Skip to Content

'Perseverance is key to making it as a writer'

5 December 2016

‘I wrote my first mystery novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, when I was 26. It was turned down by, I don't know, thirty or more publishers. Then it was bought and went on to win the Edgar Award for Best First Novel.

Obviously, and I know this from experience, perseverance is key to making it as a writer. You have to be able to accept rejection and keep going. If you know that it's what you want to do, then you need to make it happen. No one else will make it happen for you.

In my novels it's all about the story. I don't try to be a great prose stylist; I try to be a great storyteller. I like to imagine the reader is sitting opposite me and I'm telling the story directly to them. I don't want that person to get up until I'm finished. I want to keep their attention with continual surprises and twists so they're not bored for a single moment.

For me the hardest part of writing a novel is the ending. You've invested your time and energy into building suspense, getting the reader emotionally involved with the characters and with the story itself, so if the ending is unsatisfactory it's massively disappointing. Expectation has been built up through the course of the novel and you need to deliver a conclusion that fulfils it. If you can do that, you'll have a satisfied reader.'

James Patterson, author of Cross the Line and many other novels, whose sales amount to 350 million+ books