Does This Count as Writing?

James PattersonI came upon this article about how James Patterson has 13 books coming out this year, and why they sell so well, and it raised one major question: Is this really writing?

Patterson explains in the interview that when he writes his books, he writes a detailed outline, and then sends it off to friends of his who writes the actual details. Patterson then looks these over, and either leaves notes or re-writes them entirely.

Now, I suppose that he does technically come up with the ideas, and he does write these detailed outlines. But, does it really count if he’s sending the outline to his friends to write the rest of the story?

I suppose a writer of his magnitude and fame can afford to mass-produce books like this. And, since he makes $80 million a year, he doesn’t have to put everything into his novels to make them deep and meaningful. I mean, I don’t write mystery novels, so I don’t know what the main objective is supposed to be behind the story; but, I imagine that his name sells more books than the actual story does.

I’ve never read any of Patterson’s books, but from what I’ve seen it generally appears that his name appears larger on the cover than the title of the book. I imagine this is done on purpose, because the publishers know that his name will sell. That’s just smart marketing.

So, my question to you: Do you think this counts as writing?

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13 thoughts on “Does This Count as Writing?

  1. No. Not to me. A writer works haaaaard on his/her work, and this to me seems like a sell-out idea. You’re right, his name probably sells the book, but even Stephen King does it the right way. This is just pure laziness.

  2. Very interesting article… and he even states, ” I’m not a writer’s writer. I’m not a craftsman. I could be, and that would be a one-book-a-year operation.” I’d say he’s more of a writing supervisor, not necessarily a writer at this point. Perhaps he once was, though.

    I think the only novel I’ve read with his name on it is ‘The Jester’ which had both James Patterson’s name on the cover, as well as Andrew Gross. Which probably means Gross wrote the majority of it while Patterson outlined/edited/re-worked it. It was okay. Nothing spectacular, but I finished it at a fairly quick pace and didn’t regret reading it.

  3. It most certainly does NOT! Writing is putting YOUR PEN to paper and struggling through the story, crying with your protagonist, pushing them through, on your own time and sweat and thoughts. Coming up with a basic plot and then having someone else do the dirty work…that’s cheating.

  4. Whoa! That’s just crazy! I can’t believe that. I wondered why I kept seeing his name everwhere, it makes sense if he`s chucking out that many books each year.
    I guess it counts as writing as he`s still coming up with the plot, but certainly lazy writing. It`s more like giving someone a brief and getting them to write it all for you. Coh!
    I personally have never read any of his books either, the whole his-name-is-huge-on-the-front-cover thing puts me off, it makes him look like he has a big ego.
    Great post, thanks for the interesting info!

  5. Ghostwriting. It’s writing, but maybe an inferior form. That’s too bad that he does that. So many writers use it as a cathartic experience, and he’s just doing it to make money. There’s nothing wrong with that, I guess, but it sort of seems to defeat the purpose. I’ve read two of his books. One was fabulous and the other was not very interesting. I wonder if that means two different “friends” wrote them?

  6. This does not count as writing! He’s missing the whole horrible, traumatic and brilliant experience of having your entire life consumed by a single chapter that refuses to work.

  7. I have to say, I’m not a fan of JP but my friend is and devours everything he publishes…..but, she admits that over the years the quality of his writing has gone down hill….now I know WHY! Lol….can’t wait to tell her 😉

    I wasn’t a fan before, and if I had been tempted to buy one I definitely won’t now!

    If I was one of his readers I’d just feel a little bit conned 😦


  8. Well, there are a lot of popular authors with “cookie cutter” plots and they plop in different characters. We talked about this at our writing group the other day. Do you “whore” yourself to get your work sold? If so, how much? It’s more of an individual choice, I guess. Vampire stories are popular now, but I’m not going to write any. I guess he’s a good businessman with a successful product line. But writing? Probably not.

  9. Absolutely no way is this writing. I agree with Vikki’s post above. He’s a celebrity. His name is a catchy headline. Thanks for posting this Chris because I was actually contemplating buying his latest book (it’s been hugely advertised at my local bookstore here in Australia) but I don’t think I will now. .

  10. It was several years ago that I started noticing that his books were not HIS BOOKS. I remarked about it to friends of mine who were fans of his. It started getting more and more amusing as his name got bigger and bigger on the covers of all of these books…. but not completely eliminating the “with so & so” author.

    The Women’s Murder Club series, especially, were actually a bit better than I thought he could have written himself…..and the Maximum Rides….so maybe it’s better that he outsourced them.

    But who would want to be the ghostwriter or the sub-writer, or whatever? I guess they get paid well or they wouldn’t do it, huh?

    And no, that’s not “writing” – that’s executive directing.

  11. Detailed outlining can help the writing go fast, and we use it a lot to work out our stories before we start writing, but if our name is on the cover we want to be sure our words are on the page. I wonder how he keeps his voice if others do the writing.

  12. Reblogged this on Belle DiMonté's Official Website and commented:
    What do y’all think? I personally find this disgusting and deceitful – having your books ghostwritten does NOT make you a writer! It’s one thing to come up with an idea and another thing to actually write it.

  13. If some-one else writes it and he tweaks it, surely it counts as editing. It would be better if they used his name to sell the books help launch the authors who are doing the actual writing.

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