To Drabble or Not to Drabble?

As part of my reintroduction to writing this year, I began participating in a monthly drabble challenge. Drabbles are defined in this case as 100 word stories (or 200 for double drabbles and 300 for triple drabbles). Drabbles are challenging, but I really enjoy them.

I was involved in some discussion this week around word count, though, and ran into someone who claimed they could not drabble. They said it simply wasn’t posssible for them to write using so few words.

Now, this group of folks in chat are people who regularly write 20,000 to 30,000 words or more a month, and the longest story I’ve written recently is less than 5,000 words. Still, it surprised me to find that narrowing the focus down to a drabble-length story would be considered more difficult than writing tens of thousands of words.

So why drabble?

One of the first things I noticed about drabbling was the way it forced me to choose words carefully. When you only have 100 words, every single one of them matters. I’m more likely to break out the thesaurus to find the perfect, descriptive word on a drabble than a full length story.

Another thing I like about drabbles is that they can be relatively quick. If I’m blocked or frustrated, a drabble can shake me out of it. I can usually start and finish them in an evening, and completing something always makes me feel good. It also keeps the juices flowing when I’ve been stymied on my other works in progress.

Finally, drabbling helps with plotting, too. Distilling a scene down to its primary elements, making sure you convey enough detail to fully tell the story but avoid going over the wordcount is great practice for longer stories.

I realize that dabbling is not going to be for everyone. Still, everyone can do it with practice, and I think most people really will get something out of it.

8 Replies to “To Drabble or Not to Drabble?”

  1. I like hearing your thoughts on drabbling! I actually am one of those who doesn't like them, because they're too short. I find them difficult to do because strictly speaking, they're meant to be fully contained stories within 100 words, with a beginning, middle, end and usually a twist. I find that too limiting. My drabbles end up being continued like beads on a string, which is appealing if I'm in the right mood, but still. I find them difficult. 🙂

  2. Nikki! I agree wholeheartedly.
    I love to drabble for the same reasons, the challenge of choosing the right word and the reward of finishing something.
    I am likely to sit on a finished drabble overnight and let it 'mature' before posting it. Then I have some distance from it and can see any flaws, kind of a self beta.
    I really love the triple drabble for an idea that begs to be told. After a single drabble, it's seems so full of promise, all those words to use!
    I find that you get more feedback, (reviews) on drabbles, too. I imagine because they are shorter and therefore more likely to be read. Love to see what people respond to and why.
    Excellent blog post! 😀

  3. Thanks, everyone!

    Noony, drabbles can be very difficult. I'm happier with my own drabbles when they can stand on their own and not have one drabble start right where another leaves off. (Not that I don't write connecting drabbles from time to time!) I always find the process of deciding whether an idea is going to be a drabble or an all-out story valuable, though. And I need more Haven drabbles, too, so I hope you feel like challenging yourself a bit 🙂

    Tess, I agree with you about reviews. I'm sure the shorter length of the drabbles has something to do with it. Also, because the story is so compact, the impression that's left is a bit stronger, I think, and the images in the story can resonate more. As you say, it's amazing to see what people identify with. A throwaway line can easily turn into the biggest selling point of a story.

  4. Excellent points! For a long time, I didn't want to bother reading drabbles, and I certainly wouldn't write one. When Darla mentioned Ice Cream Day in the PDS shoutbox, a drabble popped into my head. The writing challenge was fun, and as mentioned, more people read them. I will admit that I sometimes write them in order to get more of my work viewed. I made myself keep out the naughty stuff (sometimes) for the same reason.

  5. Noony, I'll take all the Lin Tong's I can get 🙂 I tend to agree there's a longer story to tell, but I'm more than happy to have drabbles, too.

    Elaine, that's a good point about drabbles being a good way to call attention to the rest of your work. I mainly write them because I like the challenge of trying to fit the topic, but being able to draw more readers into the longer stories is a definite plus.

    As for smut, the story pretty much tells me what it's going to do, and it either has smut, or it doesn't. I am happy that I have a good balance of stories with and without smut so, as you say, I don't lose out on a certain segment of readers all the time.

  6. I love Drabbles, reading them more than writing them. Mind you it has been well over a year since I wrote one.

    PDS Drabbling is really responsible for me discovering poetry…I wasn't very good at it and it always seemed stressful to write them. Somehow it was a natural move into poetry for me.

    Thanks for covering Drabbles here, It's very tempting. And, if you're interested, here is a link to 100 Word Stories. There are lots of sites that are specifically for Drabbles. :))

    Happy New Year to you and yours.

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