My WTF Wednesday night bike ride was canceled yesterday due to the pouring rain. Boo. So I rode fast on a bike indoors going absolutely nowhere. It is much more fun riding outdoors. The only advantage to indoors is that I can watch House of Cards or Orphan Black or some other TV show I only will watch if I am riding indoors.

I could have squeezed in a blog post but I decided to do a lesson in a masterclass I am taking. I am taking the class for free with the promise to review it, so I guess this is an early in the middle of class review since I have completed 4 of 22 lessons. You probably want to know what the class is, don’t you? It’s James Patterson Teaches Writing.

Here I have to admit I have never read a James Patterson novel. He doesn’t write the kinds of books I like to spend my time reading. However, I do know he is a bestselling author with gobs of books so he must know something about writing, right? That’s what I figured at any rate. Plus, I had nothing to lose so why not check it out?

So far, I am liking it. Patterson is a personable fellow. The videos are professional and are around 10-15 minutes long for each lesson. There is a workbook to go with the class that has a lesson recap and an assignment. There is opportunity to interact with classmates and even submit questions and work for critique to Patterson. I am not doing the assignments because I am not interested in writing a novel and that is what the assignments are mostly aimed at. But the things he talks about are things that work for most kinds of writing.

So what have I learned so far? Passion. You need to have passion for writing and it needs to be something you enjoy doing. If you have neither passion nor pleasure and only drudgery, then you are either doing it wrong or you shouldn’t be doing it at all. This is nice to hear from a writer instead of the usual suffering artist schtick or the “write because you have to and because there is nothing else you can do” fib.

Don’t think you have to have an original idea. There are no original ideas. There are only ideas that have been connected in new and different ways. And where do you get these ideas? Read a lot and read widely! Learn about new things. And keep a notebook with your ideas in them. The notebook will not only help you remember your ideas but it will also help you notice patterns and make connections. I found this advice comforting and reassuring. I’ve had friends tell me before that I should write a novel and I just laugh and say I could never because I wouldn’t know what to write about. And the advice is really valid when you think about it. I mean, how many coming-of-age stories have you read? Same basic idea, but they are all put together in different ways. It’s how you put it together that makes it interesting. Go figure.

When you are writing, leave out all the stuff readers are going to skim over. Patterson said that if you can’t tell what that is, have a trusted friend read it for you because they will be able to tell you. And be sure you stick to the nugget of your story and don’t go wandering far off course (I think George R.R. Martin needs to take this class!).

There are other things but these stood out most for me. My next lesson is about research, something I enjoy doing, so I am looking forward to what he has to say.

The class goes through the whole process of writing a novel, even up to publication and marketing and what to do after you have published. It will take me a while to get through all of it, but so far, very enjoyable.