I hadn’t expected to have further news to share about my craft guide Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash: from Blank Page to Finished Manuscript (2022), so soon after my most recent blogpost. However, I’m thrilled to say that this book has now received recognition in a second international book competition – this time the Next Generation Indie Book Awards 2023, where it has been announced as a Finalist. As with the Reader Views Awards, the Next Generation Indie Book Awards are a competition for English-language books published by independent presses, open to publications from anywhere in the world.
My craft guide contains ideas about best practice for all kinds of story development, and my intention has always been for it to help a broad range of fiction writers, alongside flash fiction specialists. The main workbook is full of exercises to help you understand your characters and settings more fully, figure out the key turning points or the structure for your narrative, and much, much more besides. You can read some of the reviews for the book below. And I hope you might be tempted to buy the book here!
“I know good teaching, and folks, this is it.” (Kendall Johnson at MacQueen’s Quinterly, read the full review here)
“[T]his brilliant guide… detailed, informative…I have never been so excited to start a workbook!” (Jonathan Cardew at Bending Genres, read the full review here)
“[V]ery much the printed equivalent of taking a focused MA on the topic of the novella.” (Judy Darley at the SkyLightRain blog, read the full review here)
“My copy is plastered in yellow stickies and I will be continually returning and delving into different sections of this craft guide again and again… think of it as a guide to writing good fiction and developing any narrative form.” (Tracy Fells at The Literary Pig blog, read the full reviewhere)
“[J]am-packed full of knowledge…this book finds that sweet spot where most writers would feel empowered…[A]ll-encompassing, motivational and in-depth.. worth its weight in gold…” (Matt Kendrick, read the full review here)
“There is magic in what Loveday says in his craft book.” (John Brantingham at The Journal of Radical Wonder, read the full review here)
“If you’re a fiction writer you should read this book.” (Sharon Pruchnik, read the full Goodreads review here)
“This book is a classic…a five-star resource that will help thousands of writers produce the best possible version of their creative work” (Lily Andrews, 5-star review at Reader Views, read the full review here)
I’m pleased to announce that my craft guide Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash: from Blank Page to Finished Manuscript, published in 2022 by Ad Hoc Fiction, has been announced as a Winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards 2023 – gaining the Silver Award for Writing/Publishing. This is an international competition for books published by independent presses, with thousands of entrants each year from all over the globe. In the meantime, reviews have been appearing for the book, and you can read some of them here: Reviews and Endorsements.This craft guide is officially about the novella-in-flash, but – as I hope you will see from the reviews – it contains material about best practice for all kinds of story development, and my intention has always been for it to help a broad range of fiction writers, alongside flash fiction specialists. I hope you will be curious to take a look at the book here!
It’s a flexible, step-by-step guide to creating your own novella composed of flash fictions, or very short stories. It’s the first ever full roadmap published, in fact! Whether you’ve written a novella-in-flash before, or are a beginner newly experimenting, the idea is that this craft guide will support you to produce a high-quality manuscript of linked narratives.
I’m really proud of this book. It was a labour of love during the pandemic and I wrote it primarily out of solidarity for the writing community and all those people who, like me, have longed for some support while grappling with their novella-in-flash manuscript. I’m especially grateful to the many many fellow writers who helped me put the book together by reading individual chapters (or the entire first draft, in the case of two beta readers), and two people in particular – John Mackay and Johanna Robinson – who helped me with copy editing and proofreading what ended up as a 200-page book. I’m grateful to Jude Higgins at Ad Hoc for suggesting the idea in the first place. And lastly, I’m grateful to the writers and writing teachers who generously took time to read the finished book and offer an endorsement – you can read excerpts from these below.
Advance praise for Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash: from Blank Page to Finished Manuscript:
“This is it, writers. This is all you need if you’re even thinking of writing a novella-in-flash. Michael Loveday has written the destined-to-become-a-classic bible on the form. Part craft book, part workbook, part collected resources, Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash is packed with insights, inspiration, examples, and prompts to get you started and assist you every step of the way. A gifted teacher, Loveday anticipates the pitfalls and steers you around them. He provides tangible examples to back up his lessons. He makes the often daunting task of starting a book feel not just doable, but fun.” ~Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life: Collected Works
“An extraordinarily useful resource… Highly recommended for all writers, all teachers of creative writing, and anyone interested in new forms of expression.” ~David Gaffney, author of Out of the Dark and Sawn-Off Tales
“A beautifully written and practical guide for novella-in-flash writers. Michael Loveday effortlessly unlocks the secrets of this ever-evolving form of storytelling that is coming of age in our time.” ~Bambo Soyinka, Professor of Story, Bath Spa University
“Michael Loveday is our foremost champion of the cutting-edge literary form of the novella-in-flash, and in this practical, hands-on guide he takes both the new flash fiction writer, and the seasoned pro, through the process of turning discrete moments of inspiration into a cohesive, coherent whole, while never losing sight of the joy of creativity that should underpin all writing. If you’re a poet wanting to try to write something more substantial, or a prose fiction writer looking to branch out, this book will give you the inspiration and encouragement you need to start experimenting.” ~Rishi Dastidar, author of Saffron Jack and editor of The Craft: A Guide to Making Poetry Happen in the 21st Century
“Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash is a handbook, guidebook, reference book, map and compass for anyone thinking of embarking upon writing a novella-in-flash – and indeed those who’ve already written and published one… I guarantee that this book will become a staple in the reading diet of every flash fiction writer.” ~Johanna Robinson, author of Homing
“Writers have been waiting for this book and we didn’t know it… Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash is destined to join the canon of invaluable books on writing.” ~Pamela Painter, author of Fabrications: New and Selected Stories, and co-author of What If? Writing Exercises for Fiction Writers
Available to pre-order now from the Ad Hoc Fiction website. All pre-orders before 17th May save £3.75 on the cover price.
At the recent Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol, I had the pleasure of co-presenting a short workshop with the writer Carrie Etter about the relationship between flash fiction and prose poetry. It’s a topic that fascinates me – two forms that are close to my heart. During our presentation, we talked about some of their differences, some of their connections. Carrie Etter, for her ‘Sudden Prose’ undergraduate module at Bath Spa University, draws a very clear line in the sand between the two forms. That line helps her students write better prose poems and better flash fictions, knowing what’s expected of each form. I was interested to find out, in recent conversations, that from the start Carrie knows whether a piece of her own writing is going to be a poem, a prose poem, or a flash fiction, something that speaks of a clarity of process to be marvelled at. By contrast, I often don’t know – pieces go back and forth between prose and verse, are imagined in different contexts for different purposes. I find I’m often writing pieces that exist in a fuzzy, grey area in-between story and prose poem, deliberately ambiguous about their identity, reluctant to define themselves.
I’m not alone in this. Some useful and relevant links and quotes by writers defining prose poetry and flash fiction can be found at the Page Chatter website. For example, this by the American writer Denise Duhamel: “Prose poetry and flash fiction are kissing cousins. They are kissing on Jerry Springer, knowing they’re cousins, and screaming “So what?” as the audience hisses.”
Here is an extract from what I said at the joint workshop, in which I put forward an idea that Flash Fiction is at the mid-point of a Venn diagram of two overlapping circles that can be labelled Short-Short Story and Prose Poetry:
“I think of the relationship between flash fiction and prose poetry being a bit like a Venn diagram of two overlapping circles. At the extreme on one side you have a short-short story with a beginning, middle and end, one, two or perhaps three characters, conflict and briefly rising action towards a crisis with a resolution. And on the other side prose poetry, at its extreme it’s revelling in the play of the language, the music of the sentences, there’s no story as such, it’s maybe more about an idea or has some philosophical purpose or it’s provoking a feeling or mood. It may demand you to read it several times before you can extract everything from it.
“And in the middle of the Venn diagram you have this huge overlapping area of the two circles where you can’t tell what it is – there might be a character, something might happen, but may not, the language is beautiful or noteworthy, but probably quite accessible, there’s music in the shape of the sentences, and you don’t know how to categorise it but you know you really like the writing, whatever it is. Here I find Louis Jenkins, Ian Seed, pieces by Tania Hershman and Meg Pokrass, pieces from Robert Scotellaro’s Bad Motel, Russell Edson, Simon Armitage’s Seeing Stars, Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing with Feathers, parts of The House on Mango Street, parts of Baudelaire’s Paris Spleen, Vanessa Gebbie’sEd’s Wife and Other Creatures and so on.
In this Venn diagram, for me, flash fiction includes the possibility of prose poetry, whereas the short-short story does not.”
When aiming to publish in magazines, nowadays I often avoid labelling submissions as prose poems or flash fictions (because some editors don’t like one or the other!) and just call them “pieces”, leaving it to the editor(s) to decide. There are magazines such as Ambit, Stand, Under the Radar, The Frogmore Papers, Prole, Brittle Star, and Ink, Sweat and Tears that publish both poetry and stories, and I’m hopefully not wildly wrong in my impression that editors at these magazines seem more likely to tolerate stories that are closer to prose poems (and prose poems that are closer to stories). Quite a few of these magazines don’t use the Submittable system, so you don’t have to identify an online submission through a particular genre / form pathway (as many of you will have found, magazines using Submittable often filter their story and poetry submissions separately).
Something that does, for me, identify a piece as a flash fiction, is that it foregrounds a character, or maybe more than one. Whereas a pure prose poem, typically, foregrounds language, calls attention to itself as language. But there is much writing that foregrounds both character and language. So how else can we sift between the two forms?
Paraphrasing Charles Simic, for me there’s something about a poem that demands that it be re-read for it to work. A poem or prose poem demands a kind of double-take, builds a double-exposure into the reading experience. For me, that means that there’s some enigma at the heart of a prose poem, some sense of mystery to be savoured. It’s certainly not a story with a plot that resolves. Something remains unexplained on first reading, and must be lingered over, even at the risk of not being easily or immediately grasped. This degree of mystery, of lingering double-exposure, might correlate to the degree to which something is a prose poem rather than a flash fiction.
Some of the “pieces” in Three Men on the Edge were originally published as prose poems in poetry magazines. I’d suggest that the longer form of the novella-in-flash, especially, allows scope for individual pieces where the focus is music, image, metaphor, or description rather than story, allowing “narrative” to accumulate more gradually – rather than requiring it from every chapter. (Although many other novellas-in-flash that I love are deliberately novel-like in style throughout, consistently foregrounding the narration or the events / plot.)
The twelve-part sequence ‘The Invisible World’ in the middle of Three Men on the Edge focuses on a character grieving a death, but there is very little action in this section. I wanted to try a different approach to character, relying on description, symbol, metaphor, and the atmospheres of landscapes to suggest states of mind. At the end of this post is one piece (prose poem? flash fiction?) from this sequence.
Hybridity is built in to the DNA of the novel-/novella-in-flash, and I love the diversity of the works that appear under its label, from Kelcey Parker’s Liliane’s Balcony, to Alex Garland’s Coma, to Heather Cousins’s Something in the Potato Room, which range significantly in how plot-driven they are, or how closely they resemble something like poetry. For me, this diversity is part of the reason that the novella-in-flash form is so vibrant, and why it has a bright future.
You can find out more about Three Men on the Edgehere.
ii. Bury Lake, February
His wife’s voice accompanying him, he circles the lake, breezes dragging shadows over the surface.
The water is troubled by a motorboat; waves lap at the land’s edge, nudging rotten branches lodged in the dregs of leaves, pulling, calling them back.
Honour me now I’m gone – companionship’s the cure. Don’t fashion yourself an abyss, don’t spiral within.
Sailors scurry across the lake, answering the winds. One dinghy flips, the pilot disappears beneath, only – as the vessel spins – to emerge, breathless, hugging the upturned keel.