Statistics on the novel

These charts are to amuse me and mark the time.

“Fires” are forest fires, which burn throughout Book 3, Weak in Comparison to Dreams. “Dreams” are dream chapters, most filled with fires. “Sheet music” is excerpts from twentieth-century classical piano compositions, some it invented, presented as playable sheet music and discussed in the footnotes. For hours of writing see the separate spreadsheet.

2015

2018

2019

2020

2023

2024

Number of books

3

3

3

4

5

5

Number of words

356,700

412,700

517,500

412,700

580,000

603,600

No. of illustrations

516

c. 400

c. 400

c. 400

c. 400

645

Sheet music pages

0

c. 30

c. 30

c. 100

c. 100

c. 150

Hours of writing

2,500

4,500

5,200

8,500

11,340

c. 15,000

Number of fires

14

9

9

9

c. 30

c. 30

It looks like the entire novel will find its shape at around 600,000 words and 2,000 pages. That’s more or less the limit of literary publishing: Infinite Jest is 550,000 words; War and Peace is 570,000 words. The problem is those books don’t have illustrations, and images swell the page count. Few single-volume novels are published over 1,200 pages: Wallace’s is 1,100; Vollmann’s Imperial and Dying Grass are about 1,300.

If the novel has an average-to-large trim size like B5 (6.9” x 9.8”) or the conventional American maximum of 6½ x 9½” it will have to be divided into three or more separate books. That’s what Ferrante, Knausgaard and Proust did. Those novels each total over 1,000,000 words, but they have no illustrations to swell their page counts.

For that reason, starting around 2015 I decided to divide the project into independent books, first three, then four, and finally, in December 2022, five.

        Book 1          A Picture of the Sky, With Nothing in It

Book 2   A Short Introduction to Anneliese 

Book 3   Weak in Comparison to Dreams

Book 4   Ghosts Are

Book 5  An Inventory of the Dead

Books 1, 2, and 3 are independent of one another. They don’t require summaries or introductions, and don’t refer directly to each other. In 2022, Unnamed Press accepted Book 3. Books 4 and 5 are not independent: they can’t be published until 1, 2, and 3 are.

Work in Progress

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4

Book 5

Stories, Like Illnesses

A Short Introduction to Anneliese

Weak in Comparison to Dreams

Ghosts Are

An Inventory of the Dead

Totals

Words

151,700

199,200

129,600

55,400

12,400

603,600

Images

150

86

297

110

0

645

Pages in MS

602

543

567

232

37

1,981

Pages in print

607

Medium

InDesign

Google doc

(print)

Word

Word

(Both these tables are updated on the Spreadsheet.)

A last note, on technology. These are written on several platforms. ook 1 is in Adobe InDesign, because it has multiple columns that Word can’t handle. These apparently superficial choices have deep effects on writing. Book 1 is fully formatted—it has custom hyphenation, instances of special kerning, etc—so writing it is a different kind of experience. Every alteration produces a different look, a changed rhythm of reading, preventing certain changes and encouraging others. Book 1 will need to be exactly 601 pages in any print version.

The music is all done in Finale or Sibelius, using different music fonts, intended to mimic a variety of sources. “Engraving” all that music must have taken several thousand hours over eight or so years.

Almost all the images are modified in Photoshop, some extensively (mainly to remove people and animals, but also to “heal” dust and flaws, control Moiré, resample, and adjust grayscale values).

The diagrams, charts, and graphs were done in a wide variety of apps, including Illustrator, Google Drawing, Miro, GraphViz (the diagrams in Book 3), Final Cut Pro (for screenshots of videos), and Mathematica. The equations were mainly done in Microsoft Equation Editor. All these technical choices influenced the book, changing its narrative and layout. I wonder if these choices are a contemporary equivalent of constrained writing, as in Oulipo.

In a more traditional sense, the different technologies of these five Books means they will never be a uniform series, like the volumes in Proust. There’s a built-in diversity of appearance, just as there are built-in differences in style, content, and voice.