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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Sunday, April 17, 2005

length isn't important, but...

More halfhearted note-taking in the morning. I seem to be bored with it. Am I taking notes from the wrong places? Do I feel it's not applicable? Or am I finally just getting tired of it?

I continued my length-comparison with published works, using books from my own library. Using the same method, and entering the data in my Palm, here are today's results:

Dance of Knives: 142,000 (sci-fi novel by Donna McMahon, an old classmate of mine)
The Skystone: 194,000
Crime and Punishment: 207,000
Clan of the Cave Bear: 216,000
Moby-Dick: 224,000
A Fine Balance: 245,000
Ulysses: 260,000
The Magus: 275,000
Gravity's Rainbow: 305,000
Middlemarch: 332,000
The Eagle and the Raven: 334,000
The Brothers Karamazov: 342,000
Bleak House: 348,000
The Mists of Avalon: 416,000
War and Peace: 441,000
Cryptonomicon: 448,000

Next, I entered all these titles and lengths into my Mission Excel workbook, along with the ones I captured yesterday in the bookstore. I sorted them in order of length. I updated my own page data to reflect my latest changes to chapter 12, which put my estimated final word-count at 342,000: exactly the same as The Brothers Karamazov.

So there it is: if The Mission comes in at its currently estimated length, I will have a book the size of The Brothers Karamazov. This is large, but not catastrophic. I was afraid that my book might be longer than War and Peace--but no, only as long as Dostoyevsky's longest novel. Whew.

I was surprised to learn that Gravity's Rainbow is "only" 305,000 words long, and that Ulysses is a mere 260,000 words--beaten by The Magus at 275,000. Maybe the biggest surprise was how shrimpy Moby-Dick is, once you strip away the editor's introduction and commentary: only half the length of Cryptonomicon. I had no idea that A Suitable Boy is not only longer than War and Peace, but trumps it by almost 200,000 words--it's almost a Crime and Punishment longer!

I took out my Penguin Classics edition of The Brothers Karamazov and calculated how far into it 100,000 words is (my current coordinate in my own book). I reckoned it was at page 265. I pulled out the old bookmark folded at page 432, marking the spot where I bailed on my last attempt on Karamazov, and slid it in at 265. There. That's where I am in mine. I'd be delighted if my book had the look and feel of this copy of Karamazov, which I bought in December 1984. I like to read a nice, flexible, mass-market paperback. That's what I'd like mine to be.



  • Just thought I'd point out the word counts for Moby Dick and Crime and Punishment are flipped.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 18, 2013 4:54 PM  

  • Yet they are all more than 100 000 words away from atlas shrugged and its massive 562k.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 13, 2017 9:10 PM  

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