Ad Hoc Fiction’s Novella-in-Flash Craft Guide: now available to pre-order!

Forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction in May 2022 is Michael Loveday’s novella-in-flash craft guide, Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash: from Blank Page to Finished Manuscript. Now available to pre-order from the Ad Hoc Fiction website. All pre-orders before 17th May save £3.75 on the cover price.

Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2022), by Michael Loveday

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.

What Novella-in-Flash writers can learn from Gwendolyn Brooks’s Maud Martha

Maud Martha by Gwendolyn Brooks (1953; Chicago: Third World Press, 1993), pp. 180.

Subject matter: A coming-of-age story about an African-American woman, from childhood to motherhood. The novel illuminates the ordinary, daily struggles (social, domestic and spiritual) of a black woman in Chicago in the 1930s and 1940s. 

Structure/Style: Thirty-four vignettes (in close third-person) of mostly 2-5 pages, often making vivid use of setting and description, and often ending with a kind of gentle epiphany or musing that feels poetic in instinct. (The novel actually began as a sequence of poems but was rejected by Brooks’s publisher in that form.) It feels like a novel of quietly fraught reflection, as Maud Martha witnesses the world around her and contemplates its meanings and her place in it. Other than marriage, home ownership and motherhood, there are few major dramatic events (at least, not ones with lasting consequences) occurring in the plot. We glimpse a “story arc” mainly through the overall passage of time and personal development of the protagonist’s consciousness as she navigates from childhood to motherhood; a sense of “plot” moving forward is barely suggested. The central struggle feels spiritual in nature – how to make a life count and how to be happy. As Asali Solomon has put it: “good days and bad, no headlines.”

What can novella-in-flash writers learn from this book?

(1) A Single Character Study – If a writer wants to understand how to explore one central character really profoundly using a classic novella-in-flash form, they could do worse than use Maud Martha as their model. Maud Martha, published in 1953, has a strong claim to be the very first fully fledged novella-in-flash/novel-in-flash (it runs to 180 pages, so could be said to be almost novel-length). It is the epitome of the novella-in-flash as a character study, a coming-of-age story revealed only through impressionistic, individual moments. The early chapters (1-10) cleverly telescope time as they skip through her childhood years. They are a wonderful example of using “foundational” early chapters to establish the key values and character qualities that a novella is going to explore – in this case, Maud Martha’s place in the world and within her family, the broader context of social conventions of the era and aspirations to status, the financial insecurity of her family, romantic attachments, and the unsettled inner world of Maud Martha herself. As a character portrait the book is wonderfully rich: we watch Maud Martha being overlooked or mistreated, we sympathise with her struggles in terms of self-esteem, inferiority and shaky social status, her experience of racial prejudice; we warm to her determination to be a good person and her instinct for self-sacrifice. We admire her resistance in the face of her difficulties, her will to live positively and embrace life. The novel is a portrait of an opinionated young woman forming her consciousness. Brooks delivers all this effortlessly, exploring subtleties with a light touch that is incredibly sophisticated and skillful.

Invitation:  to what extent could your novella-in-flash go really deep into a single character’s worldview and experiences, even in third person?

(2) Epiphanies – Particularly notable in this novel-in-flash is Gwendolyn Brooks’s use of the quiet, almost transcendent epiphany after Maud Martha witnesses some small detail of the world around her. Gutting a chicken, listening to music, a view of dandelions, trapping a mouse – Maud Martha’s intelligent reflections and her instinct for musing mean that these moments take on deeper, spiritual qualities. She witnesses the world and draws conclusions about herself and how to live. These chapters are perfect studies in how to wring every last drop of meaning from a simple scene.  

Invitation: In what ways could your main character(s) be sensitive to the world, and be provoked (by what they witness) into thoughtful/emotional/sensory response?

(3) Social Context – The individual life here is set within a vivid social context: Maud Martha’s sense of her own mortality and her spiritual search are sparked by witnessing the deaths of relatives, and she experiences friction from society’s expectations about womanhood and racial identity. We know her partly through seeing her community connections with family, friends and neighbours, and partly through watching her soak up contemporary culture. Maud Martha is an examination of social affectation, signals and customs, and the book shows us very effectively how to portray one character from various social angles – the individual framed within a broader context. Seeing her through this wider lens, and through an accumulation of situations like a montage, we come to understand the main character much more fully and more intimately.

Invitation: to what extent could you set your main character(s) within a broader and more meaningful frame, by depicting significant details of the social context and culture in which they live?

Flexible Novella-in-Flash self-study course:

Novella-in-Flash Mentoring 2023…

Writing a Novella-in-Flash/Novel-in-Flash

If you’re interested in embarking on a novella-in-flash or novel-in-flash, you are in the right place. This online course is designed as an incubator lab in which you can develop and grow a novella-in-flash or novel-in-flash concept. 

(But wait! What exactly is a novella-in-flash/novel-in-flash? See here.)

The full course consists of three main Phases (Incubation, Development, and Integration), with one-to-one support from tutor and novella-in-flash specialist Michael Loveday, author of the writing craft guide Unlocking the Novella-in-Flash: from Blank Page to Finished Manuscript (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2022). More about Michael’s teaching and editing experience here

This Novella-in-Flash Incubator course is designed to offer you a more sustained and in-depth level of one-to-one support for writing a novella-in-flash than you will be able to find anywhere else. It aims to provide the most comprehensive insights into all aspects of the novella-in-flash form.

The course gives you an informed space in which to figure out: what to write about, how to develop your characters and story world, how to link disparate material together, and how to shape an overall narrative arc. It also will expand your awareness of available options for the different forms and styles of novella-in-flash you can adopt, and the different narrative strategies you can employ.

And it’s completely flexible. YOU CHOOSE when you write and how quickly you work through the course. So you can fit your writing easily around commitments to your job, caring responsibilities, your yoga classes, cleaning the fridge (once a week, right?), and those late-night Breaking Bad re-runs that you love so much.

A description of how the course works can be found here. What you can expect in terms of outputs and outcomes is listed here. Three different course options are described here.  

The course is open for bookings. Please get in touch here: Apply for the Course.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton