[Patterson] is the world's bestselling author: JK Rowling, John Grisham and Dan Brown put together don't match the sales of his books. He's had over 35 New York Times bestsellers, he has been the most borrowed author in British libraries for the past two years, and he is due to publish so many tomes in so many genres in the next few months he doesn't even know the exact number.
How does he do it? Well, ever since 1996, when he published a novel called Miracle on the 17th Green with a golfing buddy, he has done it by finding collaborators to help him fill in the blanks. He comes up with the plot, they write the sentences, he reviews draft after draft. To hear Patterson tell it, he simply has too many ideas to write them all up himself, so he enlists an army of co-writers. He resists the word "factory", of course, or "formula".
No surprise that he resists the words "factory" and "formula". Those put a bad face on the issue, don't they? I read these paragraphs at first without paying much attention but suddenly my brain caught up with my eyes and hit the brakes. Because something here smells very rotten. The article goes on to (accurately) describe this as brilliant marketing - placing Patterson's name in huge letters on the cover while in tiny letters acknowledging those who wrote those pesky, irrelevant "sentences".
So the question is what's more important - the story or the writing? If books were simply ideas and thoughts we formulated throughout the day, almost everybody would be an amazingly successful author. And yet what makes books (literature) so important and special is that the idea isn't enough. A book is composed of the central idea (yes), but also the characters, the writing style, the overall mood. Patterson, for all his "overseeing the drafts", only provides one ingredient to these books. The article, however, goes on to say:
Anyone who thinks Patterson is not truly behind these books because he "only" writes the plots has clearly not read them very closely. They are more or less all plot, and you can barrel through them in three-page gulps. If Patterson is not overly concerned with individual sentences, it's fair to say that whoever actually is in charge of them doesn't care much either. They are not designed to be lingered over.
It's a weak defence. All I can think of is that if these books are so plot-driven and are only based on Patterson's quick ideas, he might as well just tell them to me in small Twitter feeds (please don't). This may be a great marketing/publicity scheme, but from a literary sense, there's something troubling to it. No, nobody really thinks of paperback Patterson as grand literature, but his methods seem fairly dishonest and slippery.