Micro Fiction: Goals and Rewards #amwriting

The habit of creative writing usually begins small. It’s an idea, something we wish someone would write. At first, it’s a hobby we must fit around our work schedule and family obligations. Somehow, that hobby grows and grows. For some of us, it becomes a second job that pays little and demands a great deal of attention.

WritingCraft_short-story-drabbleWhen a new writer decides to begin their career by embarking on writing a novel, the magnitude of the undertaking soon becomes apparent.

At first, they are fired up about the project. For several pages, the words flow. Unfortunately, the fire of enthusiasm burns low as creativity fails.

They have the idea. They have the characters. But they don’t have the skills to write something as long and involved as a novel.

Many people see that as a sign that they are untalented. They put it away and never write again.

But the truth is, the project was too ambitious for their skill level. They haven’t learned the tools of the trade and received no reward for their efforts.

I suggest people begin by writing micro fiction. Drabbles are a form of micro fiction, an entire story in exactly 100 words.

Some forms of poetry, such as haiku, are not micro fiction, as they don’t tell a fully developed story.

My Coffee Cup © cjjasp 2013 iconWriting a drabble takes less time than writing a 3,000-word story or a 70,000-word novel, but all writing is a time commitment. When writing a drabble, you can expect to spend an hour or more getting it to fit within the 100-word constraint.

First, we need a prompt, a jumping-off point. We have 100 words to write a scene that tells the entire story of a moment in a character’s life.

Some contests give whole sentences for prompts. Others offer one word, and still others have no prompt at all.

prompt is a word or visual image that kick-starts the story in your head. If you need an idea, go to Reedsy’s Weekly Writing Prompts.

But prompts are only the beginning. To write a story of any length, we need these essential components:

  • A setting
  • One or more characters
  • A conflict
  • A resolution.

writer_at_work_nanowrimo_signI use a loose outline to break the arc of every story I write into acts, each with a specific word count. (I’ve included a graphic at the bottom of this post.)

A drabble may have only 100 words, but my process works the same as for a novel.

For a novel, I divide my outline this way: 10,000 or so words to open the story, set the scene, introduce the characters and get to the inciting incident. 50,000 or so words for the heart of the story. 10,000 or so words for the conclusion.

A micro fiction is outlined the same way:

  • I have about 25 words to open the story and set the scene.
  • I have about 50 – 60 for the heart of the story.
  • I give myself 10 – 25 words to conclude it.
  • The story must be told in precisely 100 words. (Not more, and not less—exactly 100 words.)

Writing micro fiction teaches you to tell a story without exposition.

However, you should save the clumps of exposition and backstory in a separate file because they do come in usefully as part of your world-building and character development exercises.

  • Every word you write and discard might be useful in a later story.
  • Label the file with a title that says what it is.
  • Save it in a master file that contains ideas for longer stories.

Drabble_LIRF_1_jan_2018_cjjapI mentioned rewards in the title of this post. The completed story is a small gift you give yourself, and the surge of endorphins you experience in that moment of “Yes! I can write after all!” are the reward.

When you write to a strict word count limit, every word is precious and must be used to the greatest effect. By shaving away the unneeded info in the short story, the author has more room to expand on the story’s theme and how it supports the plot.

I suggest you save your drabbles and short scenes in a clearly labeled file for later use. Each one has the potential to be a springboard for writing a longer work. Or you might want to submit it to a drabble contest.

Contests for micro fiction abound on the internet. Whether you choose to submit a drabble to a contest or hang on to it doesn’t matter. Either way, the act of writing micro fiction hones your skills, and you will have captured the heart of your brilliant idea.

Micro fictions are the distilled essence of novels. They contain everything the reader needs to know about that one moment in time. The reader wants to know what happens next.

You will have succeeded in writing your story, and that success is a reward in itself.



Filed under writing

23 responses to “Micro Fiction: Goals and Rewards #amwriting

  1. What a great post. It’s always better to write fiction in a size you can handle, rather than go off on the deep end and never finish a story at all. Totally agree with everything here. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As a producer of fiction magazines, I have been aware of micro fiction for a long time now and the uses for it. I use it in Mags all the time. Fillers and leads. for advertising up till recently. I became aware of it young when first reading Ayn Rand. But I had never heard of “Drabbles” until reading your article. This is despite the fact I produced a book “Mini Sagas, Micro Fiction” For the internet age, not that long ago. Stories you could read in five minutes waiting at the doctor’s surgery, at a Bus stop or in the dentists.
    I feel sure that there are a few of 100 words or less, lol, but cannot say that for sure, I would have to go back and count. But if there are “Drabbles” that would be simply luck as I was never aiming for that and instead for micro fiction.
    Lol- I shall have to try some drabbles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hope you do, Ray–even though I rarely share them, I write a lot of drabbles when I am unable to make headway on a longer project. You have the experience and who knows–you might have another book’s worth in your files!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Lol- I expect I have nineteen, three-hundred-page (this is a guess, please just take this figure as “Many”) volumes worth of short tales that never grew or blossomed into a good story. Lol- but even I do not wish to read them again. Oh, but if I ever end up with writers’ block! expect “Mini Sagas, Micro Mysteries” part two…..


  3. Great advice, Connie! I have found the same! It exercises your writing muscles and helps to develop that longer work in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I fully agree with Stuart’s comment, and thank you for another great posting, Connie! xx Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow – I’d never heard of a drabble before, sounds like fun, incredibly difficult fun, but I totally get how that can capture the idea and make you a better writer at the same time

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Why The Home Became the Center os Our Lives by Traci Kenworth – A Dash of Words with Loleta Abi Romance Author

  7. I’d never heard of a drabble before, definitely something I would like to look into doing. Will read this post again when it’s not so late at night.

    Liked by 1 person

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