At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success. ~ Michael Law

How true and eye-opening that quote is. I am a meticulous perfectionist, fearful of making mistakes. Fearful of both failure and success. Regardless, it’s what drives me to write novels. Not only do I create ideas for stories and then develop characters, but I painstakingly sit down and write every word in my novels. By myself. Then comes the most difficult part of all: the editing process. I’ve been known to go through the entire manuscript up to five times. Funny, you must be thinking, because if I’m a real perfectionist, I most certainly must be editing as I write! Sadly, it’s not uncommon for me to find typos and timeline discrepancies in the fifth edit, which makes me wonder how much of perfectionist I was in the fourth edit!

So, imagine my disappointment in discovering that best-selling author, James Patterson—who must be a perfectionist—may not actually write all the content in his books. Say what? According to the website, Bright Hub Education, he retains editorial input in the form of ideas, outlines and finalizing final copy, yet no one is certain how much of the actual writing is performed by Patterson himself. In addition, Patterson has two editors, three full-time employees and their assistants devoted to him, a brand manager who moves his adult books through the production process, a marketing director for the young adult titles, and an overall sales manager.

Envy vs. Naïveté 

books in a retail store

I’m crushed to find out Patterson doesn’t write all the content in his books and a bit envious he has two editors. Maybe I’m naïve to have been in awe of him putting out five books a year, but then how many James Patterson devotees knew he had ghostwriters? Not that I’d want someone else writing on my behalf as I love the process of writing. It fills me with joy and satisfies my creative side. But I’d almost sell my soul to be able to afford to pay someone to edit my work. Although I “enjoy” editing, it is time consuming and tires my eyes quicker than the actual writing does. Additionally, editing one’s own work is never recommended as a fresh set of eyes is infinitely better in discovering typos and timeline issues.   

Obviously, comparing myself to James Patterson is like comparing apples with oranges and I’m not doing that. It’s even more extreme than that. While I think I am a good writer and storyteller, I am still an aspiring, self-published novelist who is fearful of promoting herself (again, perfectionism is fear based). Patterson, on the other hand, falls in the genius category of self-promotion. As a former advertising executive, he took the practice of creating a brand name into the publishing industry, then leveraged his name for profit.

The Illusion of Ghostwriting

I’d imagine that many loyal readers, like myself, will feel cheated if/when we find out the Patterson novel we just purchased may not have been written by Patterson himself. Of course, neither the publishers nor Patterson are hiding his ghostwriting business practices, but the public still seems ignorant to the fact. Perhaps the solution is to place a notice on each non-Patterson written novel that informs readers that Patterson did not, in fact, write the book he’s placed his name on.

While I doubt that will ever happen, I’m sure most of us will still enjoy reading his suspenseful tales with lots of murder taking place. Come to think of it, sounds a lot like my novels. Only difference is, I write AND edit every word found in my novels. I’m a perfectionist after all.