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 Adhocfiction.com. 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. Read in Full
Michael Loveday’s new guidebook, Unlocking the Novella in Flash – from blank page to finished manuscript is published on May 17th by Ad Hoc Fiction, the third in their guide book series. It is currently available (until publication day) with a 25% discount from Ad Hoc Fiction. The guide book is packed with examples on many different approaches to writing a novella in flash and plenty of exercises to get you started and keep you going. The Bath Novella in Flash Award will open again soon, and close in mid January next year. And if you’re considering writing a novella-in-flash for the Award or elsewhere, if you have one on the go, or are in the middle of one that’s proving problematic, we really recommend you buy this guide book. This really useful extract from the book, about common problems, will whet your appetite. Read in Full
We’re delighted that Something Lost the brilliant novella-in-flash by Louise Watts which was specially commended in our 2020 Bath Flash Fiction Award is now available for pre-order with FREE worldwide shipping at Ad Hoc Fiction, our short-short fiction press. It will be released on November 9th. Read our 2020 judge, Michael Loveday’s comments on Something Lost in his judge’s report. The novella is the last of our series of novellas from the 2020 Novella-in-Flash Award up for pre-order and all of them will be released for sale on our bookshop and on Amazon by the end of the November.
We’ve quoted the synopsis from the back cover below. It’s a great read and another excellent example of this exciting form.
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We’re so pleased that Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing When it’s Not Called Making Love a brilliant coming-of-age novella-in-flash by Karen Jones, who has had many individual flash fictions published in our BFFA anthologies.The novella received a special commendation in the 2020 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-flash Awards and you can read judge Michael Loveday’s comment on it in his report. Advance sales are open now at the Ad Hoc Fiction pre-order page with FREE worldwide shipping and the novella will be published on November 4th and for sale on bookshop.adhocfiction.com as well as in print form from Amazon and digitally on Kindle and Kobo.
We love the art work for the cover by artist and writer Janice Leagra and the cover design by Ad Hoc Fiction. Another novella-in-flash to add to your novella library.
The novella-in-flash is such an exciting form and this is a great example to learn from if you are a writer, and to enjoy reading if you love excellent, innovative fiction. In the Q & A below Jude asked Karen for a play list to go with the text. She said she had great fun deciding on the songs and we’ve linked them here. Listen to these songs now to hear a soundtrack to a story about a girl growing up in the 70s and 80s. It will whet your appetite. Also check out Karen’s tip for newbie novella-in-flash writers at the end of the Q & A, because it might just give you the inspiration to write your own.
When It’s Not Called Making Love is the story of a girl growing up in the late 60s, through the 70s and into the early 80s. It’s about navigating that leap from childhood to teens to adulthood, with a particular focus on sex and sexuality and the pressures placed on girls by society, by their peers, by boys and, more often than not, by themselves and their own insecurities.
Q & A
What inspired you to write this novella and can you describe how you went about it?
Ah – well I didn’t actually intend to write this novella at all. I’ve been working on a different novella for a few years, and that’s the one I had planned to send, but it’s still not quite right. About a week and a half before the competition deadline, I gave up and thought I’d just miss the deadline, yet again.
Looking through some flashes, I spotted a few that could work together – they weren’t supposed to be about the same character, but I realised they could be. The more I thought about this girl, Bernadette, the more I knew I could write her story. A lot of it mirrors my own experiences growing up and I felt it was important to tackle the subject of how girls are treated and how that treatment affects their behaviour and development. I wanted to write honestly about it and not shy away from any uncomfortable subjects.
I knew straightaway what my opening flash would be and what my final flash would be, so it became a bit like joining the dots to get a full picture. I started off with about two thousand existing words and just wrote from there. Then I cut a thousand of those original words, which made me a bit panicky, but I kept going and her whole story came together pretty quickly. A few days before the deadline I’d hit five thousand words and at that stage I felt sure I could reach the six thousand minimum wordcount. In the end, the novella came in at about seven thousand words. With more time, I could have added more, but when I read it back now, I’m happy with it as it is and maybe if I’d padded it out it wouldn’t have the impact it has (the impact I hope it has) now.
- The trickiest part for you of writing in this form and the most satisfying?
The most difficult thing is that each chapter has to be able to stand alone as a flash. We’d never ask an individual chapter of a novel to work as a short story on its own. I found that exceptionally difficult, trying to avoid repetitions but get character and story across in each flash. The most satisfying thing was seeing the character develop through the flashes – seeing her grow, as much as she could under the circumstances, and getting her to the end of this part of her story.
- If you made a soundtrack for the novella, what songs/music would you choose?
I had so much fun with this question – a real trip down memory lane to songs I loved, but choosing ones I loved that were also time-appropriate and in some way reflected the main character’s story was more difficult. But I reckon this would work:
The pandemic hasn’t affected me as badly as it has many others. I’m a full-time carer for my mother, so spend most of my time at home any way. I suppose it has affected my mood, so maybe I’ve written stuff that’s (even) darker than usual, but I wouldn’t say my output has been dramatically affected.
I’m still working on the character from When It’s Not Called Making Love – I’m working on new stories about her life beyond this novella. I can’t get her out of my head, so I’ll keep going with that until I think I’ve reached a natural end for her story. And, of course, there’s that original novella, the one that’s never been quite right, that I keep tweaking and tinkering and adding to and prodding with a stick. Maybe I’ll finally get to submit it to the next competition.
- A tip for a novella in flash newbie?
Don’t over-think it. Look at all the work you’ve already created – are there connections in there you hadn’t spotted before? Are there stories that could fit one character, one time, one place? Are there themes you hadn’t realised were repeated in your work? Take those stories and shuffle them around, rewrite them, treat them like pieces of a jigsaw, then write the pieces that are missing until you create the perfect picture.
Eleanor Walsh won the 2019 Novella-in-Flash Award with her stunning novella, set in Nepal, Birds With Horse Hearts. Stormbred, Eleanor’s second novella-in-flash received a special commendation from judge Michael Loveday in our 2020 Novella-in-Flash Awards. You can now pre-order it with FREE worldwide shipping from Ad Hoc Fiction and it will be released on 30th October.
Stormbred is another brilliant novella about young women living on the edge. We are very happy that it will soon be published by Ad Hoc Fiction, the fifth novella-in-flash recently open for pre-order of the seven out before Christmas this year. In Jude’s interview with Ellie below, you can find out about the story, what inspired it, the research Ellie undertook, her female protagonists and the strong presence of water that features in both her novellas. And make to sure to read her tip for writing your own novella at the end of this interview.
- Stormbred is the second novella in flash of yours that Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing. You won the 2019 Award with Birds with Horse Hearts and the book has been dispatched all over the world. What inspired this new novella?
I’ve been a fan of an Ian McEwan since I was a kid and I always liked the way he wrote grotesque, surrealist love stories that almost slipped into a new dimension. Sometimes they were about obsessive stalkers, other times even stranger subjects like dogs or mannequins. It was a trope I leaned into with Stormbred; the story of a teenage-girl who becomes infatuated with a photo of a Bosnian refugee called Leonela in the newspaper, and becomes convinced that Leonela is headed for the Cornish coast. I was keen on the idea of unrealistic infatuation born from extreme loneliness, so I wrote a protagonist who had been catastrophically let down or abandoned by everyone else in her life, so this is her initial foray into an imagined reality where a woman who intimately understands poverty and hardship will somehow comprehend her in a way that nobody else has before. Ruby’s absence of faith in her ability to get people to like her is mitigated within this fantasy, because Leonela won’t understand English, so won’t get a chance to reject Ruby based on her personality, and also won’t have the means to abandon her. It’s written in second-person addressing Leonela – and as with Birds with Horse Hearts – it’s written in a non-linear narrative that jumps in and out of the fictive present, with much of the context appearing in flashbacks to the protagonist’s life at the boarding school to which she has been asked not to return.
- What did you learn from writing Birds with Horse Hearts that you applied to writing Stormbred?
While I was writing Stormbred I sometimes felt as if I had learned nothing! The idea felt like a non-starter for so long; I actually spent months on a first draft and then threw out the entire thing and started again from scratch. I wonder if that’s because Stormbred was conceived of and constructed in a totally different way from Birds. It’s far more plot-driven, where Birds was image and symbolism-based, and so it was a real learning curve for me to lead with a robust narrative.
I also didn’t have to research prior to writing Birds, because the content came from my PhD fieldwork, whereas Stormbred required a huge amount of research as I had no prior knowledge of any of the elements of the story. I had to read extensively about the obvious components, like the Bosnian war and John Major’s response to the refugee crisis, and I also spent a long time on Reddit crowd-sourcing people’s experiences of being bullied or outed as gay at boarding school. I joined the Beltex sheep society and learned the care routine for March through June in detail, and read a lot about lambing practices and sheep diets and ailments. The book is set in 1993 which is before my lived memory, but not necessarily beyond the recollections of the reader, so I had to work hard to get the details right. Everything in the story is chronologically accurate down to the smallest detail: the lunar eclipse, the hantavirus outbreak, Operation Irma in Bosnia, even the release of Jurassic Park!
I suppose the one thing I learned was to persevere with it, even after having thrown out the entire first draft. I reasoned that if I had finished one novella there was no reason to tap out before the end of the second.
In both of your novellas, I found the accounts of the brave struggles of the protagonists – young, poor women in testing situations – very moving. Would you agree that this particular focus on women is something largely unexplored in fiction?
Thank you, I’m glad to hear it’s a moving read! Both Birds and Stormbred involve female protagonists and secondary characters and there’s no discernible male presence in either of them, which is a fairly unusual dynamic. Archetypal female protagonists are usually defined by their relationships with men: even when they’re not romantic storylines, they’re still about women who find themselves dealing with a male antagonist. In reality when women are faced with struggles they seldom turn to men for help – nor do they curl up with a copy of The Bell Jar and cry – so my writing is not a political statement, just a literary reflection of reality.
The river was an important symbol in Birds with Horse Hearts and the ocean seems as significant in Stormbred. Is there something about the presence of water that helps facilitate a powerful setting?
That’s true, I like to think that they facilitate strong settings and also support the protagonist’s progression through the story. For the women in Birds, the river is a symbol of subjugation. It cuts them off from the rest of the world and imprisons them in their village, smothering any autonomy in their own freedom or future. In Stormbred, the ocean is a force of duality: it takes away Ruby’s sheep by drowning them, but it’s also the ocean that will bring Leonela by dinghy to the shore. In reality it’s a source of peril for Ruby, and yet in her imagination, she re-writes it as the force that can give her everything she wants. By the ending it’s a symbol for renewal, for characters to absolve themselves of their pasts.
Have you been able to write during lockdown and if so, what have you been working on?
Yes, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to write a lot during lockdown. I wrote a handful of poems, some of which have been published, but the main thing I completed was my first novel called Stargazy which is also set in Cornwall, which I’ve just sent out for representation. I’m lucky enough to be in a group of fantastic and motivated writers and we’re always passing work back and forth, and I think that’s helped prevent any of us falling into a state of inactivity. I know it’s been difficult for writers who have children at home, so I’m fortunate in that respect. I have a rigid writing routine and my desk must be precise and never interfered with. I need a full spectrum of highlighters, a pack of Sticky Quips, a tea made with one of those teabags that affects grandiose by hanging on a piece of string, and my agave plant has to look hearty and ebullient. The distracting sound of a child’s laughter outside my window will usually send me on some kind of livid rampage, so I really am in awe of writers who’ve managed to keep working while they’ve been in lockdown with young families.
What is your top tip for anyone wanting to enter our next Novella in Flash Award?
Have a ton of flash to work with. The luxury of being able to throw away massive amounts of material and only work with the pieces that best fit your project is a hugely beneficial starting point. The other thing that helped me was to continue reading constantly alongside my writing, which assisted my way into the material. I read representations of inadequate fathers, rural poverty, animal suffering, as well as many surrealist texts. Writing a novella-in-flash is like solving an agonizing riddle, but there are writers out there who already have the answers! Reading their solutions will help with your own.
Alison Woodhouse’s wonderful novella in flash,The House on the Corner which received a special commendation by judge Michael Loveday in our fourth yearly Bath Novella-in-Flash Award earlier this year, is now open for pre-order on Ad Hoc Fiction with FREE world-wide shipping. It will be released for sale on 30th October, when it will also be available on Amazon and as an ebook. The stunning cover image for the book is by artist and writer Jeanette Sheppard. You can read Michael Loveday’s comments about the novella in his judge’s report and in Jude’s interview with her below, Alison describes how she went about writing it and how it exciting she found the process. This makes fascinating reading and is very useful for anyone thinking of embarking on writing a novella-in-flash for our 2021 Award or for any other purpose.
Synopsis: Set at the end of the eighties and early nineties, The House on The Corner traces the changes in the lives of a middle-class nuclear family. As history unfolds outside the house, an ever-deepening crisis threatens the fragile, tenuous connections within.
We’re proud to announce that Ad Hoc Fiction is publishing if there is no shelter, the novella-in-flash by Tracey Slaughter, the well-known poet and prose writer from New Zealand, in October. It’s now available for pre-order from Ad Hoc Fiction today, 17th September. There’s free worldwide shipping for anyone pre-ordering during the weeks until the novella is released on October 30th. The novella will then be for sale on the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop and soon afterwards on Amazon and in ebook formats.
Tracey’s novella was a runner up in the 2020 Bath Flash Fiction Award, and we agree with the 2020 judge, Michael Loveday, that it is a extraordinary example of the form. We’ve copied his comments from his judge’s report here, which also summarise the story:
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Erica Plouffe Lazure is one of two runners-up in our 2020 Novella-in-Flash Award and we’re so excited that Sugar Mountain s now up for pre-order with our publisher Ad Hoc Fiction with free world-wide shipping to join our winner Mary-Jane Holmes novella-in-flash, Don’t Tell The Bees. The novella will be released for sale on the Ad Hoc Fiction bookshop on 26th October and all pre-orders will be send to arrive on that date.
Do read 2020 Judge, Michael Loveday’s report on this novella and also Jude’s interview with Erica about Sugar Mountain and what Erica said about writing in this exciting form. It may inspire you to have a go at writing one yourself. Our next Award closes in mid January 2021 and is judged by Michelle Elvy.
Sugar Mountain is a wonderful novella-in-flash and we are so looking forward to seeing it in print. We also think the cover is great (image supplied by Erica and design by Ad Hoc Fiction).
Tracey Slaughter’s brilliant novella if there is no shelter was one of two runners-up in the 2020 Novella-in-Flash Award judged by Michael Loveday. You can read Michael’s comments on the novella in his judge’s report and more about Tracey on our winners’ page.
We are asking the same questions of all our winners and commended authors and it is fascinating to read that Tracey’s novella was inspired by a list of emergency instructions at work and particularly the one phrase ‘if there is no shelter’ that ended up being the title of the novella. For those writing novellas, Tracey has the great advice to ‘Banish doubt and trust the voices and don’t give up on those beautiful damaged characters’. We are so looking forward to seeing her novella in print. It will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction later this year.
- Can you give us a brief synopsis of your novella in flash?
if there is no shelter follows a young woman trying to pick up the pieces of home in the aftermath of an earthquake. As we trace the faltering steps she takes to try to restore her life, we discover the wreckage she was already leaving in her wake before the earthquake struck…a lover, a husband, the letter left stranded in a red-zoned building she cannot re-enter.
- What inspired it?
A poster pinned over the sink in the tea-room at work, where I found myself blinking, burnt-out between classes, clutching my cup with a thousand-yard stare – a stained & peeling list of emergency instructions that included the heading ‘If there is no shelter.’ That was it: somehow the heroine spoke, & started bringing her fragments to the surface…
- I am sure readers who are interested in writing in this form would love to know more about your writing process. Did it take some time for you to arrive at the final order for example?
Although the first pieces of this story arrived in intense, almost instantaneous flashes, conditions of life (which overturned not long after I embarked on writing) left the further construction of the work suspended, sometimes for months at a stretch. The forgiving form of flash (hallelujah!) could cope with the ongoing disruption, & allowed me to focus on each piece I could achieve within my narrow windows. In many ways, it even seemed to echo the chaos surrounding the heroine – I had to scratch for time, pick through scattered pieces, splice a story together from precious remains. In the end, it wasn’t so much order that I knew it needed to witness, as disorder, the truth of fracture – I had to trust that the story should be left to reflect shattering.
- All this may have changed in the present circumstances, but do you have a special place/time to write where you live? Music on or off? Pets as distractions or muses?
Silence, distance, solace, isolation, refuge from the million other pressing demands of life: I can’t seem to write unless I’m alone with my characters, tuned to their voices, breathing in their fates. I remain in awe of anyone who can tap the keys at a café table – I’ve always been secretly convinced they’re faking it!!! But yes, the present conditions are a taste too much loneliness…& with working online the static has just come home!
- And following on from the last question, if you like. If you had a soundtrack for your novella, what sort of music would be playing?
The haunting dissonant industrial poetry of the artist I.E.Crazy – as soon as I heard her twisted original ballads I felt like my book was singing back at me!
Pitfalls and pleasures of writing in this form?
Pleasures: that flash can take you in a rush, plunge you into a character’s senses, keep you fed on bursts of electricity, even when life holds scant time for sustained writing. I thrive on the little fixes it gives, the short stints it lets creativity off the leash, so there’s always a quick source of exhilaration in a schedule that sometimes doesn’t leave much breathing space. And pitfalls: I don’t know if there are any. I find that flash is the central atom of the short story mode, so it’s never wasted, whether the piece stays distilled in a single flash or keeps detonating in a series of ongoing explosions.
- Your best tips for those wanting to embark on a novella in flash for our next Award?
Banish doubt & trust the voices & don’t give up on those beautiful damaged characters & what they need to speak, not for an instant – I nearly caved-in & let go of this story, because it was largely composed during crisis, nearly listened to the offscreen murmurs of fears that were waiting to form a cold chorus. Shut that damned descant out the writing room & do it anyway. You can always fend them off for the space of the next flash.
Mary Jane Holmes won our 2020 Novella in Flash Award, judged by Michael Loveday last month with her stunning novella in flash Don’t Tell the Bees. Read Michael’s comments about it in his judge’s report. And you can also read more about Mary Jane, who currently also happens to be the judge of our 15th single flash fiction Award, on our winners’ page. Mary Jane, who is a poet, prose writer and for many years a teacher of flash fiction and other forms, has had an extraordinary few years where both her flash fiction and poetry has achieved much recognition. Ad Hoc Fiction is delighted to be able to publish Don’t Tell The Bees, which is her first novella. It’s really interesting to read about what inspired the story, to see inside Tom, Mary Jane’s writing caravan and to have her insight into the pitfalls and pleasures of writing in this form. We expect the novella to be out later this year.
- Can you give us a brief synopsis of Don’t Tell the Bees, your winning novella-in-flash?
A stonemason climbs the steeple of the village church to mend the weathervane his father had made many years before and falls to his death, leaving a family to survive in a 20th century but feudal run rural backwater of western France. The story’s main focus is the youngest child, a girl with a love of maths, who has to negotiate poverty, sexism and the arrival of a new road into the village where she lives.