James Patterson

Lesson time 9:31 min

What happens when Hollywood takes an interest in your story? Sit back and listen as James shares the best and worst moments from his time on the set.

James Patterson
Teaches Writing
James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.
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Before I answer this I got to take a shot. Hollywood. So what do you do? You're home, you're poor, knock, knock, knock, it's Hollywood or jingle jangle jingle. And I got to tell you, if they want your book, you can't believe how nice they're going to be. You have written the best book we've ever-- this is so good. We're going to make the best move. We're going to start shooting next week. Blah, blah, blah, blah. It's all lies. For years I don't know where this-- I thought it was my line, but the line I'd use for my Hollywood novel-- the first line is hello, I lied. And a lot of people add their lie for no reason. I don't get it. I mean, it's just-- you don't have to-- just say we kind of like your book, and we'll do our best we can with it, and 80% of books we buy don't get made, but we really like it, and we're going to really do our-- And that would be great. You'd be going holy shit. They want my book. It's kind of take the money and run, or take the money and pray. That's probably the better thing. Take the money, and run, and pray. That's the best advice I can give you. Having warned you against all of this over and over again, how do you make it happen? A lot of it is luck. I mean, it kind of comes at you. You have a literary agent. The literary agent may also be the Hollywood agent depending on who you're with. If you're with William Morris they'll do the books and movies, presumably. Creative artists might do both. ICM might do both. My agent is a lawyer in Washington, and it's kind of weird. I mean, I don't pay 15%, or 10%, or whatever. I just pay him by the hour. He does Clinton's, he does Mary Higgins Clark, he's done some of the Reagan stuff, he does Bob Woodward, so that's kind of how I operate. He doesn't really operate in Hollywood. He has the same feeling about Hollywood that I do. He just doesn't want to spend too much time dealing with them. But generally, your literary agent will either have a Hollywood connection or if it's a big enough group. And if they think it's a property they'll go out and try to sell it. You're not going to have any power. That I can almost guarantee unless they want it so much and about three, or four, or five people are bidding for it. And they try not to get into these bidding things now. That's the latest. It's rare that you'll have more than one place bidding for something. It used to be the norm. That's the way the agents operate. They don't operate that way too much anymore. OK, so let's say that you get lucky and they're actually going to shoot this movie. It's a head trip. I mean, it's just great. You're there and you won't believe how many people. I mean, we're doing this thing, and there are a lot of people here. This is kind of bizarre with the puppet strings, and they move my mouth and my eye. ...

Set out to write a best-selling book

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.


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

This was a great class for the hopeful author. I loved Mr. Patterson's honest and irreverent approach to writing. His ideas on outlining and the sample outline included for Honeymoon were enlightening. I am excited to apply what I have learned to my fledgling project.

I am an autodidact so having access to all parts of this course at once is wonderful. James is funny and seems to be pragmatic which is very helpful

Really opening my mind. After writing up my ideas I find I have the story I want to tell. It was there but is now growiing.

Just completed the exercise on plots and shared it. I'm amazed at how this lesson changed/improved my writing so fast. My readers are equally amazed.


Louis S.

Wow - How cool is to get a movie made after your book, a few amendments here and there no probs, like Jerry McGuire said: "Show Me The Money!" PS - Simpson's Came: PRICELESS

Christine Duffy Z.

Very interesting to learn more about the process. Sounds like a sense of humor is vital if you will be meeting your character's family members for the first time in the film!

Andrea C.

Love your humor and honesty. I've never heard a writer that loved the movie rendition of their book but the money and publicity must be great. I like your attitude of "take the money and laugh!"

Gwendolyn C.

There was too much interest in this book. I can tell you that writing a true crime story requires fast typing, a speedy formatter and you can't write a current ongoing crime story with an outline. Marketing I think you have to other source. Publishing is very complex. This is the cover. It became an ongoing story. I had to say I finished the book now I heard they are developing a strong Afterword. Literary Pearls is my imprint and I own the ISBN's on both Detective Swoop books.

Georges S.

I received a call from a big Hollywood production house two months before I got my book deal. I had emailed them about a concept to create a TV show based on my non-fiction book. They said it would be a dream show for them and that having a book deal would strengthen the TV show pitch. Now that I have the book deal under my belt I am planning on reaching back out to them. But I do not have an agent and I still haven’t written the manuscript for the book. I’m not exactly sure how to navigate this. Any advice?

A fellow student

I've alway felt a bit flip flop about this issue. On one hand when I was way younger just about every movie based on a book tended to be bewilderingly different. When I read the Jurassic Park novel at 10 I was pretty shocked at how different it was from the Spielberg movie, and when I read Frank Herbert's Dune I was similarly dismayed at how the miniseries did it zero justice at all. And don't get me started on what they did to Starship Troopers and Conan the Barbarian. But on the other hand along came Peter Jackson with Lord of the Rings and finally it was a step in the right direction. I suppose it's going to have to depend on 3 things: 1. Director - someone who isn't going to "throw his junk in", as Jackson put it. 2. Vocality of the fans - there's a reason after LOTR the "faithful" adaptations that followed were mostly based on books that target very specific groups like Harry Potter, Twilight and Hunger Games 3. Studio - some care more than others about the source material, but that will definitely change depending on who's in charge in any given year or decade. There's probably some other things but they slip my mind at the moment.

Gundel L.

In chapter 20 of this i think: Oh, my god, soon it´s over. I will listen to that again, because, well, I will miss JP talking that way - it´s really like advice from a writing friend (most famous, yes, but that´s not the point at that moment. It´s the - well ... authenticity? The "living room atmosphere" in German :-) ) To chapters to go.

Shayne O.

Confirms ones greatest fear, suspected or otherwise. Haha, presuming to begin with that I even manage to get the book written. Mine is a personal and recent memoir targeted to woman so I guess my hope would be for a small independent company to make it and preferably with a female director or man who knows how to handle sensitive subjects delicately. If you haven't seen it and you are not adverse to the idea watch the 'Sex in the City' episodes when the character of Carrie goes to Hollywood to discuss having her book made into a movie. In one episode Matthew McConaughey sends up the Hollywood system by playing a madcap chaotic version of himself, as he attempts to convince Carrie to sell him the rights to her book. Sarah Michelle Gellar also makes an appearance and a bit of fun to play the part of a cutthroat Hollywood film executive. The theme that overrides in these episodes seems to be to take a bit of a fun but apparently if JP is anything to go by, a not far from the truth swipe at the Hollywood machine and the LA scene. Best of Irish luck to those who get to that point.

Margot B.

Like all the lessons, this one was helpful and engaging. My current project started out as a proposal to Bollywood producers. They liked it. When I went to start developing it, at first I thought I'd write the screenplay and then a novel. I did some research. There is no right answer as to whether to write the screenplay or the novel first. Seeing as there was a lot of material, deep reflections, inner dialogues and too much depth for a screenplay, I decided to write the novel first. From what I understand, a novel is deeper and more detailed. A screenplay is basically a technical document moving characters from scene to scene.


Good advice! Laugh it off and move on. Your readers will stick with you regardless of how bad the movie version might be. (Anyone ever see the film The Shell Seekers? Poor Rosamunde Pilcher. Her excellent book was destroyed.)