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Arts & Entertainment

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.


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.

Motivated me to write. I was completely stuck. I am enjoying writing my story very much. Unfortunately my died during the time I took the course, but she would listen to James courses along with me while she was in hospice care in her home. Very encouraging all the way around. Never give up!

I felt like I was in the room, talking to a mentor. This class provided the insight I needed to follow through on my writing projects.

I really enjoyed Mr. James Patterson talk about writing books. I am not into fiction, however after his class I will read his books. It is nice to know that book publishers can get it wrong, when deciding when they have a good book.

I have learned so much from James, and love his style of delivery. Just returning to fiction writing after forty years and he has given me great enthusiasm. I have a book being launched this month, and through his wisdom I know the next one will be much better!!


Beth G.

Where do I find the outline? I am looking through the workbook and cannot find the outline or a link.

Jim M.

I would like to add, I find going back over lessons you've already studied is extremely helpful. I come from a TV commercial background and can truly appreciate the concise ability of James to the wordsmithing of the project. Unbeknownst to James, I was cast as the husband in his very first TV production for Burger King. We filmed the commercial in beautiful downtown San Diego at the Burger King near Mission Bay. I am proud of my time in commercials and thrived on the employment (casting) for over 20 years. I don't remember whether or not James was on location, but I remember a couple of days in production that were delightful. I went on to be cast in several J. Walter Thompson shoots all of which I thoroughly enjoyed as well as the J Walter people I worked with and developed close friendships. Just a time of remembrance of a time passed much too soon.

Jim M.

The lesson about Outlines really resonated with me. For a long time when anyone mentioned writing an outline for a Short Story or a Novel, I was blocked by my 10th grade understanding of what an outline should be. I could only see. 1, 1a, 1b etc. what a revelation JP's outline for Honeymoon was. All of a sudden I got it. and I will never be without a clear outline, or scene study again.

A fellow student

I really found value in the Honeymoon breakdown. The 1,2.3 pay off was perfect.


I was having the same trouble CHarles. Thank you Domitille for helping us find it.

Charles S.

Is anyone else having trouble finding the Honeymoon outline? Help me out here.

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