Friday 13 November 2015

Festival of Drabbles 2015 - The Art of Writing Drabbles

Drabbles are just like any form of writing - it takes practise. Also like other forms of writing you can develop your skill by reading and learning from other writers. There are many fine masters of the art of drabble writing who have taken part in this week's festivals. Some of them have offered their tips and advice to writing a good drabble and here are some of mine.

Word Count

Drabbles are exactly 100 words long (not including the title) and it can be tricky to fit a story into so few words. As with writing any story you start with the first draft - at this stage I forget about the word count and just get the story down. Once its written you can worry about how many words it is.

With your first draft done it's time to see how many words it is. On a few very rare occasions I've had the draft come out at exactly 100 words and not needed any changes - that's an exception. With all writing there is usually the need to edit, but in this case you're not only trying to craft the words, you're aiming for a fixed count as well.

You'll normally be trying to bring the word count down and this is often the more difficult task so I'll focus on that. Read through what you've written and make sure that everything needs to be said. Think about the story, if what you've written doesn't help the story then it can be ditched.

Every story can fit into 100 words, but it can't necessarily include every detail you'd like to tell within the story. So sometimes you will need to brutal!

Next look deeper at the words. Again you are checking to ensure that you're not wasting your word count. Examine each and every one of them and determine if it's really needed. This is good practice for writing anyway, but with drabbles or other forms of flash fiction it is essential.

The Punchline

I've previously likened writing drabbles to telling a joke as there are some key similarities. Firstly there is the set up - you set the scene. Then you have the body where you draw the reader in further and then there is the punchline. In simpler terms it is the start, middle and end. However with jokes the punchline is often a twist on what preceded it.

Not every drabble works in this way, but most of my favourites do. There is a twist to the end. With just a few words the meaning of what happened is changed. Drabbles are perfect for this bait and switch technique as there isn't the huge investment of reading a novel or longer piece and then have the rug swept from under you.

It also an effective technique for short fiction as it adds another layer to what has already been written, and so giving it more depth.


Drabbles might have started in the sci-fi community, but as I stated earlier any story can fit into 100 words if you distil it enough. That means that drabbles can be of any genre - it's just another form of story-telling.

The art of writing a good drabble is keeping enough of the original idea within those 100 words.


  1. Love this post! I like trying different lengths of fiction writing. :)