MasterClass contacted me about their James Patterson writing course in June 2015.
James Patterson is a best-selling author in the crime, children’s, and other genres, and many critics have said that his books are more plot than characterization in recent years, while others have decried his use of co-authors. This is a review of the course, not Mr. Patterson’s writing (just so we’re clear).
The course has 22 videos ranging in topics from passion and habit, outlining, first lines, suspense, and his personal story, as well as collaborating with co-authors. Along with the videos, there are accompanying lesson plan PDFs and a discussion section for the students taking the course. This allows you to get feedback from other students on the lesson and to share ideas.
There are two versions of the class workbook — one has the full outline for his book Honeymoon, so you can see how he outlines. This was a very helpful document for me because I haven’t written an outline of anything since high school. This is not your high school outline with Roman numerals, etc. It is much more detailed, and when he discusses why he outlines, you’ll understand the level of detail and why it is needed.
Patterson also holds office hours in which questions are submitted by students on video, and they answered by the author in the same manner. He also offers critiques on raw ideas, research assignments, character development, and other topics from students. The videos and the coursebooks were helpful, and I think his advice about agents, editors, selling books to Hollywood, and other points about writing are well expressed and should provide enough direction for writing students. He stresses the need for an economy of words, no wasted moments, and clipping out the excess. He’s amusing and self-deprecating.
MasterClass courses are an affordable $90, but their true worth will be in how dedicated you are to the lessons and the actual work. One thing to keep in mind as a writer, is that if you are writing about something in science fiction, for instance, Patterson might not be the best mentor/teacher for you. So, as you look for affordable writing classes to take, think about what kind of feedback and how much help you’ll need.
MasterClass also has offerings in photography, the art of performance, acting, and singing, and these courses are taught by big names like Dustin Hoffman, Usher, Serena Williams, Kevin Spacey, and more.