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Arts & Entertainment

Life as a Writer

David Baldacci

Lesson time 16:24 min

David opens up about his journey as a writer, talking about passion, rejection, and how to stay authentic.

David Baldacci
Teaches Mystery and Thriller Writing
In his MasterClass, bestselling thriller author David Baldacci teaches you how he fuses mystery and suspense to create pulse-pounding action.
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[MUSIC PLAYING] - I had something that happened to me that I think really motivated me to actually go out and write my very first novel, which turned out to be "Absolute Power." I was a lawyer. I had to fly up to Islip, New York. We had a client who was buying some banks. So I was there with a team of young lawyers, and we were reviewing bank ground leases. If you have trouble sleeping, do that and you will, like, pass out in 10 seconds. It's the most boring work on Earth. And I had written a script back then-- early '90s. It was like "Die Hard" in the White House. This was long before the other films that came out a few years ago-- "Olympus Falls" and all that stuff. And this was, like, a super hot script. My agent in LA said, Universal, and Warner Brothers, and Paramount, and 20th Century Fox, they're all over this stuff. The coverage is great. There's going to be a big bidding war. And this is going to really start your career as a screenwriter. So I'm up in New York, looking at these ground leases, thinking, please, God, let that happen. And around midnight-- midnight that night, when I was back at my hotel-- it was 9:00 on the west coast and I got a call from my agent that said, you know, Warner Brothers passed on it. And so the-- the sort of the cow mentality out there-- all the other studios said, well, there must be something wrong with the script if Warner's passed on it, so everybody passed on it. I'm really sorry. And I remember that night at midnight looking out the window of my hotel in Islip, New York, thinking, maybe this is not going to happen for me. You know, I've been working all these years writing. Maybe I'm never going to get the break. I'm never going to be in the right place at the right time. And so maybe it's just not going to happen for me. And I could have stopped at that point and just gone on and had a really nice career as a lawyer, had a nice family, you know, been a grandfather, and that would have been my life. But I made a decision shortly thereafter that, like, you know what? I love writing so much that I'm just going to-- one, I can't lose it out of my life. It would, like, rip a part of my vital being away. And two, I'm just going to prove these people wrong. I'm really going to be able to do this. I'm going to build a career. And that's when I started writing "Absolute Power." It took me three years to write that novel. I was working full-time. And every night, I'd run downstairs to my cubby and I wrote that novel. And at the end of three years, I sent it out. And that really changed my whole life. I could've made a decision after that fiasco with the script to say, goodbye. I'm done. I'm not going to do this anymore. But I kept going because I couldn't not write. It was such a huge part of my life. And that's why I really think that people who are meant to be writers will actually be accomplished writers because they can't stop. If one rejection knocks you out, then I don't think you...

Captivate your readers

David Baldacci has captivated readers across the world with gripping, suspense-fueled thrillers. Now the New York Times–bestselling author of 38 novels shares his techniques for crafting authentic characters, developing research-based plots, and navigating the world of publishing. Learn how to write a novel with red herrings, clues, and plot twists that will keep your readers turning the pages.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Great class! Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge an experience.

David Baldacci provides many valuable lessons on writing, and not just the technical aspects of writing a thriller. I really appreciate his encouragement, too!

I am a huge David Baldacci fan and appreciate the time he took to give instruction and ideas to those of us looking for it. After every segment I wanted to stop the video and start working on my book, but I stayed with my timeline of finishing the course. I am more inspired and encouraged after having taken this class. Thank you!

So inspiring. I learned about balancing the writing with creating, research and living.


Dale U.

Love this lesson. It shows that the writers life goes far beyond the simple act of putting pen to paper.

Kate C.

I have loved this course. So much practical advice, and this lesson was especially inspiring. I can't wait to read "Wish You Well." I love family drama; it's what I write, so I'm excited to see what Mr. Baldacci does with my own genre.


"if you think you know what you're doing as a writer, then you've sort of lost that edge, where you're kind of hurtling along and you're not sure if the ground is going to open up and swallow you whole...cockiness is not good for a writer. It's that wariness and that nervousness and that uncertainty, do I really know what I'm doing? That gives you the edge because you just try harder." Boy, do I have an edge! LOL

Hagop K.

i love this! i’m absolutely passionate about making my feature animated film. But after I wrote the script, no one took me seriously. So I decided to take control into my hands and turned the script into a novel. Now I’m about to publish the book and it feels great!

Lisa B.

I would recommend this class to new aspiring writers. His explanations on his writing career, the focal points of writing and advice on which direction to take for starting a career has made the writing path a little less intimidating. I'm going to take this again to capture any other points of interest that I may have missed.

laura J.

I think I am going to listen to this series again and spend time in the community, its very interesting and the questions promote more thoughts about writing. As David Baldacci talks about his book Absolute Power, I want to read it again, see it again.

A fellow student

Do you keep spreadsheets to assemble the details around characters, settings, plot points?

Emily F.

Thank you David, a truly inspiring course!I am not writing in the thriller genre but this was so helpful and inspiring nonetheless. Both very practical and emotionally on pitch. Thanks!!

Sandra M.

Historic course, David, mind opening and very inspiring. One question: What is the fascination of the genre "thriller" for you? You said it`s challenging the wit of the reader. On the other hand, you have to dive into the characters and make them a part of your life. What is it that keeps you going in this genre? And, with so much insight in psychology, has this genre changed your points of view over the course of the career?


I didn't care too much for DB's classes right off the bat, but I'm loving the content and delivery. Like a few other students, I haven't read his books but I intend to remedy that asap!