Around my birthday a couple of months ago, I signed myself up for James Patterson’s MasterClass. I’d been thinking about it for a while, saw the previews online and the course outline on the website. I even read a few articles from established writers who’ve taken it and were pleased. The only thing holding me back was the $90 price tag compared to writing books in many stores that sell for about a third the cost. But when you weigh in the three or four hours of video lectures and workbook that comes with it (all in perpetuity), that does seem like a fair deal. Also, it’s simply what MasterClass is selling it for. Period.
The course is mainly aimed at beginning writers starting from scratch. That’s probably why I went through it in two days instead of the recommended six weeks. Because of the level it’s geared towards, a lot of it was remedial for me. I already knew the basics of plot structure, the value of research, the need for forward progression, and the importance of revisions.
The lectures I found particularly useful were Passion + Habit, Raw Ideas, Outlines (both parts), and Writer’s Block, and his video on Hollywood was humorous. But it’s hard to pin down specifics when his audience is so large and vague. I think there were 60,000 people signed up during the pre-enrollment period. As such, Patterson offers different angles on certain topics and trusting the audience to find what’s useful to them. For example, when he talks about finding a time to write, he says a couple of hours in the morning before work are what he had available, but acknowledges that for others, prime writing time couple be at night once the kids are in bed or on the subway commuting to work. Other times, he much more concrete and explains how lessons learned while working in advertising translated to successful marketing for his novels.
It is a decent and well-composed online course, but frankly there are better ones. The better ones may cost more, but you at least get to pose your questions directly to your instructor and get responses. If you’re a novice writer, I think this will help get your feet wet. If you’re an experienced writer, you’re going to have to dig through the lessons to find what’s relevant to you. And for both camps, it is kind of fun watching Patterson reflect on his career, give his opinions on the craft, and share the personal anecdotes that have happened along the way.