So yet again I’m seeing James Patterson’s name drug through the mud because supposedly he doesn’t write his novels. And it annoys me. Not because I read the man’s books, I don’t. Or at least can’t remember reading any of them. But more because I find it a symptom of the “they don’t deserve it” -itis that is so common in the writerly community.
Hang around long enough and you’re bound to hear how horrible Stephenie Meyer’s writing is, how E L James’ books are awful, how Dan Brown can’t write his way out of a paper sack, and, of course, how James Patterson doesn’t even write his own books.
It drives me nuts.
One, because so often when this critique is made it’s because writers are focusing on one aspect of writing (the words) and failing to see how plot or emotional engagement are just as important.
And, two, because it comes off sounding like sour grapes. As in, why is that horrible author so successful when I’m so much better? (Well…perhaps you aren’t.)
And the James Patterson thing annoys me because I took his Masterclass (through masterclass.com–I also did the Aaron Sorkin and Shonda Rhimes ones and enjoyed all three) and in there he talks about his co-writing process. And from that I can assure you that he doesn’t just slap his name on something someone else writes. He’s heavily involved in the process and in the plotting and polishing of the novel.
And if we go back to this concept of what is writing a story, I would argue that the easiest part of writing is putting together the sentences. Finding a way to make those sentences work together to create an experience that pulls a reader through the book is the challenge. Having something happen that’s unbelievable yet totally plausible at the same time isn’t easy either. And coming up with a way to engage with a reader’s emotions so they actually feel something about your characters and what happens to them is maybe the hardest skill of all.
When these criticisms crop up, those skills are never considered.
Anyway. Next time you find yourself wanting to complain about some very successful author and their lack of writing ability, maybe check yourself and try to figure out what they do right instead. And, no, it isn’t going to be “spends a lot on advertising” because the people we’re talking about here are all people who’ve generated word of mouth beyond their advertising efforts and who I’ve heard readers rave about.
So when that happens, ask yourself why. You might just find a way to improve your own writing.
(And this rant is not directed at anyone that I know reads this blog, so if any of you recently wrote or posted about this, I’m not writing this rant because I saw your post. It most recently came up in a forum discussion about something else, but it was the third time I’d seen someone say something similar this week and figured it was a good choice for a Wednesday random thoughts post.)