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.

For many years my job was to turn coffee into computer code. I think my new job will be to turn coffee into prose. May be more engaging at my age.

It has. I enjoyed James' style and his insight was helpful. I would have liked just a little bit more on the nuts and bolts but overall a good, bordering on great, class. thanks James!

In the vast sea of letters, I must construct an unforgettable one liner. Bravo

Lots of nuggets here! Worth the investment to hone the craft.


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.

Hubert R.

"Once you have that outline, start writing." That's excellent information.

A fellow student

I've always written intuitively, meandering here and there, and then developing an outline once I get a sense of what the story is about. But now I'm working on a series and I see why a really in-depth outline is so much more efficient. As long as they can be flexible too, as surprises happen and it's usually good when they do.

Ambrey N.

This is very helpful. I feel like I am kind of already doing this though not so much little blurbs. But I know that I need to get the story down so I keep writing till I move on to the possible next scenario in the next chapter. But a skeleton it is so far. I feel good that the outline will be interesting.

Dylan K.

Very Helpful. I have been aching to write my book a while now. But i haven't started as I felt unready. Now I understand why. I have yet to create an outline for the story. I wrote a screenplay that I did a lot of character developing and plot developing for and I wondered why writing that screenplay was such a phenomenal experience and why everyone who read it loved the story. I put it in a screenwriter's contest and, although I didn't win anything from that context, I received a great score, in my opinion, of 8/10. I now know why it was so well received. Because I did my homework. And I'll do my homework for this book as well.

Janet S.

I LOVED THIS LESSON! I had some real aha moments here. It's funny, Masterclass sent me a short text this week - because it's been a while since I've attended a lesson. The text read "5 minutes to reignite your passion". I thought "what the hell"...and came in to Lesson 6 and 7. I am so glad I did. Wow. Thank you!