Arts & Entertainment, Writing

Writer's Block

James Patterson

Lesson time 10:26 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.

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Topics include: Freight train through • How James writes • Stay focused • Take a break • Take it seriously • Practice, practice, practice


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...

About the Instructor

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.

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James Patterson

James teaches you how to create characters, write dialogue, and keep readers turning the page.

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