In which we average the averages and discover an averagey-average

Today i finished reading the Pooh stories (those in the two books of stories by A.A. Milne), and read one the first of the Pooh stories by David Benedictus. i was not at all impressed with Mr. Benedictus’ stories. i wanted to quit halfway through the first story (or maybe sooner), which is why i didn’t continue reading. Well, that and i really needed to get to reading the Beatrix Potter stories. i believe i shan’t bother with Mr. Benedictus’ stories at all anymore. His dedication poem at the front of the book wasn’t bad—rather touching—but even his introduction demonstrated that he hadn’t gotten the voices right. i hope he didn’t reward himself with any chocolate biscuits, although i suspect he did.

Meanwhile, i really didn’t enjoy the stories in The House at Pooh Corner, either. They were sad from the beginning and felt like they were harder to write. They were certainly harder to read. Not bad, but not free and careless and young. They felt older. i think this means that i like stories written for four-year-olds better than the ones written for eight-year-olds who already know about Factors and Knights and Suction Pumps and Brazil.

After i finished reading the stories, i did the math. This is not the fun part, but it is the instructive part.

The shortest of Miss Potter’s stories was The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher, which was only 807 words long. The longest, though, was The Tale of the Tailor of Gloucester, which i have personally read dozens of times, thanks to a good friend of mine named Naomi, who is older than Jonathan and i put together although she is only eight. That one is 3022 words long. Seeing that, i decided the best thing i could do was ignore the shortest and longest. Then, i had a range of 899-1301 words (between The Tale of Two Bad Mice and The Tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle). The average of the longest and shortest came out to be 1758, and the average of the second-longest and second-shortest came out to be 1100 exactly, so i added the two averages together and averaged them again and came out with an averagey-average: 1429.

Coincidentally, 1429 is exactly the length of the second-shortest Pooh story.

i did the same thing with the Pooh stories, speaking of which. The longest of them is the one where they find the North Pole, at 3022 words, and the shortest is the one where they hunt the Woozle, which is 1237. That average is 2129 words. The second-longest is the one where Kanga and Roo come to the forest: 2864. The second-shortest is the one where Eeryore loses his tail: 1429 (see? same as Miss Potter’s averagey-average). So the average of the shortest and longest Pooh stories is 2129 (as i’ve said), and the average of the second-shortest and second-longest is 2146, and those are much closer together than the averages i found in Miss Potter’s stories. The averagey-average of the Pooh stories is 2138.

Then i realized that Pooh is always making up hums, and as i don’t imagine Twiry singing little songs (although she might; i haven’t asked her yet), i thought i’d better subtract the length of the longest hum from the averagey-average, to be safe. Then i had a modified averagey-average of 1957 words.

After that, i averaged the averagey-averages (using the modified one for Pooh, not the one with the hums) and found that that was 1693 words.

So all in all, i came up with a target word count for the individual stories: 1700 to 2000 (1700 being closer to the average averagey-average and 2000 being the modified averagey-average from Pooh). So my final target word count for the whole book—now pay attention—is 17K-20K.

i was surprised to see how much variance there was in story length in the works of both authors. i never realized how uneven the stories were. Even still, i wanted a tight range so as not to be undisciplined; i didn’t want my stories to wander. So i will be pretty strict with myself.

The rest of the words (30K-33K) will be taken up with the Rixi adventure.

Now i am off to Do Nothing, which is a wonderful thing to do. Nano starts in only two hours!!! (Although i intend to start tomorrow, not midnight.)

i leave you with this image of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and Lucie. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is one of my favourites.

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Silly old bear

i checked out not one, but five Winnie-the-Pooh books today, and a collection of Beatrix Potter stories as well. i’ve read the first Pooh book now (called simply Winnie-the-Pooh), and it looks and feels and sounds and reads just like the sort of format i want for Twiry. But there’s no need to decide too quickly. i’d better finish my research first. What a burden, reading delightful children’s stories.

One of the Pooh books is actually “in the tradition of A.A. Milne,” so i don’t consider it “real Pooh,” but it still might help me gauge a good length for my book. The author, David Benedictus, has written exactly ten stories (just like Milne’s two books), but they are a good deal longer than the original stories. My guess is too long, given that i’m torn between modeling mine after Pooh (around 2K words per story) and Miss Potter’s stories (around 1100 each). Benedictus’ stories run closer to 2700 words apiece, on average. Still, it’ll be a fun read, and one never knows if the pacing of his stories will sound more like what i’m imagining once i’ve started reading them, even if they aren’t canon.

The other two Pooh books are just collections of things published elsewhere. It turns out that i was a bit over-zealous in my checker-outery. They do have some of the poems in them, which i’ve never read, so that’ll be fun—but as Twiry won’t contain any poems, they won’t be instructive. i’ve decided i don’t mind. 🙂

i still need to read The House at Pooh Corner. Then tomorrow i’ll read through the Beatrix Potter stories, and one way or another i’ll decide on an appropriate word count goal. Then on Thursday it’s writing time!