Recently I had the pleasure of attending a full-day writing course with Natasha Lester at the Australian Writers’ Centre, ‘How to Write a Bestseller’. Naturally I had to get myself a copy of Natasha’s recent international bestseller The Paris Seamstress so that I could ask her to sign it for me, which she kindly did at the end of the day.
Wow, Natasha’s signature is so pretty and so LEGIBLE! She didn’t mention this during the course, but it’s something we all have to work on guys… for when we write our bestseller 😉
First, the book. The Paris Seamstress weaves family drama, mystery and romance in two timelines, modern and WW2. The story is also set between two great fashion capitals, Paris and New York City. Duality goes deep into the plot of this stylish, gripping novel, proof that certain story concepts will always fascinate readers—provided that their presentation is fresh.
I loved all the characters in this book and was thrilled that Natasha covered characterisation and character journeys in detail in ‘How to Write a Bestseller’. The other major thing I took from the course was the importance of rewriting opening scenes for pace. When you start reading a book, no pace has been built up, Natasha said (hmm, she probably said it better actually) and when she put it that way it suddenly made perfect sense. While frequent readers of 19th century or even pre-millennial novels might give slow openings a chance (I’m one of those people) there are whole audience segments who can be lost in those first pages.
On to the Australian Writers’ Centre. I’ve taken a couple of their online self-paced courses now, and the in-person course with Natasha Lester, and I highly recommend them. While I’ve found that the presenters at other writing courses are frequently engaging and the courses enjoyable, I’ve rarely come out of the classroom with such a clear sense of what skills have been honed or developed. This comes down to the AWC’s structuring of course material into modules, with the learning outcomes for each module clearly articulated (and delivered.) So important when you’re writing more for love than money.