On James Patterson, Or: You Can Shove Your Words of Wisdom Up Your Ass, You Hack!

One of the tags I use to search blogs on WordPress is “Writing Advice.” I’m always interested in learning tips and tricks from other writers, famous or not, published or unpublished. That advice doesn’t even have to be about writing; just today, I read some pretty amazing life advice from William Faulkner. His advice on reading – “Read, read, read. Read everything —trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it is good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out the window.” – is my favorite bit of advice from the legendary Southern writer.

I saw these words of wisdom from Dex Raven’s blog * today, courtesy of James Patterson:

Sorry, but reading these words of wisdom from James Patterson is like getting healthy cooking tips from Paula Deen. Because James Patterson is the most dishonest writer living today. Reading advice from him simply made my stomach turn. Ugh.

James Patterson turned the art of outlining into a multi-million dollar industry. Read that again: outlining. Not writing. Outlining. He outlines the living shit out of his books, passes them off to his loyal cadre of writers who live off his fortune, makes a few edits here and there, and, voila! Another Alex Cross novel! The 14th this year!

Look, I’m not going to begrudge a writer who’s made a fortune from their writing. I happen to admire both J.K. Rowling and Stephen King as writers, because they respect the craft – anyone who’s ever read King’s On Writing knows the man takes his craft very seriously. I have ZERO respect for James Patterson; he’s made a mockery out of the process of writing. He doesn’t seem like the kind of writer who sweats over every word. Hardly. Just read this rather nauseating and fawning profile from the Wall Street Journal to get a glimpse into Patterson’s arrogance. Worse, he’s claimed in previous interviews that “I love One Hundred Years of Solitude, and I’m a big fan of James Joyce.

Okay, call me an idealist, but as a big fan of One Hundred Years of Solitude, I would be inspired to write something along the lines of such a work. My love for James Joyce would not lead me to write paint-by-numbers pulpy thrillers you can read on a long bus ride, then pitch in the trash once you’re done. Hearing that kind of unaware bullshit is like reading Michael Bay claim his Transformers films are an homage to Sergei Eisenstein. He hasn’t, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

See, the truly hypocritical really have zero idea just how full of shit they truly sound. Mitt Romney could explain that to you, if he had a fucking clue. Patterson’s a smug prick who checks his bank account every morning and thinks, for a nanosecond, about struggling writers like me and you and smirks. Suckers. And then he plays golf for the rest of the day.

If I want advice on how to create a multi-million dollar publishing enterprise, I’ll ask James Patterson. If I want advice on whether I should use the first or third-person narrative, I’ll ask a real author.

Call me jealous. I’m not. Fuck him. Fuck his books. And fuck his advice.

* By the way, Dex, I’m not singling you out here. I totally understood your ambivalence regarding James Patterson’s advice. I read that piece of advice, and just went apeshit, as you can see from above. So, thank you?

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35 thoughts on “On James Patterson, Or: You Can Shove Your Words of Wisdom Up Your Ass, You Hack!

  1. The one James Patterson book I ever had the misfortune of reading was Witch and Wizard. It was AWFUL. Each chapter was about a page and a half long, nothing happened, and the characters were flat and one dimensional. Yeuck.

    • I know, right? That page-and-a-half chapter entry sucks when you can’t write for shit. A lot of bad writers employ this.

      On the other hand, I’ve read a few great writers that have gone that route. Cormac McCarthy, for one. Daniel Woodrell did it in “Winter’s Bone.” So, yeah, okay, I’ll shut up now.

  2. Can I get a witness! YES!

    I had the misfortune of watching a 60 Minutes interview with Patterson a couple years ago and he literally had yellow pads upon yellow pads of outlines that yes, he would pass on to his minions. He came across as one of the most arrogant persons I’ve ever heard. Laughing all the way to the bank that one is. His Cayman Island bank via his multi-million dollar yacht.

    I’ve read a couple decent Patterson-named books in the past, but I know I was reading the other author’s work. Andrew Gross I believe it was. He penned “The Jester” and it was pretty decent. His solo stuff (Blue Zone, Eyes Wide Open) is 100x better than anything with Patterson’s name on it though.

    When you mentioned Joyce it made me smile and think about that “Date a Girl Who Reads” piece I shared in a weekend word post, volume 8 I believe. “Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent.”

    • His arrogance is stupefying.

      I loved that “Date a Girl Who Reads” piece that’s been floating around the Internet. Women who read – especially stuff I dig – make me all swoony n’ shit.

      • “Swoony n’ shit” <— awesome descriptor.

        Saw your below comment too about "Moby Dick" and freezing despite the 8,000 degree temperature. I've been trudging through the "Game of Thrones" series all summer, and despite our 100 degree plus temps, I swear I've been ice cold (as cold as a white walker) all summer. "Winter is coming…" I need to hurry and finish the Book 5 I'm on before it really *does* turn to winter here. I fear frostbite!

  3. They’re trash you read while lounging by the pool.

    Side note: I read “Moby Dick” one week while I was on vacation, lounging by the pool. It was about 8,000 degrees outside, I’m oozing sweat, yet I felt as if I was in the South Pacific, freezing my ass off.

    • I love that film. That whole bit about Charlie Kaufman’s twin brother writing a screenplay about a cop chasing after a serial killer, who turns out to be the cop himself, had me howling with laughter.

  4. I personally believe that any writer who has a commercial on tv pumping their books is ridiculous. (But that’s just me) I’ve held a vague dislike for him for awhile now. Your post turned it into outright hatred. (Thank you!) Furthermore, his quote sounds like he wants to tie his readers to chairs and make them listen to his stories until their ears bleed. Methinks he might be thinking about serial killers too much.

  5. There’s only so many pages of jaded cop/ex-cop male/female with terrible sex-life but amazing detective acumen solves randomly convoluted murders/crimes whilst battling some disease and/or legal settlement before you realise that you hate the writing even more than the plot. In fact I think it was about twenty pages.

  6. So I’m not alone, The guy is the most read human on the planet outside the writers of the Bible (and only if you include the books with his name on them that he didn’t write). I thought I was the only guy who found Patterson… less than all that.

    It seems my favorite writers all died in the last few years. Yet Patterson lives on and on and on (I’m not wishing he wouldn’t, mind you, just that I miss Parker, Francis, etc.)

  7. I love reading advice from real writers on how to write because for the most part they usually talk about the crap that I think only wannabes like me deal with and it’s encouraging to know they deal with it too. I don’t like reading advice from writers who make a living writing about how to write. A couple of years ago there was a show on PBS called “Writers” and they had a show on crime fiction. George Pelecanos, one of my favorite writers, was one of the three panelists along with Elmore Leonard and MIchael Connelly. They got around to talking about the myth of writer’s block and Pelecanos says: “People who have other jobs report to work every day when they don’t feel like going. Get back to work.” Leonard agreed and said: “No such thing as a block. You’re writing the wrong scene or you’re not approaching it correctly. Get back to work and figure it out.” I loved that because for me it took something (writer’s block) that was a convenient excuse to not write and blew it out of the water and suddenly it wasn’t me being blocked, it was me just being a lazy fuck making excuses. I don’t like being a lazy fuck who makes excuses, but I like the honesty.

    Some of the best bits of writing advice I’ve ever read came from Brenda Ueland in her book, “If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit”. She said this: “No writing is a waste of time – no creative work where the feelings, the imagination, the intelligence must work. With every sentence you write, you have learned something. It has done you good.” and this: “Work freely and rollickingly as though you were talking to a friend who loves you. Mentally (at least three or four times a day) thumb your nose at all know-it-alls, jeerers, critics, doubters.”

    • Agreed. The best writing advice comes from writers who still understand that like any craft, there’s struggle and doubt and elation. Neil Gaiman’s advice on writing is an excellent example of that, for me.

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  9. Ha!! Someone else calls That Hack’s minions, minions! I can’t stand those stupid commercials! It’s like, oh, I have an extra couple hundred thousand dollars to waste that a minion found in the couch cushions this morning (during our outlining session) and slavishly handed over, I think I’ll make a crappy commercial with suck-all for production value and smugly threaten people to kill Alex Cross if my book doesn’t sell well. Really, that just makes me want to boycott you more, You Hack.

    I find his appearances on Castle hilarious. I replayed the first Bestselling Writer’s Poker Game segment over and over again, cackling with glee, and every time they include one, I go a little nuts about it. There should be a drinking game.

    Found you through Goodreads, and I will be following your writings. 🙂 Oh, did you see the article where Nicholas Sparks compared himself to Hemingway? Indignant shouting at That Sap, I tell you. With snorts.

    • I wish someone would call his bluff already and see if he’d have the guts to kill Alex Cross. I think he doesn’t have the guts. Why kill off his meal ticket, right?

      Nicholas Sparks seems like another smug asshole who’s allowed success to get to his head. Hemingway would beat his ass senselessly for such comments.

      Thanks for finding me!

      • Well, Patterson has a couple other series he can fall back on. And, as a bonus, there would be no more Alex Cross movies. (Watched it under duress. Two hours I won’t get back, ever.)

        At the bookstore I worked at, my cohorts and I would ask silly/stupid questions over the walkie-talkies to drive away the boredom. My best one was: “Stuck on a deserted island, you can only have the current and future writings of EITHER Nicholas Sparks or James Patterson. Which one and why?” Besides the common, “don’t I get a gun with a single bullet in it? I’d rather have that,” the more popular response was Patterson, because at least I’ll get like four books a year that way. Even if NS wrote more than a book a year, it would be the same damn thing every time.

        • I’d have to also agree that being stuck on a desert island with the entire collected works of James Patterson would be better than, say, the collected works of either Nicholas Sparks or, worse, Dan Brown. Because having to read Dan Brown for the rest of my exiled life while having to slog over poorly-constructed sentences would drive me to suicide faster than the thought of isolation and starvation.

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  11. I can’t stand Patterson! The guy (and many of his ghost writers) does not know how to write and the works often look like first drafts. Many of the adventures (Alex Cross, Max Ride, etc.) are barely Saturday morning cartoon quality. If you are bored enough look for Emotedllama’s riffing/sporking of the Maximum Ride series. The riffs are the best way to get through the dreck.

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  13. I realize this post is really old but I happened to stumble upon it while googling “James Patterson Sucks”. I just wanted to give you a hearty thumbs up.

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