Writing, Arts & Entertainment


James Patterson

Lesson time 09:03 min

James is liberal with a red pen; his editing is key to keeping the reader engaged. Learn how to trim the fat with our interactive editing assignment.

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Topics include: Move the story forward • Remove the distractions • Edit the dialogue • Keep the pages turning • Stay positive during the edit


For me and for a lot of writers, and I think for most of you, editing, polishing-- and I'm talking about what you're doing yourself, not when the book gets to a publishing house. It's the whole ball of wax. It's not writing. It's rewriting, and it's rewriting, and it's rewriting. I like to do many drafts. I've done as many as nine or ten drafts. But I do the drafts very quickly. I don't get constipated. I Don't get worried. I just keep going. I just-- let's do it again, let's do it again, let's do it again. And this has been true whether I'm writing a 400-page book or when I was in advertising, doing a 30-second television spot. Write it again, write it again, write it again. Look at it sideways. Look at it upside down. Turn it around. There's nothing wrong. You should be considering every possibility. The rewriting-- there's so many different pieces of it. There is the getting a story even better, getting those chapters closer to where you want them to be. You might do that a couple times-- might be two months, a month and a month, where you just work on the chapters. Or it may be a two or three-month thing where you just work on just getting that scene right. And the first rewrite, I might just be trying to get those chapters, that story, to be more coherent, clearer, just trying to make sure I really got the heart of it correctly. And that's very important. That's the most important thing. Once again, it's always that same thing of moving the story and characterization forward. And if you keep simple things like that in your head, and I repeat them, but you should repeat them for the rest of your writing life, because that's all it is. And it's unbelievable how quickly you forget that, because there you are in your writing, and it's not happening. And you're not realizing that to it's the rewriting and rewriting and the rewriting, and remembering those things about what am I trying to do? Trying to hold the reader. And that's it. I mean, you may get so good that that's just an automatic, but I don't know if that happens with many writers. And that's why you'll find certain writers where every other book seems to be a dud. It seems like they kind of forget it for a whole book. And that happens. I mean, I don't know if I forgotten it for a whole book, but I've certainly forgotten it for sections. But then I'll read it, and go, like, man this sucks. This is just not happening. OK, what did I do wrong here? And invariably the big thing I did wrong was I'm not moving the thing forward. It's sitting there for 40 pages, just sitting there. That does not work-- doesn't work for the reader. What happened? It sat there, sat there for 50 pages. No, story can't sit there. [MUSIC PLAYING] Consider not polishing the book until you've written it, at least one draft. Because if ...

About the Instructor

James Patterson, the author of 19 consecutive No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, reveals his tricks of the trade. In his first online writing class, he guides you from the start to the finish of your book.

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James Patterson

James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.

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