On the 100 x 100 Micro Novel

Ran Walker
4 min readJan 18, 2024
The strangest 100 x 100 micro novel you’ll ever read

I have been writing fiction for quite a while, and if I counted my childhood, where I wrote small stories in folded sheets of paper and tried to sell them to my parents, it would be even longer. Even in all that time, besides the stories themselves, I had never created anything — until I wrote my first 100 x 100 micro novel (which I have on multiple occasions referred to as a “Novel in 100-Word Stories” in an effort to make it easier for the reading public to understand the concept).

It started as a “what if,” like many other curiosities do. What if I wrote the arc of a novel in 100 chapters containing exactly 100 words each? I had written collections of 100-word stories before, something that has roots that go back to Paul Strohm’s Sportin’ Jack, followed by Grant Faulkner’s Fissures, and while the 100-word story as a form has taken off and is enjoyed by writers across the world, no one had strung them together into a larger story until I published A Burst of Gray.

Shortly afterwards, I began to challenge my creative writing students, as well as other writers, to try their hands at the form. Few took me up on it, but eventually one of my students locked into the form and is working on what I sense will be an amazing book that only she could write. Should she ever publish it, I will be her biggest fan. As of this date, though, only one writer, whom I met through my wife, has successfully created a 100 x 100 micro book (nonfiction, as opposed to fiction) and that is Glenn Hadley, who wrote a wonderful book about how he met his wife and the life they built together titled An Evolving Love Story of 100-Word Chapters: Volume 1. I highly recommend it for those of you who would love to see an excellent example of the form being used to write a memoir.

But how in the world can you (1) write a full story using 100-word chapters, and (2) have the audacity to call anything that amounts to 10,000 words a novel? Let’s start with the latter. I realize others are prepared to die on this hill, but to me a novel is not necessarily dictated by length; it is dictated by development. And if you’d like to dig a little deeper, you might find that many “novels” are in fact not even novels; they are novellas. And to compound that, many of those books that are technically novels are really bloated novellas. In short, I think we waste a lot of time relying on definitions like this, but if you are a stickler for the 50,000+ word definition, then feel free to refer to the 100 x 100 micro novel as a novella or novelette, but do note that I say “micro” novel, which emphasizes a tremendous amount of distillation and brevity. So I will happily use this oxymoron until someone can come up with something better.

Now, for the former question. If you think about the narrative arc of a story — and consider that 100 chapters is a nice, clean number to gage percentages — then you can sense where a story should be 75 chapters in or where a hook should be in the earlier part of a book. It’s not rocket science; it’s measured storytelling.

Where it gets interesting, though, is how you select the right scenes and arrange them so that the chapters can breathe like chapters and move the narrative forward. Writing a 100 x 100 micro novel (or a 50 x 50 micro novella) is all about carefully curating the moments that are essential to the larger story arc. Dialogue and descriptions must be more carefully chosen. The desire to engage in insane bouts of literary logorrhea must be controlled. And like any other form of microfiction, you must feel comfortable implying things, as opposed to saying them explicitly.

One last question: how is this different from a “flash novel” (a term coined by Nancy Stohlman) or a “novella-in-flash” (a term that has flourished throughout the U.K.)? I could talk about a number of things, but it would only obfuscate the one key thing that matters: the 100 x 100 micro novel is built around a rigid word count and structure. Every single book written like this (sans the chapter titles) is exactly 10,000 words. The other forms, while challenging in their own ways, don’t have exact word counts or lengths.

As of this writing, I have written three of these types of books: A Burst of Gray, Black Marker, and GloKat and the Art of Timing. Will I write more? Definitely. I have ideas for novels that never got completed to my satisfaction in the longer form that I feel will work well with this new structure. If, however, you’re writing the next Don Quixote, you might need more than 100 chapters to pull that off. (I say this in jest, but I might very well undertake a task like this myself, just to see if I might be able to entertain Lydia Davis for a brief moment.)

If you have dabbled in drabbles (100-word stories), I invite you to challenge yourself and write a 100 x 100 micro novel, as it is feeling kind of lonely out here right now. :)

Happy writing!

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