.”

Patterson also had an amusing observation as to WHY books don't seem to translate into movies all that well. It came to him when he was invited to join the crew on a shoot for “Along Came a Spider.”
 Patterson: That's where I realized... that the novelist ranks somewhere lower than the caterer on the shoot. They know why the caterer is there, but they have no idea why the novelist is there.


It may have been because he's had time to get over it, but Patterson DOES seem to take the film adaptations of his books a bit better than Rick Riordan. Then again, I never attempted to ask Patterson about “Along Came a Spider” on Twitter to see if I'd be blocked by him too...

It might also be because of Patterson's last bit of advice he gave us for the MasterClass series:
 Patterson: The other advice I can give to you – and this is the best advice.... Start laughing, dudes. And dudettes. Laugh. You just gotta laugh at this stuff. It's very funny if you can have a sense of humor about your own work. And you better if you're gonna sell it [to Hollywood].

Fairly sound advice. Personally, I am still hoping to be one of those authors that can pen the adaptation screenplay to my own stories, and stay involved enough that the scripts won't change too much. I think I have a good understanding on how the two mediums work, and how much a book NEEDS to change for it to portray properly in a visual media; remaining entertaining the whole time. We'll see when the time comes....

The last two lessons of the MasterClass consisted of Patterson talking about his young life and his journey to become an author, and then a simple concluding video to congratulate us for completing the class, and encouraging us to keep at it.

I have a few more amusing quotes from each of those classes, but I'll save those. I might do a blog update with just entertaining Patterson quotes from MasterClass.

Okay, well, I'm going to be honest here. I started writing this blog Wednesday morning. I worked on it off-and-on over the past three days. It is currently creeping towards 10pm, and I have worked on this post in the work break room, the laundromat, our neighbor's house, my bedroom, and my living room. I am exhausted, and I HOPE I ran out of things to say for this week.

I know as soon as I hit “publish” I'm going to think of other things I wanted to talk about, but for now, I think I'm done. So, I'm going to go pass out now, and possibly get started on either the PLME broad outline or my Co-Author assignment tomorrow.

I'll catch you guys next week, preferably noon on Thursday, as planned; although I AM working Thursday again, of course....

1 comment:

  1. I am so glad you enjoyed the classes. Your writing had always excited me because it reminded me of your dad. You have his talent and then boosted it up. You are a writer and will be an author! I believe in you.
    You are also a teacher. I enjoyed reading what you have learned and how you are going to share that knowledge.
    Thank Ben for me because I can hear the wheels of your writing moving again. Though I prefer paper and pen a battery to you is the paper. HAPPY WRITING!