I have been editing, writing, and ghostwriting in one form or another for decades: longer than some authors have even been alive. So when all those ads for James Patterson's Master Class on writing started showing up on my Facebook feed, I ignored them. I don't need those, and I certainly don't need to pay $90 for them.
After all, I've been ghostwriting professionally for 12 years. That means for 12 years I've been finding and interviewing clients, putting together proposals, and writing novels for other people for 12 years. And while I don't always get to see what's come of some of those novels after I've sent them off to the clients, the sheer number of repeat clients looking to expand their novels into a series kept me confident enough to know I was doing a good job of it.
And, to be perfectly honest, I was a little angry at James Patterson. True, I had never even met the guy, but he really made my life hell for a short while. You see, it's no secret that James Patterson often employs ghostwriters to write some of his books — a practice that has me a bit jealous because he's never hired me. And it's a practice that other fiction writers find revolting. And as such they disparage the ghostwriting profession and those who would find work doing it. Oh yes, I've been called stupid many times for selling the rights to stories I crafted for the sake of a dollar rather than venturing out into publishing on my own. Or that I would allow men like James Patterson to reach heights of fame where he dare release a Master Class on Writing when he doesn't even write his own materials anymore.
And I never set out to be like Stephen King, J.K. Rowley, or James Patterson. I never set my goals on dozens of bestsellers, movie deals, and fame. I just wanted to write. And clearly I know enough about writing to do just that.
Then it came…the dare. I was talking to a good friend of mine, another ghostwriter, who admitted to me that he was taking that class. And he thought I should enroll as well. “After all, you're always preaching about life-long learning and constant improvement. Why purposely turn down the opportunity to do both?”
Ugh…. I hate it when my friends are right.
So I visited the class several times over the next few months. Every time the ad popped up in my Facebook feed or any other page, I visited and read over all the information. Then in November, as a NaNoWriMo winner I was given a free lesson straight out of the class.
I was enthralled. I sat through that lesson on editing four or five times. And each time I found myself muttering phrases ranging from “yep, yep…knew that” to “why didn't I ever think of that?”
Yes, I was learning. And it was brilliant.
So I took the plunge, paid the $90 and sat down take my first class right away. Three days later (hey, I have a toddler, so even self-paced video classes take me a bit of time), I graduated. Want to know what I got for my $90 and three days of time?
- A dose of humility. I was good, but that was mostly because I was comparing myself to the people around me — people who could write but weren't writers. Don't get me wrong, I have a lot of author friends, brilliant author friends who are twice the writer I am. But on a scale of my friends, I rated myself at about a decent 7 as far as writing ability and know-how. But after taking this class, I realize now that my scale was grossly biased. I was much closer to a 3 or 4.
- Preparedness. So my scale had to be adjusted and I had to rerate myself at a 3 or 4. This could have been a huge blow to my ego. But instead, I finished the class ready to ramp up my rating for real. And I felt like I knew how to do just that.
- Excitement. Not only did I get to learn tips and hints on writing techniques and processes themselves, I also learned motivational techniques and I ended the course fired up and ready to attack my works in progress and start getting them completed.
- Renewed commitment to my work. More than anything, I couldn't wait to apply all the new information I had learned to my ghostwriting projects. I had been suffering from a bit of an energy slump — feeling as though too much of my time was being sucked away by ghostwriting projects and I couldn't complete any of my own projects. A classic case of work burnout. But now I find myself ready to take on even more. I've written up more proposals and bids on more projects than I had since last summer.
So why should a ghostwriter of 12 years professional experience take James Patterson's Master Class? To learn more about the craft, about how to sell the craft, and how to stay excited about the craft. To relearn everything I thought I knew, and discover things I didn't know. And who knows, maybe one of these days, James Patterson really will hire me to ghostwrite with him. If I can learn this much from him from an online, self-paced class, I can only imagine how much I could learn working with him in person.