With the sub-title “from blank page to finished manuscript”, this is very much the printed equivalent of taking a focused MA on the topic of the novella. It’s laid out beautifully clearly into modules, with delicious, restorative snacks in the form of exemplary flash fiction nuggets to nibble on along the way.
Author, editor and creative coach Michael Loveday explains that his book is an assortment of suggestions to help you find out what works for you in the area of novella-in-flash. In this way, it seems intended to be used less as a map than a tourist guide of hotspots you can choose to visit and enjoy.
Even if you would usually bypass the Prologue, you ought not to this once, as in Loveday’s hands it becomes almost like a ‘meet and greet’ at the start of a tour. “This craft guide isn’t seeking to set out fixed rules for how every novella-in-flash should be written,” he writes. “So much remarkable writing deliberately breaks the boundaries of common practice. Instead, (it) is intended as a springboard, a source of ideas and options.”
The first module opens with an exploration of five categories of novella-in-flash, offering the opportunity to consider the type that might best suit your own writing preferences and style. Loveday advises keeping a project journal, where you can jot ideas and ‘write ABOUT your writing.”
He adds: “Here’s a writing secret: your writing projects want to be written about. They want a whole book of their own in which you talk about them and only them.”
The above is typical of the tone throughout. As someone who tenses at the thought of textbooks, I found this a relief. Some passages are akin to that moment when you’re chatting with a trusted writerly friend in a pub, and realise their comments are so on point, you need to take notes.
From ‘Part One: Making Yourself at Home’ to Part Two with its three-phase workbook crammed with illuminating exercises (not to mention gentle urges to treat yourself whenever you complete a step: “Now that you’ve reached this second milestone, I encourage you to reward yourself again (…) Celebrating our achievements helps to nurture playfulness and vitality at the core of our creativity”), to ‘Part Three: Additional Information and Resources’, this is both an overview of and an interrogative dive into the craft of building a novella flash by flash, but more than that it provides the emotional support and reassurance you may need to read when niggling doubts creep in.
There are also some fabulously enticing stages in this journey, including “Secrets, Hidden Lives and Contradictions” and a keen examination of potential “Turning Points.”
And if you can’t resist skipping to the end to jump into Appendix 6 – ‘The Universal Can Opener’, no one will know, perhaps until fellow readers of this fine book notice you suddenly producing glittering flashes with a distinct flavour of you may have seen this view before, but never from this angle.
In all, Loveday’s disarmingly approachable tone makes the perhaps daunting prospect of constructing an entire novella in flash seem utterly achievable. This is a joyful endorsement to leap in, swim deep, see where you end up and enjoy getting there.
This book was given to me in exchange for a fair review.