On Drabble Writing

On occasion, I write drabbles.

A drabble is a particularly unforgiving form a fiction. One hundred words. No more. No less.

I’ve written sentences that barely get going at fifty words; a story at twice that length must surely be impossible!

I began writing drabbles because of, for all things, Strange New Worlds, the Star Trek short fiction contest that Pocket Books ran for a decade. One year, in a fit of pique, I decided that I would only submit drabbles. “I’m determined to piss Dean Wesley Smith off!” I said, and I wrote and submitted ten. Some were good. Some were not so good. I don’t know if they pissed Smith off or not.

The fantastic thing about a drabble is that it fits on a single sheet of paper, even in manuscript format. A single sheet! No extra postage necessary. A standard envelope is all you need. I felt good every time I dropped a drabble in the mailbox that summer.

I don’t know if there is a secret to writing a drabble. One hundred words allows for very little. I think of a drabble as a “plot moment.” It should be complete in and of itself, but it suggests something larger.

There are drabble communities on LiveJournal, and I watch them. Not to read the drabbles, though occasionally I’ll see a title that catches my attention. But because of the writing prompts. Each word, a word or an idea is suggested. Maybe something clicks. Or maybe not.

There is a Sherlock Holmes drabble community.

And I must admit — this one intrigues me. This one intrigues me very much. Because a Sherlock Holmes drabble would be very much a challenge.

Just consider Watson’s style as a narrator! Very mannered and verbiose, not qualities that would lend themselves to a drabble.

And yet, I’ve given Sherlock Holmes drabbles a try this week. Something about a challenge…

Scientific Study” is a response to the “7 Percent” challenge. This, obviously, would have been Holmes’ seven percent solution of cocaine. 🙂

Today, I wrote another — “After Reichenbach” for the “Waistcoat” prompt.

Both were written, like the earlier drabbles for Strange New Worlds, longhand and then revised. I’ve found that this is a system that works for me — sketch out the idea on paper (because I can judge the length to some extent), count the words, and start amending. “After Reichenbach” was heavily amended; the first sheet of paper was a bloody mess of ink, the longhand copy (to incorporate the extensive changes) was only slightly better.

Something I like about the drabble form is that it’s a quick hit. It can’t overstay its welcome, and it should leave the reader wanting more.

And it’s something that can be written in ten minutes or less.

The drabble isn’t for everyone, though. But for me? Challenges are fun. :cheers:

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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