Writer's Block

James Patterson

Lesson time 10:27 min

Even when you've written as many books as James has (76 best sellers and counting), there's still nothing scarier than staring at the blank page. Here's how to conquer those fears.

James Patterson
Teaches Writing
James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.
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This is the enemy. The blank page. This is the, oh my god. And you'll see this so often in the movies. And I think a lot of screenwriters are frustrated novelists. And you've seen this 50 times in the movies. And that shouldn't happen. That's just, to me, bad writing. Where they write the first line and then they cross it out. And they write the first line again and they cross it out. And they write their first line again. I've seen that literally a dozen times. But there is a reality to it, which is that blank pages is troubling. Every author has a different approach, or many authors have a different approach. But I really recommend just crash through, freight train through, that first draft. Get that story down. Apparently, I guess Raymond Chandler had that process. I have that process. A lot of writers have that process. Get it down. I've seen writers who can write their first draft in a month. I can do the first draft in a month. At certain times, it's just flowing. And I'm not sure, I don't know if it's health related. I have no idea why. But sometimes it's just flowing, and it's working, and I can't write enough. And I'm amazed at how much I do in a very short period of time. And then there are times when I'll sit there and I'll write chapters and I'll go, it's all coming out flat for some reason. It's all coming out flat. And eventually something hits me and I go, OK. And I'll go back and polish stuff and suddenly raise the level. I don't know why that happens but it's certainly part of my process. Don't have blocks, partly because if I'm not getting it, I just put TBD and I get it on the next draft. Which is a useful and smart thing to do. Do not torture yourself, just go, I'll get it. And be confident that you'll get it. That's how people get blocked. They get to a point and it's like, oh my god, I can't get this chapter. And then you start obsessing on it and it's not coming and you get worried, and you get nervous, and you get panicked. It's sort of like this thing I guess that some couples go through and they can't get pregnant. They start pressing too hard and the mind starts getting tight and you know, it doesn't work. It's like, you're trying to do a sport and you get all tense. That's not going to work. You're going to strike out. So if you're not getting it, move on. Get it the next time. Or get it the time after that. I mean I've had times when I've gone through where that TBD would be on three or four chapters for a couple of drafts. I write seven days a week. I get up early in the morning. I'll very quickly go through two or three newspapers. I have a cup of coffee and I'll go through those in 15 minutes. You know, I have my little pass through the newspapers in terms of the things that I always want to read about. And the...

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.

knowing that there are really no rules in writing, knowing that an author as human and odd as any person can be, makes me want to keep writing.

James Patterson is not only an fantastic writer but quite a teacher. I enjoyed every part of this class and was able to add more tools to my collection which will certainly help in completing my book.

I'm beginning my journey down the road to being a sci-fi novelist. So far, this has helped organized my thoughts.

This class has been very informative. I've learned so many great tips on how to improve my writing skills.


Melanie W.

Typical. Just realised while watching the stay focused segment that I jumped off into FB to cancel an event I was going to and got lost in the void. Ha Ha. Back to focusing now :) Def need to rewatch this episode more than once. TBD may well help me when I get stuck on a piece.

A fellow student

The outline he included is a game-changer for this pantser! Thank you. Also love you mentioning your wife. 😌

Ian C.

I get by on TBD. I just go where my mind is and enjoy that. Eventually, I come back around to finish the bits where I got stuck. So far so good anyway!

Joey L.

Writers block is tough sometimes. But I can relate to what James is talking about. Sometimes my story is flowing nicely and other days I feel flat. I think every writer goes through this.

ivis P.

I can not wait to apply all the tips that I liked from the lessons. I really love this class!

Paul A.

When I have writer’s block, I take a knap. Well, I try to take a knap. Something happens to my mind when I hop into bed. I guess it’s because my body is relaxed and my mind is clear. Almost every time, words or thoughts pop into my head, and I jump up and write them down. Sometimes, it looks like I’m doing aerobics. As far as when I write, I use a computer at a desk in my bedroom with no music or tv, the shades drawn, and my dog at my feet. Mr. James Patterson’s suggestion of using TBD is a very good idea. It will keep you from getting bogged down. For my first book, I was having trouble with the first chapter, so I started on the second. I didn’t come back to the first chapter until I finished the eighth chapter.

Jon F.

In the sub-section "How James Writes" at the 3:26 mark he said the following: "I write on every other line, I have an assistant who is now legally blind from trying to read my handwriting. She will type up stuff send it back to me. Once I get it typed up it will be triple spaced. I write between the lines, when I'll do a draft a second draft, when I write between the lines and I only, when I am going over that draft, I only read what I just wrote, I assume that everything that I left there is just fine; which means that I can kind of do a second draft of that draft in no time." As you watch him talk about this part of his process you can see through his mannerisms that in his mind's eye what he is describing is very clear to him. However, I am not confident that I understand the procedural part of the process. I am trying to create a step by step (procedures) of this portion of the process. I would be interested in different perspectives on what is being taught. Note: to me this is how I define process. Process = Vision/Goals + Systems/Tools + Procedures + Buy-in/commitment. For a writer systems can be calendaring, reminders, email, etc. Tools can be legal yellow pads of paper, a laptop, printers, software, etc. When it comes to process the most important element is buy-in. You have to get those people who are going to follow your process to buy-in that it will accomplish the desired results. If you don't have buy-in the process won't work over the long term. Trust The Process!

Tyra M.

Two things, first, this lesson seemed weird because I was thinking all weekend that I have to again go through my routine and remove the things that have been distracting me. And the assignment is literally that. Wow (especially for a Monday). Second, what Mr. Patterson said about not getting writers block, I'm like that. If I can't keep going, the words won't come, I learned (for me) that means I've made a mistake and I have to do some editing. When I trust myself and go back I usually find the error in the previous chapter or what I wrote alters something earlier that's important to the over all plot. If the new thing is better, I change the previous stuff, if the old is better, I go back to it; either way, the words will flow again. Mr. Patterson mentions taking a break and exercise. I need to add more of both, right now my breaks are doing housework, driving to work, or stopping to deal with customers at work (lol). (Since my jobs all involve me sitting most of the time and my passion, writing does the same, lol, you know where this has led... )

Mariam O.

My daily routine is hard to remain a ROUTINE! As for being a Ballet instructor, i have different time plans everyday. Some days i start in the early morning others i wait till evening. But my MOST FAVORITE time to write is when i wake up @06:30, i finish my prayers, prepare my stuff, get dressed and have a 20-30 minutes walk in the fresh air. i arrive to Starbucks by 08:00. Watching people having their coffee to go as they're heading to work really inspires me to write alot. Also i looooove to write when i'm at the beach. Music for me is not very necessary 'cause most of the time i choreograph instead of focusing on any other thing :D But what really keeps me focused is my inner voice.... when the narrator speaks wherever i am, i write at once... if i can't reach my pen & note, i use the notes on my iphone.. i just know that when i start, i can't stop till it's done.

Nicole F.

I like to write in a notebook first and then when I get to a stopping point, I go and type it on the computer and flesh it out and usually finish the chapter that way. I like classical music in the background, but usually I have to block the football games that my husband loves to watch. I need to invest in noise-canceling headphones, because I tend to start watching the games with him. Major distraction.