Review of James Patterson’s Writing Masterclass

james-patterson-booksRecently I was approached by the people from Masterclass, a brand new online learning hub which features courses in different areas of the arts and sport, taught by world-famous masters of their craft–such as Dustin Hoffman for acting, Serena Williams for tennis–and James Patterson for writing. Masterclass asked if, as an experienced author, I’d be interested in checking out the course and seeing what I thought. I did some research, discovering Masterclass to be a start-up based in San Francisco that had debuted only a month ago–in May–and that it was themed around the concept that some masters in their field are also great teachers, and love to impart the knowledge and experience they’ve gained. I liked the idea and was also, I admit, curious to hear what the world’s highest-selling author had to say about his ways of working, so using the gift code provided, (the whole course costs $90 US normally, which seems very reasonable considering what you get) I set up my account, logged in and began exploring.

First of all, I want to write about how the course is structured, and then move to a discussion of whether it works, and for whom. There are four parts to the course: firstly a series of 22 videos in which James Patterson talks about different aspects of the craft of creating fiction: raw ideas; plot; creating characters; successful outlines; research; writing dialogue; building chapters, how to write good endings,  editing, and much more, through to post-creation issues such as titles, marketing–and of course getting published! There are also a few more personal themed-videos: one where the author recounts his own personal journey to publication and success; one where he rather amusingly recounts his brushes with Hollywood; and one on the experience of working with co-authors. The videos vary in length between 3 and 14 minutes, depending on the complexity of the theme, and all of them feature James Patterson talking directly to the camera, in a chatty, conversational style, truffled with anecdotes, examples, tips and pithy sayings(a favourite of mine: Passion and habit are key to a successful writing career). Secondly, there is a 72 page downloadable and printable workbook which is designed to complement and expand the videos, recapping on each theme, and providing practical exercises for students to complete on their own. The workbooks come in two versions: one which includes the very comprehensive outline Patterson wrote for his novel Honeymoon(which can be used in assignments) and one without the Honeymoon outline. Thirdly, there is a section called ‘Office Hours’ where the author answers questions video-recorded or written in by students(of course these are selected as otherwise it would be all too easy to become overwhelmed). Within this section also is a series of video critiques by Patterson looking at selected class assignments and how students have handled them–for example, he looks at a whole lot of potential book titles that have been sent in, and says whether he thinks they work, and why they do or don’t. Finally, there is a discussion facility on each theme, where students can interact with each other based initially on a moderator’s discussion question(he’s called a ‘community builder’ on the site) and exchange ideas, opinions and experiences.

So all in all, a very comprehensive structure. It’s well-thought out, very well presented and produced, easy to access and streamlined to work through. James Patterson has a direct, lively and unpretentious manner on camera which is very engaging, both in the main videos and in the critique snippets, and he’s generous with his practical tips and advice. As well, the workbook is thorough and has plenty of interesting exercises, and it’s also easy to download and print. As a self-directed course, it is worked through at your own pace, and it’s clear from the discussion boards that students have approached it in different ways, with the majority watching each video one at a time, and working on each associated exercise one at a time, while a few others report watching the whole series of videos right through, then going back and working through each individually. It’s also clear from the discussion groups and comments that it is mainly unpublished, aspiring writers who are taking the course–which of course is not a surprise–and the atmosphere seems friendly and collegial. As you might also expect, given the fact this is a very new course, there are lots more comments on the earlier videos than on the later ones.

So, that’s how the Masterclass is structured. Now,to the issue of  whether it works as a creative writing course. Continue reading

Advertisements

Cover reveal for Trinity: The False Prince!

false princeDrum roll: Very excited today to reveal the gorgeous cover of the second Trinity book, Trinity: The False Prince! That’s the  atmospheric background of the spectacular Moscow Metro, by the way. Isn’t it evocative!

Trinity: The False Prince will be out on October 8 in digital format, and November 15 in print format. Can’t wait!

Here’s the blurb:

Over a year has passed since the events that changed Helen’s life forever. With Maxim and her other friends, she is fighting to uphold the legacy entrusted to her, but struggles with the weight of memory, the stress of trying to keep Trinity afloat, and the continuing manipulations of the company’s enemies.

Meanwhile, in a remote coastal settlement in southern Mexico, a young fisherman is made an offer he can’t refuse. This triggers a chain of events which will completely transform the struggle for Helen’s ownership of Trinity and the secrets of the Koldun code.

ISBN
9781760082789
Release Date
8 October 2015
Release Date (Print)
12 November 2015
Ebook RRP
$5.99
Print RRP
$24.99

 

Guest post about Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff, on Great Raven blog

sergei prokudin river boat

Photo of Russian riverboat by Sergei Prokudin-Gorsky, circa 1910.

I have a guest post on fellow author Sue Bursztynski’s Great Raven blog, about the impact on me of Jules Verne’s Mikhail Strogoff, and about being involved in bringing it back to English-speaking readers. Here’s a short extract:

I read the novel I don’t know how many times, swept away by the grandeur of the story, the fantastic adventure, with its wolves, bears, mountain storms, bandits, iced-up rivers, cruel torturers and traitors. I thoroughly enjoyed  the funny  rivalry and repartee between Alcide Jolivet and Harry Blount,  I thrilled to the love I could see developing between Nadia and Michel, both equally tough and brave. And I was swept away too by the description of the journey, which starts in Moscow and ends in Siberia — a journey over water, through forest and mountain and cities and villages: you get a real sense of the vastness and amazing diversity, both human and environmental, of Russia.  Basically, it’s a chase novel, and it has the breakneck pace of that, and lots of twists and turns, culminating in an especially unexpected and satisfyingly resolved one. But it is also beautifully written, as tight and clever and witty as Around the World in Eighty Days, and much more passionate and exciting. 

You can read the whole post here.

Some special events at the Historical Novel Society Conference

As well as the general program, there are some very special events at the Historical Novel Society of Australia’s inaugural conference this weekend. Here are a couple:

22 MARCH 2015

Balmain Town Hall

Library Meeting Room 1      11.00 am – 12.00 pm           Session Three

PHRYNE FISHER AND OTHER FANTASIES: THE FEMALE DETECTIVE IN HISTORY

A panel of academics will discuss at length this theme ‘Phryne Fisher And Other Fantasies: The Female Detective In History’, the subject of a forthcoming special edition of ‘The Australian Journal of Crime Fiction’.

‘The Australian Journal of Crime Fiction’ publishes scholarly and critical studies of work that fall within, or challenge the conventions of, the crime fiction genre.

Panellists include: Dr Rachel Franks, Dr Rachel Le Rossignol, Dr Kelly Gardiner, Diane Murray and Dr Wendy J. Dunn.

Super Sessions:

HISTORICAL FICTION WRITING AND RESEARCH WITH GILLIAN POLACK

Do you struggle with blending research into your writing? Dr Gillian Polack will provide an analysis of the first 50 pages of your manuscript as well as guidance on how to write compelling and authentic historical fiction. Click here to learn more.

—————————————————————-

MANUSCRIPT ASSESSMENTS WITH IRINA DUNN

Do you want your manuscript assessed? Irina Dunn, Director of the Australian Writers’ Network, will hold one-hour one-on-one sessions to provide detailed feedback on the first 1,500 words of your manuscript. Click here to learn more.

—————————————————————-

SOCIAL MEDIA SUPERSESSION: MODERN MESSAGES FOR TIMELESS STORIES

How do you build a reputation as an historical novelist? Learn how to build an author platform with author Elisabeth Storrs, and review blogger Margaret Bates. Click here to learn more.

Two days to go..

HNSA-logoOnly two days to go till the inaugural conference of the Historical Novel Society of Australia kicks off! It’s a packed program! Here’s just a few highlights:

Friday:

6.00 pm – COCKTAILS

6.30 pm – WELCOME
Welcome Address by Sophie Masson, award winning novelist

7.00 pm – BOOK LAUNCH
Celebrate the launch of Felicity Pulman’s Unholy Murder
To be launched by Gillian Polack.

7.30 pm – ROUND TABLE DEBATE

Enjoy a lively round table discussion with Kelly Gardiner (Chair), Deborah Challinor, Jesse Blackadder, Rachel Le Rossignol and Gillian Polack as they ponder the question: ‘What can historical novelists and historians learn from each other?

Saturday:

Keynote Address: ‘The ANZAC Tradition as Inspiration: Imagining the Past; Claiming the Present’

In commemoration of the centenary of the Gallipoli Campaign, international bestselling author, Colin Falconer, will address the changing attitudes towards the ANZAC tradition which has inspired Australian historical fiction over the past 100 years.

11.15 am-12.15 pm Session Three

Tall Tales and True: How Story Tellers Imagine History

How do historical novelists weave history into fiction? What draws an author to choose a particular era, and what research do they undertake to bring past times to life? Jean Bedford talks with Isolde Martyn, Johanna NichollsJuliet Marillier and Craig Cliff about these choices.

2.15-3.15 pm            Session Five

War-torn Worlds: Historical Fiction in Times of Conflict

Vashti Farrer joins Nicole Alexander, Toni Jordan, Kim Kelly and Sophie Masson in discussing why World Wars I and II inspire their fiction, and the challenge of depicting characters who must either overcome, or succumb to, the turbulence of war.

Sunday

 9.45-10.45 am  Session Two

What is it about the Tudors?

The world’s appetite for historical fiction set in Tudor times continues to grow. What is it about this particular royal house that is so compelling? Are publishers ‘playing it safe’ by not encouraging novels set in other eras? What impact has Tudor fiction had on the popularity of historical fiction as a genre? Rachel Le Rossignol joins Natalie Grueninger, Wendy J Dunn, Barbara Gaskell Denvil and Jane Caro will explore the phenomenon of Tudorphilia.

  11.15 am-12.15 pm         Session Three

Historical Fiction Sub-genres: Intrigue, Mystery, Fantasies and Time-slip

Blending different genres within historical fiction is an increasing trend. What challenges do authors face when intertwining mystery or fantasy with history? And why are readers drawn to tales of characters who travel across time? Posie Graeme-Evans joins Kate Forsyth, Sulari Gentill, Belinda Murrell and Felicity Pulman to enlighten us.

3.50-4.50 pm  Session Six

In Bed with History: Sexy, Saucy and Sizzling Bedroom Scenes – A Romp!

Prepare to get hot under the collar as Kate Forsyth, Jesse Blackadder and Colin Falconer break down closed bedroom doors and read their racier scenes.