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James Patterson's Tips on Writing Books Readers Can't Put Down

Posted by Arthur Gutch on Fri, Apr 15, 2016 @ 03:47 PM

They're called beach books or summer novels. Books that entertain, and that readers never want to put down. Of all the bestselling authors in business today, James Patterson may be the absolute best at figuring out exactly how to write a book that millions of readers want to devour. His method is so successful that he's used it with almost a dozen co-writers, selling millions more books by farming out much of the work to other authors who use his system. His books are not great literature -- instead, they're fast-paced tales with great characters, written in a way that makes readers want to turn the page all night long. Patterson offers classes on how to write a bestselling novel, but here are the most important points that he's shared with people over and over again. james_Patterson_quote3.png

Make Your Book an Experience

It's the old advice of "show, don't tell," but taken to a more intense degree. Add texture and flavor to every scene in the book. Engage other senses besides sight and hearing: what does your main character smell? What does that sofa feel like? How might the steel edge of a knife taste? Add intimate details to your chapters and your readers will sink into them and never want to come out.

Write Like a Storyteller, Not an Author

Critics may pan Patterson's work for being common, but it's exactly what readers want to see. People pick up a fiction book to be entertained; they don't want to have to work to understand the meaning of each chapter. Imagine you're telling the story around the campfire. How would you describe each scene? Leave out the boring parts that people skip, and add emotion, flavor, reactions, and details about each character that make readers want to know them better.

Write Short Chapters

This may be the biggest key to all of Patterson's work. It's his signature, more than any other detail. His chapters are rarely more than three or four pages long, and many of them are shorter than that. Short paragraphs allow you to end each one with a cliffhanger, as if you didn't have enough room to finish your thought before having to turn the page. This makes your readers want to keep scrolling through the story, and creates reviews that complain about your book keeping readers up all night.

Realistic is Relative

So what if your spy is using technology that doesn't work? Who cares if a firefighter would never act the way your character does? In your world, they do. Don't be a slave to every authentic detail. Telling an interesting story is much more important than getting the obscure science right. Be ready for the one reader who points out your flaws, but the crowds of other readers who just don't care will drown him out.

Know Your Audience and Write for Them

Picture your ideal reader. If you don't know who this person is, make someone up. Once this reader is firmly in your mind, write your book as if you want to please her and no one else. Your writing will have more feeling and depth, and all the readers who are like your ideal reader will fall in love with your work. This method works for top authors in multiple genres, and is sure to improve your work, as well.

Keep the Faith and May the Froce be with You!


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