Thursday 14 November 2013

Writing Drabbles

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love drabbles. As a reader they provide bite size stories that can be enjoyed in less than a minute (although good ones will stick with you for much longer!). As a writer they provide an interesting challenge that helps hone my skills.

In case you don't know a drabble is a short form of fiction that is a story that is exactly 100 words (not including the title). I've noticed that drabbles have become more popular and that they encourage people who haven't written before to give it a try. In the spirit of that this post provides a few useful tips and hints if you decide to dabble in a drabble.

A drabble is like any story, it should have a beginning, a middle and an end. The beginning sets up the story, the middle is the meat, the progression of the story and the end provides the conclusion. Many of the best drabbles have a twist in the tale, the start and the middle will take you in an expected direction and then the end turns that around.

In many ways this is similar to the traditional structure of a joke, the scene is set, something happens and then it is turned around to surprise the audience. This works well with the short form of the drabble. Even better if the end not only surprises, but also causes the reader to re-evaluate the start and middle with new understanding.

People get in touch and have asked various questions about writing drabbles, the most common being how do you fit a story in so few words? I've written many drabbles and the first draft rarely is anywhere close to being 100 words and like any writing it is also very rare that the first version is worth sharing, editing is key to getting the required word count.

This is also a useful aspect for developing your skills as a writer, the strict word count teaches you how to be economical with your words. Once you have a first draft read through it, if you're only a dozen or so words out then it's a case of picking the right words for the job. Strip out anything that isn't needed, like any editing you need to be brutal, but not so severe that the core message of the story is lost.

If you're further away from the word count then you need to look at removing whole sentences, as with the stray words remove anything that isn't core to the story you are telling. The scope of a story can still be quite dramatic, but there should only be one or two threads to the tale. It is linking disperate elements that tends to bloat your word count. So ask yourself, what is the story that I am telling?

This leads on to another common question, what should a drabble be about. The answer is simple, it can be about anything! Drabbles are a form of fiction, it doesn't define what the fiction is about. You can have action stories, erotic or romance, any genre that you enjoy.

Most importantly of all, writing should be done because you enjoy it, developing your craft comes with practice and drabbles are a fun way to practice.

Here are some good places to discover or share your drabbles:

Indie Book Bargains :
Short Fiction Readers and Writers:!/groups/shortfictionreadersandwriters/

I also have various collections of drabbles here on my blog and there'll be a new series starting soon:

Standalone Drabbles:
Tales of the Imp:
Murder Drabbles:

If you have a drabble you'd like to share, or know a good place then leave a comment below.


  1. Okay, Michael, maybe I'll finally try one! I've been wanting to but was intimidated by the whole 100 word thing. These are good tips, thanks!

    1. Excellent - feel free to share when you're done.