James Patterson, Collaboration, and WisCon

What, more links? Why, yes, indeed!

James Patterson discusses his new book, a “romance” with the Palm Beach Daily News, and says that romances are “hard to do,” though he cautions that this isn’t a “real romance novel” (What does that mean, precisely, no sex?) Mysteries, for Patterson, are “easy.”

Now, what struck me is his accounting of his collaborative process:

Sundays at Tiffany’s was written with North Carolina-based children’s author Gabrielle Charbonnet in the collaborative style that Patterson developed about 10 years ago. It has been a key element in his increasingly prolific output.

“We’re hung up in this country about individualism,” said Patterson, who compares his collaborative process for writing novels to the traditionally accepted manner in which film and television writers develop their products. “Why can’t a book be created this way?”

Of course, with his celebrated status and reputation for enormous sales, it’s also a means for Patterson to give a lesser-known or aspiring writer an opportunity to break into the best-seller league — and earn what he describes as a “nice” amount of money….

When the decision is made to do a book with a co-writer, Patterson takes the general idea for the story and develops a detailed outline, which lays out the content and action of each chapter.

“It’s like screenplay for the novel,” he said. “One of my agents told me that when they saw the outline they said, ‘With this, I could write the book.’”

The co-writer then does a first draft based on the outline.

“I take it from there,” he said,

It’s like an updated version of the Sweet Valley High books, or the latter-day book package concepts, only with one dude at the helm.

Patterson is also lending his name and image to marketing campaigns for the very sexy Sony Reader, which comes complete with a copy of Patterson’s latest, The Women’s Murder Club. (And if the Sony Reader doesn’t blow your skirt up, the Kindle is back in stock. ).

And completely unrelated but still cool: Lori Devoti is part of a badass panel at WisCon, coming soon to the Wisconsin near you, about Being the Heroine of a Romance Novel Doesn’t Make Me Weak . Now that is something I want to see – a bunch of feminist fantasy ladies discussing empowerment of romance heroines and their strength, narratives, and sexuality. Word up. Something tells me that panel won’t be “your grandmother’s romance,” or “Patterson’s romance” either!



The Link-O-Lator

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Tae says:

    Sweet, I’m glad to see that you mentioned WisCon.  Though I’ve never been it is however, 1. In my hometown of Madison, WI and 2. my former housemate is chairing it this year and I know many people who attend.  It’s one of those conventions I want to attend in the future.  They always get amazing writers who write great female characters.
    spam word against 59 (which by the way I have nothing against since I will be 59 one day)

  2. 2
    snarkhunter says:

    After this debacle, I’m glad to see some feminist action at WisCon. God knows the SF/F people (of which I am one, just for the record) apparently need it. Let’s remind everyone that women are people too. ::sigh::

  3. 3

    WisCon is awesome.  The whole schedule will go live on April 30.

  4. 4

    Also glad to see you mentioning us (since I’m on the panel


    And really looking forward to the chance to be ‘badass’.  I was worried when I started writing Regency historicals, that they would make me turn in my badass card, and become a lady.

    So far, it ain’t happening.

  5. 5
    Lori Devoti says:

    Hey! Thanks for the mention. We proposed the panel, because some things just need to be said, you know? I plan on taking video this year at WisCon. If you are interested, I’ll send you some footage of the panel. Romance panels at WisCon are always fun.

  6. 6
    Suze says:

    I haven’t read any Patterson, but I did see “Women’s Murder Club” on the channel scanner when I was surfing TV one night, and I thought, what a condescending title.

    Knowing absolutely nothing about the story, I’m offended that somebody strung those three words together.  Like, women and murder can’t co-exist without being filtered through a Babysitter’s Club kind of thing.  Nope, no female murderers, or female investigators of murder.  Just kind of a cutesy, pat-on-the-head dismissal.

    *end rant*

  7. 7
    LizzieBee says:

    Wow, I can’t believe that the OSBP made it into a comment over here. What a debarcle. Talk about a full moon at Con’s recently… Best of luck to those of you attending/participating at WisCon :)

  8. 8
    Lori Devoti says:

    I don’t think any boobs (at least attached to a female body) will be at risk of being squeezed at Wiscon. This is at least one Con where that shouldn’t be an issue!
    (This in reference to The Open Source Boob Project note.)

  9. 9
    Ciara says:

    No offense, but the story idea and outline are the easy part. I’ve got tons – anyone want to write the book for me? ;) jk

  10. 10

    Wow, I can’t believe that the OSBP made it into a comment over here.

    LizzieBee, we spend a lot of time, as romance novelists, assuring people that our books aren’t all titty-grabbing and pokey-pokey.  And that it’s possible to include sexuality in a story without undercutting plot or entertainment value.  Boobies are near and dear to our hearts (in so many ways).

    But while we feel free to write about them and talk about them, most of us would be wearing “Don’t touch!” buttons. Life doesn’t imitate art.

    Gotta love fandom, though.  If anyone is planning a trainwreck for Worldcon this year, I’ll be there to gawk at it.

    That’s a sad truth.

  11. 11
    Miri says:

    Kindles back in stock!!!! But! But! I don’t have money yet! fingers crossed that they when I do at a later date!

  12. 12
    SandyO says:

    I find it interesting that Mr. Patterson seems to disdain that “We’re hung up in this country about individualism.”  Maybe then he should try to publish “his” books without his name attached.

  13. 13
    fiveandfour says:

    I kind of like this counter proposal to the OSBP.  You know, like tit for tat…or something along those lines.

  14. 14
    Jenns says:

    What SandyO said.
    Maybe I’m old-fashioned, or “hung up on individualism”, but I just can’t help thinking when your name is on a book, you should actually have written it. This trend annoys me.
    *Off to get more coffee and mutter darkly to myself.*

  15. 15
    Deb Kinnard says:

    I don’t read Patterson anymore. The last one in the Women’s Detective Club I read was #5, I think, and although the collaborator tried to make it sound like he wrote it, it just fell flat for me.

    So merrily we move on, tra la.

    I’ve heard WisCon is a fat lot of fun. Most of us SF fen from the Chicago ‘burbs try to go at least once or twice a decade. Me, I’m trying to write a story that doesn’t wanna write itself for me…

    Hey, Mr James, can I borrow your collaborationist? Not.

    life14 – l’chaim!

  16. 16
    Suzie says:

    As said above, the outline and edits are the easy part. The writing of the first draft is the largest struggle, so while I don’t blame him for not wanting to do it, I also sorta pity his losing such a vital part of the creative process.

    That’s the part where you want to throttle your story because it won’t write itself, where you want to shout to everyone how brilliant you are, and where you shame yourself about the passage you wrote the previous day, which is now obviously destined for deletion. And it’s the part where you realize you suddenly need to change this and this and this, because when you wrote the outline, you didn’t understand the story like you understand it now. Or maybe you were a bit punch drunk and never realized.

    That’s the part where you’re actually being a writer. Take it away and you might be a revisionist or a producer, but I don’t know that I’d call it writing.

  17. 17
    Suze says:

    About the boob debacle, I can totally see it happening.  A group of people who are likely to be kind of dorkish (like me—98% apparently, according to http://www.okcupid.com/tests/take?testid=9935030990046738815 ) setting up some kind of thing where they can have clear social cues about what they can ask, and of whom they can ask, with ground rules to make it clear that A) this isn’t a sexual come-on and B) I will not take your permission to touch as permission to tie you down and fuck you blind…

    I dunno, it sounds like a relief.  Like a safe place for the socially stupid to get some answers to their questions, without having to interpret other people’s interpretations, and guess at reactions, and second-guess, and I guess I’m showing off what a dork I really am *blushes*.

    I can remember fondling a co-worker for several minutes, checking out his tattoos (decades ago when I was 21 or so, and not many people I knew had tattoos), feeling safe from his thinking I was coming on to him, because he’d given me permission.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t find the open source boob project offensive or scary.

  18. 18
    Laura Hamby says:



    I’m allergic to outlines. This is due, possibly, to the “fun” I had in 5th grade, during library periods at school, outlining silly little non-fictional books.

  19. 19
    Harlequin says:

    Oh, I want a Sony Reader sooooo badly. Want-need-take? that’s ok, right?

  20. 20

    *G*  Gotta chime in here because I do love my Sony Reader.

    That’s a fantastic looking skin and if there are people debating about buying it because they aren’t sure of the ‘e-ink’ s claims to be like paper? 

    I was on the fence for ages because of that, I didn’t quite believe there was an ebook reader that actually wasn’t murder on my eyes.  Then some guy at the Y was using one, and after I terrified him when I almost mugged him just to see it, he started laughing and let me fiddle with the Reader.

    Five minutes.  I fell in love in five minutes.  I keep mine with me and I’m making progress on my e-tbr pile.

  21. 21
    Silver James says:

    Outlines? Plotting? Characters? Story arc? You mean like this? Just in case some of ya’ll don’t recognize the name, he writes the Harry Dresden books.

    As for OSBP – I….First MFer who ever walks up and asks to fondle me will pull back a bloody stump. I’ve spent twenty-one years teaching my daughter about “BAD TOUCHES”.  A stranger or slight acquaintance asking to fondle ones boobs is a BAD TOUCH! I only managed to read part of the comments and got a headache. I just don’t get fandoms that believe they can ignore social mores simply because they’ve mobbed up. (Why yes, I did have my ass humped by an asshole dressed as a raccoon in the lobby of a hotel. Why yes, I did deck him, knocking his head off and threatened him with arrest for assault if he or any of his flea-bitten friends so much as looked at me or any of the the teen-aged girls I was chaperoning).  *climbs down from high horse and stops ranting*

    ebooks and readers – Are they really worth the price and is the ebook selection worth it? I find having the weight of a book in my hands and turning pages is a soothing ritual. I’m open to technology but….Somebody help an old woman out and explain the advantages?

    *snort* asked33 – I bet they did!

  22. 22
    Julianna says:

    I don’t know how it panned out at the con (and I can imagine problems), but I dig the concept the OSBP people were going for, and I was moved by the description of the idea’s origin. 

    It’s wacky and experimental and no-one will end up dead.  Let ‘em try it.

  23. 23
    snarkhunter says:

    I don’t want to hijack this thread or anything, but I do feel compelled to respond to Julianna (I love your name, btw!). One of the many reasons I find the concept of the project offensive is that it further marginalizes women in the SF/F/gaming environment. There’s an ongoing struggle to be taking seriously for most women there, and being reduced once again to a pair of breasts, this time by a group of men (and women) who claim to be enlightened and positive, sets the cause of women at cons back.

    As an experiment confined to their group of friends? Fine. As a room at the con? Fine. If it were a project focused on opening up physical touch in non-specified ways (that is, if it weren’t focused on breasts)? Fine. As a “movement,” which it was originally posited as, it furthers an already often-hostile environment and reinforces social concepts whereby women’s bodies are viewed as public property.

  24. 24
    Jo says:

    Are Patterson’s comments a round about way of saying he uses a ghost writer?  No wonder the chapters in his books are all so short.  They’re just fleshed out outlines.  Got it now.  Back to lurkdom

  25. 25
    Ruth says:

    Me and the girls would be the first in line for OSBP. But I’m weird that way.

    This Sony reader sounds intriguing. Off to read reviews.

  26. 26
    Kristen says:

    What’s next? James Patterson perfume? Spare me.

  27. 27
    Kaz Augustin says:

    We’re sold on the iRex Iliad. My sceptical DH can’t get enough of it. The clarity is unbelievable. For anyone looking at ebook readers, you may find this useful.

  28. 28
    Kaz Augustin says:

    Oh, and I forgot to mention. I’ll be interviewing the awesome Lori Devoti for my Radio Free Bliss podcast in July. (Lori and I both being members of that other awesomeness, Broad Universe.) Jeri Smith-Ready is lined up for that month too. I know, shameless plug, but at least it was a relevant plug, right? ;)

  29. 29
    DianeH says:

    Suzie,  Excellent throttle-the-first-draft-post.

    A couple months ago, I mentioned to some other writers that I had tried to read a J. Patterson novel last year and hated it.  Big hate—as in refused to finish it.  I was so surprised because I seemed to recall that years ago I read his work and I was hooked.

    They said, Oh, well that’s because he doesn’t write them any more.

    Well, sh*t.  I kinda wanted the two hours of my life back before I flung the book into the Goodwill pile. 

    The thing I do appreciate is that he is open about this arrangement to build a Patterson empire.  It doesn’t thrill me, but I know the ghost writing biz has been around a long time….  And I have the flu today so I’m gonna have to let it pass.

    However, that still doesn’t mean I’m buying more of his books, since I didn’t like the last one.  It’s that easy.

  30. 30
    Deb Kinnard says:

    Diane H, that makes two of us. The only way we have to make our feelings heard (other than SBTB) is to vote with our Visas.  For a moment I considered buying one of Patterson’s young-adult titles, but then recalled how disappointed I was with Detectives #5, and left it on the shelf.

    Now, if our Visa-votes could only convince him to resume writing the things HIMSELF…yeah, and I want a horkin’ big Nice Deal for my next sale…one can still dream.

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