05 April 2016

Why we wrote The Book of Unwritten Rules

by Theresa Howes From Our Students

Tomorrow sees the official launch of The Book of Unwritten Rules – the brilliant and wonderfully diverse short-story anthology written by novel-writing students who met on only the second of our creative writing courses in 2011. The collection, which features contributions from the four published novelists that studied with the group – Tim Glencross (Barbarians), Kate Hamer (The Girl in the Red Coat), James Hannah (The A–Z of You and Me) and Annabelle Thorpe (The People We Were Before) – as well as nine other sure-to-see-their-debut-novels-published-soon writers, will be toasted with plenty of raised glasses at Waterstones Piccadilly on Wednesday evening. Here, Theresa Howes – whose short story ‘The Barley Child’ features in the anthology – tells us how the group went from anxious strangers to working on a book together.

The contributors to The Book of Unwritten Rules all met on the Curtis Brown Creative Three-Month Novel-Writing Course in the autumn of 2011. It didn’t take us long to go from being a room full of nervous strangers to realising we were like-minded people thrown together to discuss our favourite subject; our novels.

Even before we finished the course we knew we wanted to carry on meeting as a group. As emerging writers, it was important to us to continue the work we’d started to explore together. During those first months, our novels had begun to thrive, inspired by the ethos promoted by Anna Davis and Chris Wakling, our tutors at Curtis Brown Creative; that of generosity and respect towards each others’ writing. By now, we knew we were among friends and had learned the value of constructive criticism, and of creating a supportive environment in which no one need be shy of exposing to others a troublesome area of their novel.

The challenge of producing an anthology of short stories came out of a desire to keep working together, and the goal of producing a joint piece of work seemed a great way to achieve this. Once the subject of the unwritten rule was decided on, we discussed ways in which the theme could be explored before going away and individually developing our own ideas.

Over the coming months, we shared our stories and offered feedback to each other. We were all so struck by the breadth and variety of our work that we decided to show it to Anna Davis, our tutor and director at Curtis Brown Creative. She was the one responsible for originally bringing us together and we were proud to show off what we’d achieved beyond the course.

Anna was excited by what we’d produced and she brought along Curtis Brown Creative editor Rufus Purdy, who also runs Curtis Brown’s digital-publishing arm Studio 28, to the pub to talk it all through. He was soon on board with the project too, offering to edit and publish the anthology. The momentum started to build.

Having taken a novel-writing course run by literary agents, we – as a group – were really exposed to the economic realities of the publishing industry. Our tutors and guest speakers, which included bestselling novelists and top publishers, taught us that if we wanted to be successful authors, we needed to be proactive. Success, we were told, is never instant or guaranteed, but hard-won and reliant on the collaboration of others. And that’s why we’ve put together The Book of Unwritten Rules. This collection of stories is us, doing it for ourselves, creating a place where our writing can be seen, supporting each other and working together to show off the best of our talents. We hope you enjoy it.

For more information on The Book of Unwritten Rules, please visit the website or Facebook page. To buy a copy of the book, please click here.

For an in-depth course as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission) with a great tutor and participation from our literary agents, apply for:

Six-Month Novel-Writing Course in London with Christopher Wakling (deadline for applications is Wed 17 January).

Six-Month Online Novel-Writing Course with Lisa O’Donnell (deadline for applications is Wed 24 January).

For a dedicated online course for those writing for young adults or children as part of a group of 15 (in which students are selected on the basis of their submission), with a top children’s author, apply for: 

Writing YA and Children’s Fiction with Catherine Johnson (deadline for applications is Sun 28 Jan).

We are offering three low-cost ‘foundation’ courses, featuring tuition from CBC director Anna Davis:

Starting to Write Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 15 January).

Write to the End of Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 22 January).

Edit & Pitch Your Novel (deadline for enrolment is midnight on Mon 29 January).

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