Wanna Write with James Patterson?

So last night’s room at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park was jammed with members of the New York chapter of Mystery Writers of America–all salivating to hear from best-selling author James Patterson. (And yes that is me standing next to him. Note he has his fingers around my neck–we were discussing the psychology of golf. Photo courtesy of Ang Pompano, introduction courtesy of Chris Grabenstein!)

Patterson talked about his long career, noting that one gift he possesses is the power of imagination. (Something Hollywood and the publishing industry could use, he added.) “Whatever you may think of my books,” he said, “I’m very involved with all of them and doing the best I can.”

In advertising, the movies, and television, work is done with teams of writers. Why shouldn’t this be true with novels too, he wondered. He knows his strengths lie in generating ideas and spinning stories. He’s okay at writing but doesn’t love to do it. So if he has a cowriter who is a good stylist, they end up with a good story and good style.

So how does the co-writing work? He generates the basic idea and a detailed chapter by chapter outline. Then he asks his co-writer to contribute to the outline and begin writing. He looks at the progress of each book about every two weeks and they discuss anything that he thinks is going off track. Why wait until the end of the draft (as most often happens with traditional publishing) to address problems? The co-writer gets a big check and Patterson himself writes any subsequent drafts.

So where do you sign up? That’s the bad news–right now there are no openings. Hmmm, wonder if I could work my way into his golf foursome?

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