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Arts & Entertainment

Writing Process

David Baldacci

Lesson time 11:30 min

David began writing when he was a full-time lawyer. He encourages you to be creative about making time to write and finding a writing process that works for you.

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] - Pretty much every writer I've ever known when they-- starting out had another job, you know. And that certainly was my case. I was a trial lawyer for about a decade in Washington DC. And that was the time period where I was really focusing on all my novel writing career. I'd done screenplays, didn't have really any success. I thought, you know what? I want to attempt a novel. So here's how I broke it down. I had a family back then. I was married. I had one child at that time. And I worked. Regardless of whether you like lawyers or not, they work really long hours. Because that's how you make your money. You work hours, and you get paid by the hour. So for me, I had to find a time where it would work for me and my family and my professional career to be able to write. And I chose very late at night. Because I usually got up in the morning-- Washington DC traffic is terrible, so I had to leave early. I didn't have time to write in the morning. So I would come home. I would spend time with my family. They would go off to bed. And around 10:00, I would go downstairs in my little cubby. And I would write from like 10:00 until 2:00 in the morning every day, seven days a week. And I did that for years. And that may sound a little draconian. But trust me. If you really enjoy the craft of writing and you're really into your stories-- I remember like running down the stairs to my cubbyhole at 10:00 PM because that was my time. That's when I got to write what I wanted to write. During the day when I was working-- at my lunch hour, you know, if I had 30 minutes where I could eat a sandwich at my desk, I would pull out my notepad. And I'd start writing down some story ideas and notes that I wanted to work on that night. Or computer-- I'd pop on my computer and maybe bang out a page during lunch. During the course of the day, you can find a minute here or minute there. You can go out and take a walk, just a few minutes where you can build up stuff in your head so that when you go down-- if you're going to write at night or early in the morning-- you can hit the ground running. And you know where you want to go that night. I approached it brick by brick, much like I did my legal cases. I worked I did trial work. I did business deals. They're both involving little details. And so with my books, I would go down. And I would look a little bit each day. Here's my little goal. Here's what I want to accomplish. And I do. And I set it aside, and I think about it the next day. And I come back the next night, and I put another brick in the wall. [MUSIC PLAYING] A lot of times when people come up to me at parties or book events and stuff, they know I'm a writer. And they come up, you know, I think I could write a book if I could just find the time. And I'm always very encouraging to those people. I say, you know what? I think you can do. Everybody has a story in them. You know, try to find the time. Bu...

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.

The first review you asked me for should have made clear that it was barely midway through the class! I judged what I had viewed and thought, since it was my very first class, that it was the end. Now having seen the entire course, I am very impressed. You don't do justice to the subject when you ask for feedback without saying that the course is far from over.

A lot of good information, even though I'm not a thriller writer, well presented.

Excellent! "Follow your words and follow you heart and good things will happen!"

He's very clinical when he talks, but all the information he had was good. Especially about publishers and relationships with them which I had never thought of before.


Liz C.

"Writing myself into a corner." I once wrote myself into a corner. The protagonist was literally stuck in a corner, and I had writer's block of how to get her out of her mess.

Dale U.

Finding the time to write has always been a stumbling block for me. No more after viewing this lesson. Plus I always knew that I had a wandering mind but never realized how beneficial it was. This information is priceless.


What you said about being immersed couldn't be more true. Lately, I've struggled a lot with letting myself grow immersed because I've been so distracted with all the things going on around me, but this has reminded me that I need to focus on one target and give my energy towards hitting it before I look to the next one.


Yeah, process. Incredibly important, whatever yours happens to be. I put all my writing projects in the free version of Clockify, an online time-tracker. Toggl is another one that works for this. Then I dedicate two hours a day to each ghostwriting project (as long as I'm at a point in my research and interviews where I can write that much) and one hour a day to each of my own manuscripts. If I get up to jump on the bike for half a mile, I stop the timer. If I make a cup of coffee, I stop the timer. The timer only runs when I'm working. The first day I started timing myself (several years ago), I worked all day and only had one billable hour - that's how easy it is to waste time on eating, emails, phone calls, and surfing the internet. Timing myself keeps me honest. If I'm on a roll with a book, I write past the requisite hour, and I always note in my calendar (the color-coded block of time I've scheduled for writing that particular book) where I left off so I know where to pick back up the next day. It's nice to get away from a manuscript sometimes and get the mental distance necessary to see it more clearly, but I save that for later, during editing. While I'm doing the first draft, staying away for more then a day just makes it too hard to get back into it. Plus, I miss it! Excellent lesson here... I totally get the compulsion piece.

Heather K.

Very enjoyable lesson. I write almost every day, but never for four hours. I wonder if I'm not committed enough.


He's "astonishingly clean." Bwah ha ha ha! That cracked me up. This was indeed a great lesson. A good reminder that you don't always need large blocks of time to write. Just do SOMETHING toward your goal.

Carlene G.

I can appreciate the feeling of being compelled to write every day. I write every opportunity I can. Listening to your lesson makes me think maybe I am a writer too!

laura J.

I just posted on twitter recommending this class and others, time to share what is great about learning and living; several times a week I will come here and change the future, let you know if I make it and get published.


Anyone else feel completely called out when he asked "how much tv do you watch? how much time do you spend looking at pictures?" I have no defense :P

A fellow student

Great lesson. Really enjoyed the advice about re-reading work instead of returning back to the manuscript in a cold-turkey state of mind.