So what is a Drabble anyway?
A Drabble is a 100-word fiction story. Exactly one hundred words. No more. No less.
I’ve had several drabbles published over the last year:
- My Boss Is Evil was published in Spooky Halloween Drabbles 2014 (Affiliate link – Thanks for your support!)
- A Violent Passion was published in Speculative Valentine Drabbles 2015 (Affiliate link – Thanks for your support!)
- Forevermore was also published in Speculative Valentine Drabbles 2015 (Affiliate link – Thanks for your support!)
The Difficulty of the Drabble
‘Limiting’ does not begin to describe the difficulty of writing a story so short. Setup? Conflict? Resolution? Some drabbles ignore these elements, and end up sounding like poetry. Most of the best drabbles have all the classic elements of a larger story, but it can be a challenge to fit them into that exactly-100-word limit. You may have to blend the structure together, or compress the timeline down so the story takes place very quickly. Or you might choose to leave conflict unresolved. I chose to ’embrace the incompleteness’ by writing about a very short moment and insinuating a much larger story in my first drabble, My Boss Is Evil.
Many of the publishers requesting drabbles ask that they be written with a specific theme in mind, as they are often released in a themed compilation or anthology of drabbles by many different authors. The publisher may request vague themes like “Monsters,” or genres like “Romance,” or feelings like “Spooky,” or more specific themes like, “Spooky Monster Romance Set In Minneapolis.” Writing to a theme is a great exercise. Some may find it limiting, others inspiring.
Drabbles will test your technical writing skills. As you get closer and closer to that 100-word mark, you will need to be extremely efficient with your writing. Every word will have to earn its keep, especially fluff like adjectives and adverbs! It will expand your vocabulary, as you replace two or three words with a more succinct choice.
Or, you may find yourself doing exactly the opposite. You may have to reach for the adjectives to pad the word count. (Just like you did in high school.) You can expand contractions like “she’s” into “she is,” or define terms like “hexamita,” expanding it into “parasite that lives in the intestines of birds.”
But wait! If you just cut a few more words instead, then you’d have enough room to add in another complete sentence! Another layer of interesting things-going-on in your drabble…
Don’t be surprised if it’s harder than you think to write a quality drabble.
Drabbles With Benefits
As frustrating as drabbles can be to write, they are far easier to write than novels. I wrote two drabble submissions in a single evening, and both were accepted for the same compilation!
As small as drabbles are, they still count as publishing credits. They add books to your amazon author page. They give you another publication to post on all your social media channels. They give you content for your newsletter and your blog. They show the world that you are not only actively writing, but that your writing is being published. This news is especially useful to your fans if you are in a lull between larger publications. In other words, properly timed drabble publications can help keep you relevant.
Drabbles are like potato chips, once you finish one, you’ll want MORE! [Click to Tweet This!]
Another thing that drabbles can do for you is to help convey your brand. For example, I want to be known as an author who writes dark fiction. Obviously, my drabbles are darkly themed. In the case of the Valentines Day drabbles, the publisher wanted stories themed around the topics of love and passion. I intentionally wrote stories that focused on the dark and disturbing aspects of love and passion. Rather than letting the theme push my writing around, I incorporated my writing style into the theme, and used those stories to reinforce my brand of dark fiction.
In this respect, drabbles can be more effective than ad copy. Remember the writing advice ‘show, don’t tell’? Well, that’s just what drabbles do. They very quickly show readers what kind of writer you are, and what kind of stories you write. They are 100-word author business cards.
The biggest benefit of drabbles is this: Drabbles Are Fun To Write! It’s so rewarding to sit down and completely finish a writing project in such a short period of time. No, you won’t get the kind of rush that comes from writing a short story or novel. But try it for yourself and see. Drabbles are like potato chips, once you finish one, you’ll want MORE!
Be very careful proofreading your work before submission. Because of the very large number of authors who get published in a drabble anthology, the publisher may forego the editing process and only choose drabbles that they feel don’t need editing. So don’t expect much in terms of editing. (Or payment!)
Make sure to count the words yourself. Carefully. Don’t rely on your writing software word counter. Some word processors will count dashes and ellipses as words. And does your word processor count hyphenated words (like “things-going-on”) as three words, or one? If your word count is off, even by one word, your drabble will be disqualified, and the publisher will have to reject it, no matter how awesome it is otherwise.
Drabbles make for great FREE things to give your fans in newsletters or as content for your website. Just make sure any publisher is giving you a non-exclusive contract, so you have the right to publish them yourself. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for the rights to “fall back” to you before you can republish them elsewhere. Write enough of them, and you could self-publish your own drabble compilation!
Drabbles aren’t the only micro-fiction out there:
- Twitfic – Any fiction that fits into the 140-character limit of a twitter post. Check out https://twitter.com/VeryShortStory to see some great examples!
- Twabble – A 100-character story. (Not including punctuation.)
- 55 Fiction – A story with only 55 words! Both Drabbles and 55 Fiction are defined here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drabble