James Patterson: ‘I’m an okay writer, but a very good storyteller’

Mega-selling author James Patterson is sharing his writing advice.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

“I think I’m an okay writer, but a very good storyteller,” James Patterson tells Fast Company’s Co.Create.

Patterson sat down with the magazine to tell them how he writes. He’s the world’s bestselling writer; one out of every 17 hardcover books sold each year has his name on the cover.

If you follow his instructions, you will probably write very fast-paced books -- but mega-sales are not guaranteed.

Patterson outlines, he improvises, and he doesn’t give a fig about realism. Most important, he keeps things moving. He wants his thrillers to be thrilling.


“I try to pretend that there’s somebody across from me and I’m telling them a story and I don’t want them to get up until I’m finished,” he explains. And he imagines who that is -- who his ideal reader is, and intuits what it will take to keep him on the edge of his seat.

He also has something in common with the late Elmore Leonard. “I try to leave out the parts people skip,” Patterson says. That’s Leonard’s 10th rule of writing, “Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.”

These days, Patterson also employs co-writers to keep up his relentless publication pace. His latest book is “NYPD Red 2” by Patterson and Marshall Karp.


Quiz: Who wrote that first?

California Bookstore Day is coming may 3

Two newly discovered Octavia Butler stories to be published as an e-book