James Patterson Writing Quotes

James Patterson is one of the world’s most prolific and wealthiest authors. One of his co-authors is a former U.S. president. In the following quotes, James Patterson shares advice and inspiration gained from his many years of writing. Topics covered in the quotes include:

  • Patterson’s writing routine and process
  • How to generate ideas for writing
  • Importance of reading for a writer

If you want to learn how to write from James Patterson, check out his writing course on MasterClass. Learn more about MasterClass courses here.

If you want to learn more about James Patterson, check out his quick biography.

Quotes on the Writing Life

1. I grew up in the woods in Newburgh, and there weren’t a lot of people around, and I would just wander in the woods out there and tell myself stories, one after the other. And I didn’t really make anything of it. I never thought I was going to be a storyteller or a writer, but I was just in the habit. – Vanity Fair Interview, 2014

2. Somebody said you’re lucky if you find something you like to do, and it’s a miracle if somebody will pay you to do it, and that’s my gig. I love doing it. I’m very quick, and good as a storyteller, I’m not that interested in being a craftsman. – The Guardian Interview, 2021

3. I run around the golf course very early in the morning, for an hour and a half, which is a little bit of exercise. You just go and chase the silly little ball for an hour plus. Most of the rest of the day is writing and storytelling, which I love. Not a lot of socializing. – USA Today, 2013

4. Somebody said the key to life is to work hard, play hard, rest hard, and I’ve pretty much adopted that. – The Guardian Interview, 2012

5. Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day, you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass. – Book Browse Interview

6. There’s always something new to work on. Even if I hadn’t achieved any success, I would still be writing stories. – Marisha Pessl Interview

7. I plan on writing twice as many books each year in the afterlife. – Marisha Pessl Interview

Quotes on What Makes James Patterson Successful

8. I have the ability to dream up things but also to step back and ask, “Does anybody care? Is anybody going to be interested in this? Am I interested in it as a reader?” – HBR Interview, 2012

9. What I find most interesting in those books is not the murders. I always try to make sure that they hook you and they keep surprising you. – USA Today, 2013

10. Part of it is the advertising experience, which forces you to think about how people will react. But I think I went into that business with a gut that worked reasonably well. I just have a feeling for what’s going to stick to the wall, what’s going to move people. – HBR Interview, 2012

11. For a long time we’ve over-rewarded the ability to retain information, to spit back other people’s theorems, and not paid as much attention to the ability to innovate and be imaginative. – HBR Interview, 2012

12. My tendency in any business – publishing, advertising, Hollywood – is to seriously question the rules. – HBR Interview, 2012

13. I know what I want in all my books. It’s my way or the highway. I know who my readers are and how to engage them, how to scare them, how to get people to feel for the characters, how to make my readers laugh. – Vanity Fair Interview, 2014

14. The only thing now that’s different than what I faced earlier, and what a lot of young writers face, is I’m very confident that I will solve the problem at some point. Whereas, when most of us start out, unless we’re unbelievably arrogant, we’re not sure. – USA Today, 2013

15. I don’t think anyone grows up without some kind of hardship. It’s an unavoidable part of life. It may not make everyone a great writer, but it does give everyone a unique story to tell, and I think that’s a beautiful thing. – Marisha Pessl Interview

Quotes on Reading

16. I read a lot – and I try to read from every possible segment. The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Week, Paris Review, Tin House. – Marisha Pessl Interview

17. But I’ll still do 30 to 40 books a year, so it’s still a fair amount of reading. Back and forth between nonfiction and fiction. I usually have three or four things that are open on my desk, on my bed, on audiobook in the car. – USA Today, 2013

18. I was always a good student, but I didn’t read that much until I was 18 and I was working my way through college. But I never read detective novels. I started out in graduate school writing a more serious book. – USA Today, 2013

19. I think books are probably the best place to get varying points of view on things, understand how other people think and live their lives and have more understanding and compassion for people. – CNN (2012)

Quotes on James Patterson’s Writing Process and Routine

20. As I do with all of my books, I outlined The Beach House from the beginning to end. I did know that the book would end with a mind-boggling trial, but I didn’t know exactly how it would turn out. I like a little suspense when I am writing, too. – Book Browse Interview

21. It’s very easy for me to multitask. I can go to another table and focus on something new and get right into it. – HBR Interview, 2012

22. The day will be a combination of writing, rewriting, outlines, different voices. They’re all things I want to write, so that makes it easier. If you’re in a situation where you like two tasks and hate three, it’s hard to go back and forth. But I’m always doing something I want to do. – HBR Interview, 2012

23. I find that I’m working on three or more projects at any given time. For some reason, this is a very comfortable way for me to work. – Book Browse Interview

24. I’ll write an elaborate outline, maybe 70 pages, very detailed, clear, and focused. The co-author will write the first draft, and I’ll see the work every few weeks. I’ll do two to seven more drafts. – HBR Interview, 2012

25. When I have a first draft, then I will do another, and in some cases I’ve done, seven, eight, nine drafts. And that’s the process. I do the outline, the co-writer does the first draft, and I’ll do subsequent drafts. – CNN (2012)

26. In terms of outlining, I’ll go on little streaks…The reason that I will do outlines in a white heat is that I’m letting stuff flow through my system. I’ll go back and read one over and add to it, and subtract and let it percolate a bit. – USA Today, 2013

27. It’s just a pattern I am comfortable with. I get up every morning and chop wood, and I pretty much do it seven days a week, and I like to do it. – CNN (2012)

Quotes on Getting Writing Ideas

28. I have so many ideas. I have files with a ‘Clever Ideas’ title on it that’s about this thick that I’ll never get through – The Guardian Interview, 2021

29. Sometimes it can just be a title, or I just have a sense that I can build a story around something and I’m going to like the story. I have to feel emotional about it to do it. – CNN (2012)

30. I used to, like a lot of writers, get up at 2:30 in the morning and start scribbling stuff down. I’ve kind of stopped doing that, because the good ideas I tend to remember. – CNN (2012)

31. I have more than enough ideas right now. I have a folder in my office with about 400 ideas in it. So it will take me another 40 years to get through those. – CNN (2012)

Quotes on Criticism

32. Even if I wrote a really terrific book, I think I would still get a 50-50 split from the critics. So that’s one of the reservations: Some people will bang at me no matter what I do. – HBR Interview, 2012

33. The world would be awful if everybody had the same point of view – The Guardian Interview, 2021

Further Reading

If you loved the quotes by James Patterson, check out the huge collection of writing quotes below. The collection features the best quotes by some of the most famous writers such as Dan Brown, Louis L’Amour, Stephen King, J.K Rowling and Margaret Atwood among many more.

The quotes are full of valuable advice for any aspiring writer.

If you are struggling to create a business around your writing and need some encouragement, read the quotes below.