Stuff Writers Like

Why More Authors Should Use Micro Chapters

Editor's pick in the Stuff Writers Like 2015 Writing Contest


I don’t know about you, but I don’t like putting down a book unless I’m at the end of a chapter. And I’m a pretty slow reader to boot.

Congratulations to Firas Janabi, editor’s pick in the Stuff Writers Like 2015 Writing Contest with this entry.

Sometimes before I get into it I’ll check how many pages to the next chapter and evaluate if I have enough time or energy to get through it.

This is a generational trend I’ve noticed. People read less because they don’t have the time, the patience or the attention spans to read more. We went from books, to films, to television shows, to YouTube videos, to six-second Vines. Our attention spans have been pulverized by advertising and cat videos, by highlights and snapshots. It’s no wonder the younger crowd doesn’t read as much; there are easier ways to be entertained if all you’re looking for is fleeting amusement.

I watched a movie a couple years ago that I loved, Savages, directed by the incomparable Oliver Stone. It wasn’t till a few months later, while picking up my parents from the airport, that I saw it was based off a book. I bought it without hesitation, and, to my surprise, I blew through 20 chapters in less than five minutes.

No, it wasn’t because I could suddenly read a page in 10 seconds. It was because the author, Don Winslow, now one of my favorites, had implemented micro chapters. What’s a micro chapter? Well, consider the first chapter was simply: “F— you.”

The chapters that followed varied from being just a few sentences long to a page and change. Sounds a bit silly, yes, but I read that book faster than I’ve read anything in my life. Then I read the prequel, and still I got through them both faster than any one book I’d read before.

Micro chapters gave me the ability to pick up that book and read at almost any given moment during the day. If I had a few minutes on the toilet, time to read. If I had a couple stops on the bus, time to read. If I was waiting for the rice to boil, time to read. If my partner had something she wanted to tell me, which wasn’t a rare occurrence, I could stop reading within seconds and be at the satisfying end of a chapter. Structuring a book with micro chapters offers functionality that I hadn’t yet seen and have since adapted into some of my short stories, quick fiction and some of the longer endeavors.

Photo by Kelly Taylor

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Firas Janabi

Firas has an Iraqi father and an Algerian mother. He was born in Poland in the late '80s, grew up in Australia and lived in Europe for four years. While traveling the world, he has experienced it at its best and its worst. He's jumped from a 72-feet-high cliff into crystal-clear waters off the coast of Italy and has been hijacked and held at gunpoint on an Iraqi highway. He's been writing stories along the way.

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