All About Unlocking a Novella-in-Flash, the new craft guide book by Michael Loveday

Michael Loveday judged our Bath Novella in Flash Award in 2019 and 2020 and has run many courses on writing in this form, and given feedback to and mentored those writing novellas in flash. We were delighted when he agreed to write a guide book on the subject. He’s been working on it for around two years, some of the time with the support of an Arts Council Grant, and it’s published next week, Tuesday May 17th, with our small press Ad Hoc Fiction and available then in paperback from the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop as well as in paperback on Amazon, worldwide. Like the well-known writers and writing teachers who have given Advance Praise within the book, we believe it will become a classic in this genre. You can preorder Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash at a 25% discount until Monday May 16th. from Last week we published an extract on this site, to whet your appetite. Here Michael describes how writers might use Unlocking the Novella in Flash and more about his work as a mentor. Michael is also teaching two workshops on the novella-in-flash at the Flash Fiction Festival weekend, 8th -10th July in Bristol, U.K. and signed copies will be available to buy there.

  • We’re thrilled that your guide book, Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash: from Blank Page to Finished Manuscript, is now available for preorder from Ad Hoc Fiction and will be published on Tuesday May 17th. Can you tell us about the book?
    Thanks Jude! 
    The book is a craft guide about the novella-in-flash form, plus a practical Workbook of writing prompts to help readers create a novella-in-flash of their own. A novella-in-flash is generally understood as a short novel composed of very short narratives that link towards a bigger whole. 
    Some of the topics covered include descriptions of particular kinds of novella-in-flash (the novella-in-fragments, novella-in-prose-poems, the polyphonic novella, and so on), the idea of the “speaking silences” which so often operate as resonating spaces between chapters, plus guidance about how to gather individual short narratives into a coherent tapestry. 
    But there’s also general help offered for writing fiction too – going deeper with characterisation, developing narrative turning points, editing a draft manuscript, and so on. There’s a Workbook of writing prompts for people who simply want to get stuck in and write; there’s technical content about the principles of the form; there are case study examples from published books to show how things work in practice; and there are reflective exercises for people to integrate things into their writing
  • Did your interest in the possibilities of the form begin with your own novella-in-flash Three Men on The Edge, which was published by V. Press in 2018?
    I suppose it began back in 2010, when I was doing my Masters in Writing (Poetry) at Kingston University. Everyone on the poetry pathway still had to write fiction and drama. I ended up writing a set of narrative prose poems for my dissertation, using three fictional voices. Around the same time, I was discovering Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street, the American prose poet Louis Jenkins (whose prose poems are often like short-short stories), and also fell particularly in love with Jack Robinson’s Days and Nights in W12 which is a stunning hybrid of short prose forms – memoir, journalism, historical non-fiction, prose poetry, short-short story. I started hunting down other books similar to these and my fascination with the novel-in-short-forms has grown ever since.
  • What were the most interesting things you discovered while you were writing the book?
    I did a fair bit of research while developing the craft guide, studying various published books. Some of this manifests in my descriptions of different styles of novella-in-flash, or summaries of common features of a “classic-form” version. Writers of formally inventive, experimental fiction use a marvellous array of styles, so that part was really fun to explore. It wasn’t easy to pin down an accurate description of all the ways in which the novella-in-flash operates, and I felt a responsibility to make sure that readers still feel liberated to push boundaries and keep experimenting.
    I did also discover (or rediscover) all the usual tricks of coping with any big project with a specific deadline – breaking it down into daily, bite-size chunks, and using a planned outline from the start (which I wouldn’t usually do for my fiction writing).
    Ultimately, I also realized that I couldn’t really write this book “on my own” as such – it was too complex a topic in its fullest breadth for one person – so I was very grateful to a number of other writers who helped me with individual chapters or the book as a whole as I built the draft.
  • We think Unlocking Novella-in-Flash could also serve as an excellent guide to those with little experience of writing flash fiction, but who wanted to explore different and innovative ways of writing longer narratives. Would you agree?
    I hope this book might also appeal to writers of novels, short stories, and poetry, not just flash fiction enthusiasts. As a craft guide, it does include some insights, along the way, into how to write individual flash fictions. And then primarily it focuses in depth on the novella-in-flash as a hybrid form. And experimenting with hybrids is always capable of revitalizing someone’s writing practice.
    For example, someone who is hunting around for ways to reinvigorate their novel-writing might find it interesting to write a novel with very short chapters where each chapter feels like it has its own arc. Or a poet who has dabbled with narrative might feel daunted by the prospect of writing a traditional novel – but the novella-in-flash might be a good fit for their skills as a poet. And maybe some of the chapters in their manuscript will be prose poems or even verse poems.
    Similarly for short story writers – my hope is that there are aspects of this craft guide that could help you if you were developing a short story cycle, especially if you wanted to make the story cycle quite closely linked in narrative terms. And the short story writer might like to experiment with keeping some of those stories under 1,000 words.
    So I think there are probably different ways of using this book, whether that’s by flash fiction writers, novelists, short story writers, memoirists, or poets wanting to move towards fictional narratives. And I hope people will feel more emboldened to channel ideas about flash fiction and the novella-in-flash into unexpected territory.
  • You have been running courses on writing a NIF and mentoring writers for several years Can you tell us more about this?

    Although I do occasional one-off workshops, at the moment I mainly offer one-to-one mentoring through I really enjoy working with writers long-term and supporting them in a tailored way through all aspects of the novella-writing process – whether that’s fine-tuning individual chapters, or getting to know story characters in more depth, or offering general coaching about getting unblocked or feeling more confident in being creative. I’m trying to fuse the training I’ve had in editing and creativity coaching in one place, to work in a sustained, in-depth way in order to help fiction writers move forward.  
  • You also judged the Bath Novella in Flash Award in 2019 and 2020 and have worked with many authors on their novella manuscripts. Many of these authors have gone on to be published. How has this work informed your guide book?
    I suppose one of my mantras is: “If you would be a writer, first be a reader.” (Allan W. Eckert). We learn so much from other people’s writing. Some people do this by volunteering to read for a journal, or being part of a workshop in which they offer feedback to others; for me it’s happened partly through editing other people’s novellas. Ever since I started doing this, I’ve been responding to general dilemmas about the form that often cropped up across multiple manuscripts – and this helped me towards figuring out ways to describe the novella-in-flash to writers who are newer to it. And also clients keep asking interesting questions, you try to formulate a good answer, and sometimes you keep thinking about particular questions long after you’ve stopped working with a client. Editing, teaching workshops, research, my own writing, judging the BFFA competitions, all this has been a melting pot over the last ten years. And none of it was really planned – I’ve kind of fallen into doing this by following up on a passion – and stumbling deeper and deeper into this relatively unmapped forest, where all the trees are so fascinating.
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