I was in Norwich recently and ended up reading the local paper, the Eastern Daily Press to be exact.  Imagine my surprise when I turned the page and read about a competition: ‘Can you write a drabble for our Norfolk Day competition?’  In association with the National Centre for Writing and an independent children’s bookshop, Bookbugs and Dragon Tales, no less.  What a lovely, a delightful and surreal discovery for, you see, I invented this literary form.

Way back, we wanted to do an anthology for the Birmingham University Science Fiction and Fantasy Society – good idea, but, you know, it seemed like hard work.  Well, I thought, why not restrict it to… I don’t know… 100 words… exactly.  It’s the last clause that made it work.  Someone else remembered a Monty Python book had a game called ‘drabble’ – apparently – where people sit in a circle and the first to finish a novel, wins.  We wrote to Michael Palin for permission to use it – he couldn’t remember anything about it, but said ‘yes’ and the name stuck.

I wrote the rules and then the first-ever drabble.  The dashed off first draft came to 98 words.  Ooh, this is easy, I thought, I just need to add 2 words.  But this took ages because every time I crowbarred them in, the added pair looked like obvious padding.  It’s that last clause.

We also thought we’d ask a few famous SF writers to contribute – 100 words doesn’t sound like much, so the request suckered them into trying and the challenge has them in its clause.  They all replied.  Let’s ask a few more, and a few more and The Drabble Project was born.  It’s a sold-out hardback from Beccon Publications.  I personally numbered every one of the limited edition with my calligraphy pen.

Yonks later, I was browsing in the dealers’ room at a convention and happened to pick up a collection of drabbles.

What’s this, I thought.

The woman behind the table gushed to me about how wonderful they were ending with, “Have you heard of drabbles?”

“Er… I invented them,” I replied.

I’ve even met someone who described himself as a ‘drabblist’.

It’s good to know that this short thing is still out there being fun.  A competition in Norwich – extraordinary.

These days I’m writing novels of between 80,000 and 120,000 words.

What’s a drabble – a paragraph?

Now, I just need to cut 308 words exactly from this blog.


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