If not having the time to sit down and write a novel is holding you back from writing, you have another option: extremely short fiction.
You are more likely to sell a drabble than a short story in today’s speculative fiction market. You are also more likely to sell a short story than a novel.
Many online publications are looking for drabbles (100-word stories) and flash fiction under 500 words. These editors are looking for new, unpublished work, so this is an opportunity to use the limited time you have for writing and still get published.
Perhaps you’ve heard other writers use the term drabbles, but you don’t know what one is.
Drabbles are extremely short fiction. In 100 words or less, they offer everything the reader needs to know, so drabbles are the distilled essences of novels. A good drabble tells the story of one scene and makes the reader ponder what might have happened next.
Writing drabbles teaches us how to write a good hook in only one sentence.
In literary terms, what is a “hook“? Wikipedia says: A narrative hook (or just hook) is a literary technique in the opening of a story that “hooks” the reader’s attention so that they will keep on reading. The “opening” may consist of several paragraphs for a short story or several pages for a novel, but ideally it is the opening sentence in the book. 
Writing a 100-word story takes far less time than writing a 2,000-word short fiction or a 70,000-word novel. However, it does require plotting and rewriting the prose until the entire story is told in exactly 100 words. You should expect to spend an hour or so writing and then editing it to fit within the 100-word constraint.
A 100-word story has the same essential components as a longer story:
- A setting.
- 1 or 2 characters.
- A conflict.
- A resolution.
- No subplots are introduced.
- Minimal background is introduced.
Every sentence propels the story to the conclusion. Trying to tell a complete story in 100 words or less teaches you several skills.
- You are forced to develop an economy of words.
- You begin to see what the core plot elements of a story might be.
When you have a backlog of drabbles and extremely short pieces, you also have a vault full of ready-made characters and premade settings to draw on.
First, you need a prompt, a jumping-off point.
A prompt is a word or visual image that kickstarts the story in your head. The prompt for the following drabble was sunset. Some contests and publications give whole sentences for prompts, others offer one word, and some will post an image. The difficult ones are those with no prompt at all.
I break short stories into acts by taking the number of words I plan to fit the story into and dividing it into 3 sections.
A drabble works the same way. We break it down to make the story arc work for us.
For a drabble, we have about 25 words to open the story and set the scene, about 50 – 60 for the heart of the story, and 10 – 25 words to conclude it.
For this drabble, I used:
24 Words (opening): We sat on the beach near the fire, two old people bundled against the cold Oregon sunset. Friends we’d never met fished the surf.
51 words (middle and crisis): Wind whipped my hair, gray and uncut, tore it from its inept braid. The August wind was chill inside my hood, but I remained, pleased to be with you, and pleased to be on that beach.
Mist rose with the tide, closed in and enfolded us, blotting out the falling stars.
25 Words (conclusion): Laughing at our folly, we dragged our weary selves back to our digs, rented, but with everything this old girl needed—love, laughter, and you. 
The above drabble is a 100-word romance and is an example I have used here before. It has a beginning (hook), a middle (the conflict), and a resolution. The opening shows our protagonist on the beach with someone for whom she cares deeply.
The conflict in this tale is the weather. Wind and blowing mist make it too cold for our protagonist to stay on the beach and forces her indoors.
The resolution is a romantic evening spent indoors.
Drabbles contain the ideas and thoughts that can easily become longer works, such as this drabble did in my poem, Oregon Sunset.
If you are thinking about participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), write your story ideas in the form of drabbles and flash fiction. That way, you won’t forget them, and you can save them for later use as the seeds of a longer work.
Submitting the drabble/flash fiction to a publication or contest won’t ruin whatever novel you think it might later become. Whatever it grows into will be vastly different than the 100-word premise.
Sometimes, you reach a point where you can’t write any further on the novel you’ve given your soul to. That is when it’s time to take a break from that project and do something completely different.
The act of writing random ideas and emotions down in drabble form rejuvenates your creativity, a mini-vacation from your other work. It rests your mind and clears things so you can return to your main project with all your attention.
Whether you choose to submit a drabble to a contest/small press or not is your choice. The important thing is this: that idea is written down and accessible when you need a new project.
I have always considered drabbles as the literary equivalent of dried beans and rice. They are the staples we can set aside for later when we need inspiration.
Credits and Attributions:
 Wikipedia contributors, “Narrative hook,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Narrative_hook&oldid=1010359448 (accessed April 10, 2021).
 Oregon Sunset Drabble, by Connie J. Jasperson, © 2016, All Right Reserved.
Oregon Sunset, © 2016 Connie J. Jasperson, author’s own work.
Sunset on Cannon Beach, © 2019 Connie J. Jasperson, author’s own work.
5 responses to “Writing the short story part 3: extremely short fiction #amwriting”
Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog.
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❤ Thank you for the reblog, Chris ❤
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🤗Welcome, Connie 🤗
There is an art to the short. Often, you realize how some stories add words that in the end, don’t contribute much. My shortest “official” short story is 147 words. Some others I call short, short stories. Many of them act as a caption to an illustration that I have done.
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Hello! That’s wonderful–being a poet, I’m drawn to the way short fiction forces me to really consider my words, lol!
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