Sunday, January 24, 2010

Is it wrong for James Patterson not to write his own books?

The answer to the above? Yes.

I just finished reading the NYT Magazine article about how James Patterson no longer writes his own books, but does the outlines and hires different co-writers. He does credit the other writers, and he probably does pay them handsomely, but the whole thing is coiled up in my stomach like bad diner food.

Because I'm a novelist and I know so many novelists, I'm well aware of all the adjectives that go along with being a writer--despair, anxiety, worry, fear, obsession, exhilaration and privilege. It IS a privilege to be a writer, to get to enter those worlds and create something new, to tunnel into other lives and produce what you hope is art. Patterson cheerfully admits he does not write anymore but only outlines, and says he has no interest to do anything different, that this is simply too much fun.


I don't know if readers care one way or another. Maybe they simply want a read that's wonderful to them and it doesn't matter who wrote it. I know I would mind and though I've never read any Patterson before, I now never will, simply because the whole thing seems so distasteful to me. I realize many books are ghostwritten, but that's usually because the person can't write--he or she needs someone to finesse the ideas. But Patterson began as a writer, so this smacks of something quite different.

Sigh. If there were really a key to Writerland, I'd want him to return his. He puts a bad spin of the profession. He denigrates the hard work all the rest of us do. If I had to put up my own co-writers, I'd think they would be Anxiety, Depression, Obsession, and yes, exhilaration.


Amy said...

I couldn't agree more. I felt the same way when I went through a big Marion Zimmer Bradley phase after reading The Mists of Avalon, and was dismayed to find many of her later novels were "co-authored." And not nearly as good. It felt like a cheat--if her name was on the book, she should have written it. After all, her name was the selling point, not the co-author. It's not the same thing as when authors come together for a voluntary working relationship. In this case, it's subcontracting.

Katharine Weber said...

The only difference between Patterson and a number of other perennials on the bestseller lists is that the others don't admit that they are working this same way.

Clea Simon said...

I don't know if I want to frame this as a moral question. I do know that I read that piece and thought that as much as I'd like a big house, etc., I don't want to work that way. Don't want to write torture porn sado-masochistic scenes, don't want to "write" with five employees drafting my books. Don't want to. I don't care if other bestselling so-called authors do that, Katharine. It's not writing, and I don't want to do it.

Unknown said...

It is TOTALLY WRONG, in my humble opinion. I really hate that Mr. Patterson no longer puts any effort into his books. I can no longer pick one up and depend on getting his writing style and quality content. I just read two of his books, one was HORRIBLE, the other very good. This situation is depressing for an avid reader and prior Patterson fan! Ugh!

timtrozzo said...

The only adult book series that Mr Patterson is currently writing on his own is Alex Cross.All the others are written by/with other authors.

Anonymous said...

I have read every James Patterson book written, and enjoyed them all. The SHAMEFUL act is the blatant marketing of ONLY his name. These are talented writers in their own right. Check out an author bio page...five paragraphs on JP and one sentence on the real writer that says "so and so lives in new york with his dog,Spot."

Anonymous said...

"The only adult book series that Mr Patterson is currently writing on his own is Alex Cross"

I started reading the Alex Cross series years ago and so continue to do so simply to keep the character alive for myself, BUT the last four or five have been terribly written - no description, no detail, just plot. It is the writing of a robot - cold and emotionaless! Garbage.

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Stephen Heisner said...

I never liked his books and like them and him even less, now. What a rip off for the public. Most people are generally clueless and choose to remain that way. but this is pathetic.