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06 February 2020

#WriteCBC – Writing Tip and Task from Gordon Wise

Gordon Wise agent
by Anna Davis Events, Writing Tips

Hello writers, it’s time for our first #WriteCBC Twitter competition of this new decade! To start us off in style, we are delighted to welcome the wonderful Gordon Wise as our special guest. Gordon is a literary agent and joint head of the Curtis Brown books department. His fabulous client features non-fiction in the areas of entertainment and ideas – and on the fiction side includes former CBC students Janet Ellis and SD Sykes, as well as bestsellers Neil Cross and Nicholas Obregon. 

Now, if you haven’t joined in #WriteCBC before, you can very quickly get up to speed – just read this blog with information about how to play. It’s lots of fun and you might just win a free place on one of our six-week online writing courses.

So – eyes down, everyone:

Gordon’s writing tip:

Hook your reader by creating intrigue that the reader needs to get to the bottom of or by asking a question that demands an answer. Make us keep turning the pages because we HAVE TO KNOW the truth. And then make sure the reveal is a good one!

We love this writing tip, which speaks directly to one of the most important jobs of the author: To grip the reader and make it impossible for them to put the book down. One of the very clearest ways to hook a reader in is to present a mystery that must be solved. Crime writers do this all the time by starting off with a murder and making the reader play detective. But it’s not just in crime fiction that you can plant a mystery for the reader to go delving into. All sorts of strange events and episodes can get us guessing and trying to figure things out – from a missing person to a missing piece of jewellery; from an anonymous letter to lipstick on a shirt collar – and everything in between.

And as Gordon suggests, another way to hook your reader is to pose a question early in your work in progress, which the reader will want answered as the story unfolds. Our former student Laura Marshall did this brilliantly in her first novel Friend Request, which starts off with the central character receiving a Facebook friend request from an old schoolfriend – someone who died many years earlier … The question we want answered is this: If the friend is dead, who has sent the request? And then also – why?

Gordon’s writing task:

Write a mini-scene that creates intrigue or poses a question that hooks me in to want to know more, starting with the line, ‘It happened on 29th February’ No need to include that opening line in the tweet just start with what comes next …

So now it’s time to go for it. Your opening is the line we’ve given – and your tweet will lead on into your own mini-scene which gives us a mystery to solve or a question we’ll want answered. Lots of you might find yourselves thinking immediately about a crime scenario – but remember, this doesn’t have to be a crime story. Get us thinking and wondering … Make us want to know more.

Our #WriteCBC winner is Helen Haraldsen @HaraldsenHelen!

It happened on 29th February, which was a Friday. Fridays were always egg sandwich day. But since 29th February only came around once every four years, Sam decided to be brave and go for cheese instead. And that was where it all went wrong. If only he’d stuck to his safe routine, none of it would’ve happened.

Helen’s response to the task is brilliantly evocative of character, we’re able to instantly picture Sam and his paranoid idiosyncrasies –  the need for routine and his tendency to play things safe. Then the way Helen flips this mundane scene on it’s head with the intriguing final line makes us instantly want to know what it is that Sam wishes never happened.

Congratulations Helen, you’ve one a free place on the six-week course of your choice!

Well done to our two runners-up @lizlaumiere and @marples_amanda. You each win a £50 course discount to be used on the six-week course of your choice!

For in-depth advice, writing tasks to help you hone your skills, a forum to share material with fellow students and the chance to get a report on your work, take a look at our six-week online courses, all of which start in January: Work on your life story with bestselling memoirist Cathy Rentzenbrink in Writing a Memoir; craft a short story with award-winning Cynan Jones in Writing Short Stories  – or get going on your novel with CBC’s MD Anna Davis in our three courses to take you from first idea to final pitch: Starting to Write Your NovelWrite to the End of Your Novel and Edit and Pitch Your Novel.

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