I spoke with Atlin Merrick on Twitter about my experience writing drabbles and was invited to lightly revise those observations for this piece. It appears under my nom de plume elizajane, in Spark! No. 29 (8 May 2018) the newsletter from Improbable Press.
For the past three years I’ve run a 14-day drabble challenge (#TwelvetideDrabbles) around Christmas time. It’s the only time I write 100-word stories, but I love the discipline of it.
The challenge of looking at the daily prompt and thinking about how to create and resolve narrative tension in a way that speaks to the prompt, is true to the characters and relationship I’m writing, and comes in at exactly 100 words (a personal challenge I set myself). Each year, I write the drabbles around a particular couple and post the individual drabbles as chapters of a 1,400 word story—but each chapter still has to stand on its own as a scene.
I usually begin with an idea, a moment, an interaction, that has to be trimmed away and trimmed away in both concept and language. An evening needs to be distilled into a moment; a post-coital conversation into a single exchange. The first draft will be three hundred words, easy, and then I have to go back make sure each word I keep is essential as I slash and burn.
I typically write much longer fic—it’s rare for me to drop below 1,000 words—so drabbles are a change of pace that I have come to look forward to, in the waning of the year. Sometimes they end up prompting something longer that I take up later, but not always. There’s a freedom in that, in writing an idea in such a compressed space, and letting it go, saying: that is enough.