Outlines: Part 2

James Patterson

Lesson time 5:44 min

James has never shown the outline for his best-seller Honeymoon to anyone (not even his publisher) until now. Follow along with the outline provided in your Class Workbook as James further explains his process.

James Patterson
Teaches Writing
James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.
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Only my editor has seen this outline before, so I'm sharing something with you that I haven't shared before. And what happens in this outline and why it's important for you to listen to this is the first couple of chapters really set up the third chapter, and without the first couple of chapters, a third chapter wouldn't even work, so this is also an example of how you set things up in a book. In the first chapter, Nora Sinclair is packing for a business trip and we hear a voice over her shoulder and it's Gordon Brown, who is her lover. And he's kind of a boyish 40. She's sort of 35ish. And he tells her, you travel too much, because she's going off on this business trip, and we like them together. And it's important that this is written that way and even it's important that the outline stresses the fact that we have to really like them together. We have to love them together. We have to go, we're in love because they're in love when we read this chapter. It makes us feel terrific. In the second chapter, they're having a lunch, and it's a really neat lunch in Gordon's house and Gordon says he's never been happier. And Nora laughs and she says is that your idea of a proposal? And Gordon says no, this is and he reaches into the pocket of his robe. He removes a small Tiffany box, or maybe a good sized Tiffany box, and he gets down on one knee and he proposes to Nora, and we want them to be together. We love them. They are a terrific couple. We wish that we were with somebody like that. Third chapter, Nora is off on this business trip, same day, later that afternoon. She arrives at this spectacular brownstone in Boston. On the doorstep, she removes Gordon's engagement ring and as a reader we're going, what the hell is going on here? She puts on another engagement ring. She lets yourself inside. She has the key. She calls out, honey I'm home. And we realize that she's engaged to two men. So we are hooked as readers. And once again, we're playing this cat and mouse game with our readers. And they love this. They want to play cat and mouse. That's why they're in the other chair. [MUSIC PLAYING] The outline is the most creative of all of the disciplines. That's where your imagination is going crazy. And you're going to make mistakes, and you're going to put in stuff that's like, oh wait, that's just too much. And once again, as you read it, if you being honest, I just, I took it too far there. And you may find at times that as good as you try to make the outline be that it's sort of losing drama in a certain place. It just started being repetitive. I mean, and that happens a lot of times. And that's just a little bit your imagination leaving you for a while and you start repeating. And that, I mean that happens a lot when you write, and all of a sudden, we already heard that. Or you just keep repeating...

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.

Class was wonderful. It made me think I could be successful.

I think it was a little unorganized for my taste, several points were repeated through multiple lessons. It just seemed like... he didn't use an outline, which is one thing he emphasized throughout the series. Otherwise, he is a brilliant man and I thoroughly enjoyed the course and learned a lot about building characters and enticing your audience.

I am re-energized. I have been struggling with moving the plot along in my third book and Mr. Patterson motivated me with the first four lessons.

I feel inspired and blessed that James shared his writing experiences with me through this course. The outline for Honeymoon was such a great example for story plotting, which has been my biggest hang-up. Using this idea, I have made great gains in my own story plotting and feel confident that I will be able to produce the beautiful book that I've wanted to write for years. Thanks, James! :0)


Stephen A.

I loved this part, especially the, 'Oh! That's impossible.' I tend to do this a lot with my writing... like when I had to kill off 7/8ths of the population of the world on a one by one basis. It seemed impossible, but not so much now.

Diane C.

This is what I needed. I've taken the whole class now, and how to construct an outline so that the nebulous plots floating around in my head can take shape. Not having a clear path has fed into my procrastination. I knew outlines were helpful, but seeing Patterson's outline for the book Honeymoon was invaluable. I read the book at the same time, and was interested to see that the story diverged from the outline several times, even though the main arc of the story was the same. I also think starting with an outline, where I won't be bogged down with details, dialogue, etc., will help me overcome my inertia.

A fellow student

I've been doing outlines, but I think mine have been too rambling and too wordy. Great to hear James's process on outlines.

Vincent S.

Hi everyone. For interest. I’m fortunate enough to have been outlining in the way James suggests, but quite by accident as I did once write myself into a corner and didn’t want it to happen again. I always start by having a conversation with myself and this then naturally progresses to the outline. The conversation is usually a statement or asking a question, which is of course the initial idea. For example. ‘What if the Titanic had missed the iceberg?’ This then leads me to the next step: A character that historically went down with the Titanic does not die and they now go on to commit a crime once they arrive in New York. This then leads me to start asking who this character is, what their background is, what is the crime, who else might have survived and so on and these questions and answers are shaped by what I want the story to do and where I want the plot to go. It’s all very loose and is not at the scene level, but it gives a foundation to the outline that naturally evolves from these statements and questions. Once things have got moving I go on to make broad statements such as ‘George must have robbed the bank at this point,’ or ‘Ensure Jess has had a row with George before he robs the bank.’ I might also write a scene or chapter, which then goes on to inform the outline further. This also feeds into character development as my plot and outline always dictates character. I don’t’ always take the outline right down to a scene by scene level, as I like to let the characters to do unexpected things to a certain degree. Having said that I always have an ending in place and then I know where the plot and characters are going, or should be going. I find outlining makes the writing much more relaxed and enjoyable, knowing that I won’t write myself into a corner. I write in Scrivener on Windows and use the corkboard view for outlining, which gives endless possibilities for ordering and reordering scenes and taking notes. Vincent

Biman N.

Is it possible to look at an outline, in order to get a feeling of how detailed it should be, or how long, to get going? I understand that the outline grows and evolves over time, while writing-- but it would be useful to get an idea of an outline that a writer has before one starts writing. Thanks.

John G.

i found this lesson really helpful. While i've done outlines in the past, they've never been as comprehensive as James suggests. I will definitely start using this method from now on.

A fellow student

I loved the idea of how outline will give you the skeleton upon which you can place the sinews and muscle. Of course, that’s not what he said but he gave us the image to work with. In music, I often employ this when working on learning a piece of music. “What is the outline or skeleton of the piece?” Basically, taking the main parts and seeing how they fit together before focusing on the details. It’s a way to make the story being told as clear as possible and clarity helps drive things forward. Such good advice. Thank you.

Ian C.

I love planning and organising my ideas into groupings, but I started on short stories, where outlines get in the way of my creativity. Now I've started my novel, I've realised just how vital the outline is. Thanks James - you certainly helped me. I think it'd be great to have a way of planning the characters scenes and story - is there a good tool recommendation that helps with that?

Daria V.

Never thought about writing an outline. Maybe because I write only short stories. However, finally I’m going to work on some bigger pieces, as I have a few raw ideas for my novels. I think an outline is a great place to start with. Writing a novel is a totally new thing for me; I believe it requires even more discipline and skills than in case with a short story. I think an outline will be a big help. Thank you for the lesson! As always, it was very insightful!

Joey L.

I enjoy writing short horror stories. Writing an outline for a short story is easier than a chapter for a novel. I might write a novel someday. I enjoy writing the short horror stories for the meantime.