How many words should there be in a children’s novel? A scientific survey of one novel gave me the answer – 35,000. That was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl. If that is a good number of words for Mr. Dahl then it works for me. I confirmed this number twice by different methods. Being an estimator for 10 years, I have a pretty good idea how to count, so the first test was this: I counted how many lines it took to get to 100 words on a typical page. I extrapolated the count for the whole page, and then went to the last page and subtracted that number from the number of the first page to get the number of pages from the beginning to the end. Then I multiplied that by the number of words on my sample page. From this I subtracted the pages with illustrations and blank areas by quickly flipping through the book. I arrived at 35,000 words. To check this, I scanned another random but typical looking page and sent it to OCR. I exported that to my word processor and got the word count. I then counted every page with text, leaving out illustrations and blanks, to arrive at a net total of pages with text. Not surprisingly that gave me 35,000 words. Enough already!
My novel-in-progress stands at 25,000 words, plus the 1000 or so I just finished typing this morning. I have been reducing the gross word count by judicious editing, if not ruthless, so the 25,000 words are all keepers. The question now is, how to wrap up the story in 9000 words? Easier said than done. The writing continues apace, but it is clear that I will not hit 50,000, so there will be no “winning” Nanowrimo. Shouldn’t there be a category for children’s books? Oh well, you can’t win them all.
While setting out various events in the book I realized that my choice of a 1939 Royal KMM typewriter didn’t fit the timeline, so I have revised the machine to a 1914 Royal 10 instead. This has worked out better than expected for numerous reasons. I prefer the look of the older machine, which in my opinion would be more attractive to kids of all ages. Here is a picture I downloaded of a 1914 Royal 10 (thanks to sevenels). Now if I can be so lucky as to find one in a thrift shop for $25….
Royal 10 twin window
Here is the last page written to date:
Did I mention there is a pony in the story? It’s a kid’s book! There has to be a pony. Or magic, or both!
Nanowrimo is here and as usual, I devised a cunning plan on November 1st. Of course we all know that the brain works in mysterious ways and so the whole thing was undoubtedly hatching in my subconscious before I knew what was going on. I had had several suggestions from my fans (all 2) that I undertake a children’s book for my next trick. Now that I am a grandpa I suppose the time has come. Regardless, the book is underway. It is being typed, as all great literature generally is, on a manual typewriter. It also features a manual typewriter, Royal KMM 1939, with magic powers. This is indubitably due to the fact that the word MAGIC appears on it. Also because my Mom used one when she was a typist at the CPR long time passed. I think it was a KMM, and in any case it had the same big Royal logo on the back of it, so I accept that as evidence enough for this jury of me.
Well, it’s going smoothly and I am enjoying the process. There really is no more gratifying experience than reading to a child, and this is kind of like doing that for a whole bunch of them. Hoping, naturally, that one day one child somewhere will actually read it! Maybe two or three… One minor glitch is that Nanowrimo has a 50,000 word target, and that is more words than most kid’s books. So I will try to write too much and edit it later. In actual fact – as if there are facts that aren’t (alternate facts aside) – I am using an entirely new method this time. I am editing as I go. This is often considered a no no, but I’m finding that it is improving my writing. I see so many things to rewrite that I’m avoiding repeating those sorts of errors whilst typing. Positive feedback loop through continuous iterative editing.
Lastly I wish to report that I am using one of my Olivetti Studio 44’s, mainly. I dug it out of the basement and have discovered to my delight that it is a pleasure to type on. It easily beats the vaunted SM9 or any other SM’s. I prefer the SF models anyways, and I have used mine a great deal. I now have at least 7 of these, from various eras. They’re all identical under the hood. But for now I am sticking with the 44. It has a soft touch and that makes quite a difference with muscle fatigue, believe it or not. There is very little recoil. Some folks don’t like the softness of Olivetti’s, especially the 22, but for me I appreciate that, for their gentleness on the fingers, hands and forearm muscles. Last year I got a terrible pain in my elbow after a month of typing madly, which may have been exacerbated by the snappy action of the typewriters I used. Some are worse than others, but the 44 and 22 are some of the softest machines you can find.
Olivetti – Underwood Studio 44 – made in Canada
Birdhouse #1 – a sparrow roost
My birdhouses are empty now, so today I emptied their contents. We watched several sparrow families use the 1st house this summer, but we didn’t see any birds using the 2nd one. However, there were nests in both houses. House 1 has a 1-1/2″ diameter hole, while house 2 has a 1-1/8″ hole. The nests I removed were very different from each other, the first being very deep, from the bottom up to the hole, and rudely constructed of sticks and straws. The 2nd nest was entirely different, made of small soft threadlike bits and the top surface lined with fluff, that looked like fine cotton wool.
Here are all four of my novels to date. The first three are newly published. All are available through the links under the BOOKS page on the header above, or by clicking on the book title image. Support typewriting – all of these were laboriously crafted on typewriters until my fingers were numb!
BRAINWAVES: Neuroscientist Robert Frank decides to experiment on himself when he discovers a way to cross the blood-brain barrier.
MATES AND MEN—A TRILOGY
The Sexy Synesthete: a rare medical condition leads Miles on a quest to discover meaning in his charmed but unfulfilled life.
The Short Fuse: the odyssey of Jerry, a man of little ambition sucked into a deadly game for which he is woefully unprepared and even less willing.
The Lost Friend: the sage ends in a package of thrills that carry on right to the final page.
AN ENGINEER’S GUIDE TO PARIS
Heller, a soon to be graduate engineer, goes to Paris for a short holiday before school is to commence. When his best friend doesn’t show up as planned, Heller is forced to face the fact that his life has been on auto pilot, and he doesn’t like where it’s headed.
THE GAME OF HEARTS
The lives of two young couples are intertwined when on the night of a full moon Helen and Joan, strangers, arrive at hospital where each gives birth to a son.
They say this is a cliche, but why is that? My friend Joe Van Cleave challenges you to prove otherwise in his series of typing videos, This is Joe’s Typing Assignment #5.