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.