Do you remember your first day on the job?

Engaging writer’s first day on the job at James Patterson, Inc.

He wants to make a good impression but it’s not going to be as easy as he thought. If only he hadn’t lost his full stop.

“The Rumors Swirling About James Patterson” is a lean, mean literary machine. Ever wondered how they make a bestseller? Time to punch in.

Can the new writer avoid temptation and get with the program?

Rated R / 2,000 words / 8 minutes of keen reading pleasure /

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‘Since 2006, one out of every 17 novels bought in the United States was written by James Patterson.’ The New York Times



Copyright 2010 Stefano Boscutti
All Rights Reserved

Shit, Where did I put that full stop?

I don’t want to lose anything. Not on my first day at work. Maybe I dropped it in the foyer.

Margaret is giving me the first-day-at-work tour. I know James Patterson uses a lot of writers, right. I mean we all know that.

But I’m still surprised when she opens the doors into the official writers’ room. A little shocked, actually. It’s the size of a double aircraft hangar.

And not one of those rustic country hangars with wooden propellers hanging on the corrugated walls next to faded calendars from aviation supply companies.

It’s large enough to park two new 767s side by side. It’s packed end to end with writers tapping away on the latest series of James Patterson bestsellers. Some are there for dialogue, others for plotting, still more for characterization. There are some adverb specialists, comma experts. (Actually not too many of those.)

Dozens working on color and movement, more than a few dedicated to profanity. Plenty for theme and tone and motif and symbol and that kind of thing. Not so much for metaphors and analogies.

But more currency advisors than you’d imagine. It’s been that way ever since James Patterson, Inc. went public and foreign sales really took off.

All you can hear is fingers skimming across keyboards. That and the faint sound of air conditioning keeping the banks of servers from overheating.

There are some glassed-in offices down one side. At the end is a large office clad in black glass with a black door.

‘Don’t even think of going in there.’


Margaret doesn’t repeat herself. She just looks at me as if I’m deaf and dumb and leads me straight to an unmanned desk towards the back.

It’s not really a desk. It’s just a flat metal surface with a keyboard screwed into place and a fixed plain monitor with a black screen. The cursor blinks white. My daily word quota hovers in the bottom right-hand corner.

Margaret puts out her hand.

‘I’ll need your writing instruments and any paper-based recording devices.’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘Mr. Patterson doesn’t allow pens or paper. It distracts from the writing.’

I smile. Margaret looks over the rim of her glasses.

‘Don’t think I didn’t notice the bulge in the back of your jeans when you first walked in.’

‘Oh, right.’

I take out the small black Moleskine notebook from my back pocket. (Really, you prefer that other brand with the orange covers and the black fir trees?)

My pencil slips out from my notebook and scuttles across the floor. Some of the writers pause typing mid-word. Margaret snaps around and they keep typing without looking up.

I can tell Margaret doesn’t like writers like me.

I pick up my pencil and hand it to her. The tip has broken off.

‘Frankly, I’m not sure why Mr. Patterson hired you.’

‘I’m pretty sure it’s my winning personality.’

Margaret doesn’t even try to smile.

‘Or my polo skills.’

Margaret raises a finger to her lips but doesn’t raise her voice.

‘You’re not here to talk. You’re here to write.’

I sit down.

All the computers are networked to the main servers.

I glance over to the black door. Maybe James Patterson is inside shaping all the words, flowing them into stories. Polishing an adverb here, modifying a tense there.

‘Your words are automatically saved as you type. Unfortunately there are still some technical issues with the syllable blocker, so please try to keep the words down to two syllables at most.’

I want to make a joke about the word syllable having three syllables, but I’m not fast enough.

‘Under no circumstance use the word motherfucker.’

‘Three syllables, right?’

Margaret blinks.

‘What if I spell it with an a?’

Margaret actually sighs.

‘Don’t try and beef up your daily word count with extraneous fucks, fucker, fucked, fucking, fuckhead. Our profanity department allocates all swear words according to market preference.’

Margaret nods towards the glassed-in offices where teams of editors are working away.

‘Don’t add extra full stops or periods. They don’t count towards your daily word count quota. Neither do apostrophes, brackets, colons, dashes, ellipses, exclamation marks, guillemets, hyphens, question marks, quotation marks, semicolons, strokes, solidi, interpuncts, ampersands, asterisks or at signs.’

I’m about to ask about copyright signs when Margaret cocks her head and leaves.

‘I’ve never liked writers like you.’

And I’m not exactly fond of your shoes. (No, I don’t say it. I think it. What? You think I didn’t hear the no talking rule?)

I try to make eye contact, but every other writer is typing away, either looking at their screens or their keyboards or both at the same time.

I look around for security cameras. I’d heard rumors that James Patterson had cameras trained on all his writers feeding back to his office. Monitors showed the writers and the words they were writing in real time.

If any writer was underperforming, James Patterson could flick a switch and give a mild electric shock to spark them up.

What kind of rumor is that? Probably started by some envious novelist. James Patterson is not a despot. He’s a bestselling author.

But I reach under the seat just in case.

The first words skim across my monitor: Je ne sais quoi.

I type in my reply: I didn’t know you could speak Spanish.

This is my job. I write witty rebounder lines. Not the setup, not even the punch line. Just the snapback. I’m not too bad at it. But you know the rule. Ten thousand hours at anything and you’re a genius.

Six words are subtracted from my daily word count quota. Shit, ‘I’ doesn’t count either.

Another line skims across the screen: Mac had managed to take all her clothes off.

Is that an ice pick in your pocket or are you just glad to see me. Naked.

“Mona Lisa?” she asked.

“I love Italian.”

Then she, too, fell asleep.

I look over at the black door. You could write a whole book on the rumors swirling about James Patterson.

James Patterson has lost his mind and is housed in a private mental hospital on his private island off the coast of Florida. He’s the only resident, drugged to the eyeballs and screeching about Jesus and Norwegian sales reports.

James Patterson hasn’t set foot on the ground for the past six years. He constantly flies around the globe in a fleet of private jets with decoy jets for security.

James Patterson has taken his Howard Hughes fetish too far after buying the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas. He’s now holed up on the entire top floor lined with Mormons standing guard and watching his fingernails grow while bottling his own urine. Video projectors play original atomic test footage from the Nevada desert against the windows so he can see what Hughes saw.

James Patterson lost his hand in a bandsaw accident on his ranch. Which explains why you only ever see one hand in any of his author photographs. And why he needs so many writers. (Hey, you ever try typing with one hand? Fucking pain in the ass.)

The same line repeats across the screen: Then she, too, fell asleep.

After the seventh Rohypnol.

Then she opened the bag’s outer pocket and pulled out latex gloves, chlorhexidine, and a stiletto knife.

What’s for dinner, honey?

The walls were sunshine yellow. In the middle of the thick sky blue carpet was an enormous double bed.

Oh, shit, here comes the color reference.

Oh, shit, I didn’t mean to type that. Where’s the delete key? Back space? Shit, I hate the James Patterson™ keyboard. There’s no going back.

The screen refreshes. One character appears: ?

Shit, what did they tell me about self-reference in the orientation sessions?

I type: Unintended irony.

A new line skims across the screen: She cut quickly through muscle and ligament until she heard a soft hiss that told her his windpipe had been cut.


They took off their own clothes and folded them and put them as far away from the bed as possible.

I look back at the black door. Maybe it’s just a storeroom. Maybe it’s filled with the tricks of the trade. The stiletto knives. The switchblades. The scalpels. The butcher knives. The box cutters. The straight razors. The bayonets. The shivs. The means to an end.

The same line repeats across the screen: She cut quickly through muscle and ligament until she heard a soft hiss that told her his windpipe had been cut.

She heard a soft hiss. His windpipe had been cut.

The same line repeats across the screen: She cut quickly through muscle and ligament until she heard a soft hiss that told her his windpipe had been cut.

Everyone’s an editor. (That’s all I type out even though I want to write about motivation and character, and how the word ‘character’ is derived from the Greek word ‘kharakter,’ which means an engraved mark, a symbol or imprint on the soul.)

Sylvia stared at the man’s genitals.

What a dick.

“Maybe the best one yet. Even better than in Rome.”

“We’ll always have Paris.”

The sounds of the night faded into silence.

Motherfucking cliche. This time I thought it. I didn’t type it out.

For a moment, I wonder where my words go. Who rolls them into a story? Everyone here knows only a fraction of what they write ever makes it to print. There’s always been speculation the real James Patterson is nothing more than a software algorithm that parses millions of words and phrases and sentences into one bestseller after the other.

I look over to the black door.

Relieving yourself of context certainly frees you up to write. The words come spilling out. Someone (or something) has to make sense of them. My daily word count quota number is tumbling down like an odometer in reverse.

The same line repeats itself across the screen: The sounds of the night faded into silence.

The night that wraps us all in silence, the night that kisses the day farewell. The night that sees us off into the stars and away into the hands of the gods, where we can dwell forever in the universal light.

“Murder is hard work, darling.”

I need to go to the bathroom.

They waited until the doors had closed and the elevator was descending before they kissed.

No, really, I need to go to the bathroom.

He took a large sip from a mug of Riesling wine.

I get up and head towards the black door.

A few people watch me. One writer actually stops typing and looks up, a little horrified.

I can see my reflection in the smooth black glass. I take a breath and turn the handle and open the door.

It’s very dark inside. Two men yelp their heads away from a bank of monitors.

‘What are you doing? You can’t be in here.’

‘This isn’t the bathroom?’

‘Of course not. This is the period department.’

‘The period department?’

Words keep flooding through the monitors, and both men return to stabbing their keyboards. There’s just one key on each. Period.

‘Oh, you’re the guys who put in the full stops. Good work. Sorry about this. It’s my first day. I’m a little lost.’

I think about asking about the full stop I’d misplaced earlier and then think better of it.

I’m sure I’ll find it.


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Copyright 2010 Stefano Boscutti

All Rights Reserved ISBN 9780980712506

The moral rights of the author are asserted.

No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, digital, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or copying and pasting, recording or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing.

Stefano Boscutti acknowledges the trademark owners of various products referenced in this work. The publication or use of these trademarks is not authorised or sponsored by the trademark owner.

This is a work of fiction. While many of the characters portrayed here have counterparts in the life and times of James Patterson and others, the characterisations and incidents presented are totally the products of the author’s rapid-fire imagination. This work is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It should not be resold or given away. Thank you for your support. (Couldn’t do it without you.)

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