Want an inside look at the James Patterson Teaches Writing MasterClass? In this review, I take a look at James’ MasterClass course and give you my thoughts on whether or not it’s worth taking.
I’ve taken a handful of online courses over the past ten years, but this is my first time reviewing a course in any kind of official setting.
I’ve outlined my goal with this website on the About Us page (which, you can read here), but the main ideas behind this website are A) to inspire others into self-learning, and B) to just learn as much as I possibly can. I’m going to attempt to accomplish those goals by taking and reviewing as many online courses as possible.
This is the beginning of those goals.
And, for my first course review, I’ll be taking a look at the James Patterson Teaches Writing MasterClass course.
Why Did I Choose this Class?
Since 2012, I have made a living as a solo online entrepreneur. Having success in that area requires multiple skills, most of which I have developed and acquired along the way.
However, the one skill that really allowed me to get started in online entrepreneurship was my ability to write.
I don’t claim to be an excellent writer…
…but whatever amount of writing ability that I do possess did play a significant role in helping me to build multiple successful online businesses.
I was a pretty mediocre student throughout high school and I failed a couple of attemps at getting through college. But, througout high school and my brief stints in college, I was fortunte enough to have a handful of teachers compliment me on my writing.
And, I think that because I never really stood out in any other area of academics, those compliments really attracted me to writing and literature in general.
However, while writing has played a big role in the success I’ve had, I feel like the type of writing that has been required for those pursuits has somewhat stifled my skill as a writer
For the past ~7 years or so, I’ve mostly written more technical types of content. It hasn’t exactly been the most inspiring type of content to write about and, unfortunately, I have probably developed some bad habits as a result.
So, really, the main reason why I wanted to start out with a writing course was to just try and get back to a more creative and fulfilling form of writing.
I chose the James Patterson Teaches Writing MasterClass, specifically, because his course was the first writing course offered on MasterClass. And, my plan is to go through all of them in order
At the time of writing this review, there are nine total writing courses offered through MasterClass.
James’ class is geared towards writing novels (as I believe most of the writing courses on MasterClass are.)
I have toyed with the idea of writing my own novel. I don’t know if I’m ready to take that challenge on as of right now, but as a spoiler to what this course holds, I’ll say that, because of this course—and, more importantly, because of James’ insight into writing—I’m considering the prospects of writing a novel more than ever.
Who Is James Patterson?
James Patterson is one of the most successful novelists of all time.
A former advertising executive, James’ debuted his first novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, in 1976. He’s most well-known for his popular crime/mystery series, Alex Cross.
James has consistently ranked in at least the top three (and at the very top more often than not) of Forbes’ highest-paid authors list over the past decade and beyond.
Of the 150+ books that he has published since his debut, well over a hundred of them have gone on to become New York Times Bestsellers.
Patterson’s success is thanks in large part to his grueling publishing pace (he’s published as many as 18 books in a single year) and the fast-paced quick-chapter layouts of his books.
Patterson does co-author a lot of his books (he touches on the subject of co-authoring in the course) which helps him pump out more novels than the average writer.
James Patterson Teaches Writing: Reviewing the Course
This section represents the bulk of the review. I’ve broken down the review on this course into four sections: the instructor, the content, how well the course is organization, and how well it is produced and presented.
The best part of this course is James himself.
He really makes the couse.
That’s not to say the other elements of the course aren’t great, but James is excellent as an instructor. He is very likable and down-to-earth.
James’ best quality, though, is his ability to deliver impactful insight into the process of writing novels. He does so through personal stories of his experience going through the process of writing novels.
I didn’t really know much about James before I took the course and, even while I was taking it, I didn’t realize the insane amount of success he has had.
He’s made close to $100 million per year over the last 10+ years selling his books… and he has easily made more money than any other writer over the past decade.
Yet, you would never know it by watching him and hearing him talk about writing.
He seems like a guy who is still very passionate about creating and writing stories. It’s inspirational, really. And, as a result, I feel like I want to write a novel at some point now more than ever before.
Overall, while all of the other elements of the course are done well, it’s James—as an instructor—that separates this course from the boring slide presentation courses you’ll find on other platforms.
The content in the course refers to the actual material, the assignments, and the content available outside of the video lessons.
This is my first MasterClass course, but I’m assuming they all have the same general format. And, that is, a bunch of video lessons, a workbook to go along with the video lessons, assignments, a Q&A section, and a discussion forum.
— Video Lessons
The video lessons aren’t really James saying, “Okay, start here, then do this and this, and, after that, do this,” but, rather, James providing insight on the different parts of writing a novel.
I’ll touch more on how the course is organized below, but the progession of the content makes sense in how I would assume writing a novel goes.
You do get plenty of practical tips and tidbits throughout the course that will help you in writing a novel as well, though.
James covers topics like, having the passion necessary to write a novel as well as the habits you need to form, how to come up with story ideas, how to develop your plot and scenes in your book, how to research your book, why you should start with an outline, how to create characters, etc.
So, in terms of the video lessons alone in this course, they do provide you with a really good understanding of the process behind writing a novel.
— Workbook, Assignments, and Q & A
The workbook really just highlights some of the main points of the video lessons, but that is also where you’ll find the assignments.
Not every video lesson has an assignment to go along with it, but quite a few of the more action-based lessons do have writing assignments.
The assignments that are available are just some basic writing prompts that are based on related video lesson; things like writing the first line of your novel (to hook your reader), or creating a short synopsis of your novel, or writing dialogue between two characters based off of a scene provided in the work book.
The nice part about the assignments, though, is that James critiques quite a few of them in the Q & A “Office Hours” section of the course.
While the video lessons are great on their own, the extra content from James delivered in the Q & A section is perhaps even better, because that’s where you’ll actually see him point out writing that does or does not work (at least—as he often says—in his opinion).
His critiques are great because he doesn’t beat around the bush…
If he likes what the writer has done, he says so and why, and if he doesn’t like it, he is upfront and honest about why it doesn’t work for him.
The downside for anyone who might be interested in taking this course, though, is that it appears as if James no longer does the Q & A sessions.
That makes sense, though, because the course is a couple of years old now and I’m sure James was probably just contracted to stick around for the Q & A sessions for a certain period of time.
Fortunately, the many Q & A sessions that he did do are still available and are still just as helpful as I assume they were a couple of years ago.
— The Community
I didn’t spend a ton of time in the community discussion area and going forward with reviewing courses, I probably won’t utilize the community feature too much.
In this course, though, if you want to bounce your story ideas or writing prompts off of other students, you can post them in the community discussion and get some feedback.
Although, again, as the course is a bit older, it isn’t as popular right now as some of the newer courses.
For instance, right now in the subforum for the newest MasterClass course, Aaron Franklin Teaches Texas-Style BBQ, there have been mutliple posts by community members in the last hour hour.
However, with James’ course—which was one of the very first MasterClass courses—there have only been a handful of new posts in the subforum over the last week.
Fortunately, though, the content of James’ course is good enough to where it doesn’t really require the community element…
The community is a nice throw-in for those who are willing to utilize it and, at the very least, you can go back through the older discussions from when the course first launched to get some extra content.
As I pointed out above in the ‘Content’ section, the course is well-organized in terms of the progression of where the content starts to where it ends.
The course starts out with a nice introduction in the first two videos and then gets into things like, coming up with ideas, covering what a plot is and why its important, tips on conducting research for your book, etc.
I’ve never written a novel, but the content does feel like it is organized in a similar way to how you would write a book.
It did take me a bit of playing around to figure out the layout of the course.
And, there isn’t a quick way to jump from the main course page directly to the forums. The layout isn’t unmanageable and the core content is easy enough to navigate through.
I do think that the layout could be improved by linking to the Q & A sessions from the related lesson video’s page.
The video lessons do auto-play, so once you’ve finished one video lesson, the next one will launch after a few seconds.
Perhaps after the video lesson finishes, instead of jumping to the next video lesson, it could prompt you to check out the Q & A session that goes along with it.
I believe that one of the main advantages that MasterClass has as a platform over other course platforms (like Udemy and Coursera) is in how their courses are presented.
With Udemy or Coursera, you don’t really know what you’re going to get.
I’ve taken courses on both Udemy and Coursera that are essentially just voiced-over slide presentations. You can learn from those, but I think a really good production quality can take a course to the next level.
And, that seems to be one of the ways that MasterClass is aiming to separate itself from the competition (along with pulling in high-profile instructors).
Of all of the online courses I have taken in the past, the production quality on James Patterson Teaches Writing is by far the best I’ve experienced.
The video lessons are high quality—and, I don’t mean that they’re available in high-defintion, but, rather that all of the little things are done right: the lighting is on point, the audio is perfect, the set/backdrop is appealing, the editing is great, etc.
The course is produced very well.
Obviously, if the content isn’t great, then it doesn’t matter how well the course is presented. But, when the content is superb, it is well organized, and it is presented like a high-budget production, it really takes the experience to the next level.
And, because of the extra lengths in production quality and presentation that MasterClass seems to be going through with their courses , I’m really excited about their as a platform for learning.
Is the James Patterson MasterClass Course Worth It?
MasterClass charges $90 for individual courses, or $180 per year for unlimited access to all of their courses. I knew that I’d be taking more than just James Patterson’s course, so I opted for the all-access yearly subscription.
But, I would say that, for me, James Patterson’s course is definitely worth $90 on its own.
I’d probably pay $90 just to listen to James talk at length about anything.
He’s an entertaining and insightful guy who has had a ton of success as a writer. Just listening to him talk about his experiences was well worth the cost of admission.
I mentioned at the beginning of this review that I have considered writing a novel, but I feel like after this course it is something I definitely want to do.
And, that is in large part due to how James painted the process.
But, the content is helpful as well.
I learned a lot about the process of writing a novel and, if I do choose to do so in the future, I feel like the material provided in the course will give me a better idea of how to go about doing so.
How is MasterClass As A Platform?
Along with how good James was as an instructor, I was also happy with MasterClass as a platform.
This is the first MasterClass course that I have taken and what hooked me was not only the high-profile instructors that they have gotten to do the courses, but also the production quality their promotions hinted at.
The production quality on the James Patterson course is top-notch.
It’s the same production quality you’d find on a high-budget documentary. This really makes the course special.
I’ve taken plenty of courses on other platforms where, despite offering good content, the experience wasn’t enjoyable because you’re really just watching and listeng to an instructor read slides.
So, for me, I’m glad I purchased the yearly subscription.
All I’ll really need for the $180 subscription to be worth it is for me to find one other MasterClass course that I’d also pay $90 for. At that point, I will have broken even (since, I’d gladly pay $90 for this course alone).
And, with well over 50 courses available, I’m sure I will find more than one MasterClass course that I think offers a similar experience to the James Patterson course.
The bottom line, though, is that I found James Patterson’s MasterClass course very helpful and I recommend it to any prospective novel writers.
You will pay a bit more for it than for something you’d find on Udemy or Coursera. But, if you’re willing to pay the $180 for the all-access pass, there are eight other writing courses available on MasterClass that will likely make the subscription worth the cost.