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 paperback length page (PLP)


We've been using the term "PLP" (Paperback Length Page) since the dawn of time to measure and report the amount of prose we've written.  What do we actually mean by this?  It's a bit more complex a term than a specific number of words or characters, as there are frillions of factors when thinking about novels, prose, formatting, content, etc.  It's pretty simple, but the important other thing to take into account is why we chose our particular measuring system and why we feel it's so important, and use it so often to measure and report how much Frangles material has been written, posted, read (by you; not that anyone actually reads Frangles, damn you; wait, Orbo, can you rewind and erase what I just--what do you mean you deleted your own rewind thingie? what the flying !@#$ is a "rewind thingie", no sorry, I guess I'm too stupid to understand bot orb slang..), etc!  So we'll cover those basics, then go into the "PLP" unit.

Before computers, a hand held stack of paper with such-and-such number of pages is the most familiar tool to have a mental idea of how much prose is in the document.  When we say "pages" in the real physical world, we're usually referring to printed or written pages about 8 X 11 inches in size, or pages of a generic hardcover or paperback novel.  Just these meanings can vary the meaning of the word "page" significantly (never mind all its other uses as well; pamphlets, instruction guides, material for a large room presentation, etc).  A printed page can fit much more prose than a written one, and double spacing halves each; hardcover novels can differ greatly in their words per page, never mind including paperback novels and their variations.  And that's just on real, tangible physical paper.  On the internet, if we're to speak of story prose, things are even more ambiguous.  The web has its own particular ambiguities, such as "page" sometimes referring to a single "webpage" or "html page" (all containing insanely varying amounts of prose), as well as multiple webpages or html pages (i.e. "visit my webpage" in place of "visit my website" if that which one is talking about only includes two or three webpages and not a huge immersive site).  So if we display documents generically thought of as at home on paper rather than the internet -- books, theses, newspaper articles, scientific reports, etc -- as opposed to FAQs, bios, contact info, short articles, etc -- we have a horrible mess, especially if we intermingle or intertangle the two types of information (which Frangles does ad nauseum).

A huge additional wrench is that Frangles attempts lots of baffling or radical (and hence potentially confusing, at least until you get so dizzy you pass out and understand Frangles finally) new things.  When modularizing prose into strange new structures that are already baffling (and in gross violation of endless eons of standard and perhaps proper literary conduct), even friters (frangles writers, or fractal writers) can dizzy themselves to death.  Frangles main story prose (i.e. the main Frangles material, not all the articles and blurbs hyping the stories as the best thing since sliced and personally plagiarized cliches) is structured in combinations of passages of incredibly varing lengths.  Frangles is built of what we call "bricks" of prose (individual fragment, module, passage, etc), which we found started to vary enormously as we wrote more material.  [We originally called these fragments "fages" (frangles page, or fractal page), but even this got confusing for basically all the reasons we've mentioned with the standard word "page".]  We originally intended a brick to be about one page of a novel, which we were going to arrange in different ways on a page-by-page basis, but we found this was incredibly limiting, just as it would be difficult to produce a film where every scene was almost the exact same length.

Another issue is that because Frangles is arranged nonlinearly (i.e. a plethora of orders you can read the material in with no set path from a particular beginning page to a designated ending page), the very method or reading technique of digitally navigating the prose is yet one more wrench to throw into the issue of measurement of how much reading material there is.  Suffice to say, the word "page" per se when reffering to digital nonliear modular structured storytelling is just about totally useless!

In light of these sorts of problems -- even disregarding the internet -- the measurement of "words" is commonly used, such as for magazine articles, class writing assignments, college theses, etc.  Indeed, the measurement of "words" functionally elimates 98% (76% in base 7, pblbll) of these problems, but no one thinks in terms of "words" except diligent editors and delinquent writers.  So, since "page" is infinitely more familiar and common a term than "words", we created our own standardized unit of length to measure amounts of prose, which we call a Paperback Length Page, or PLP.  Now it might seem a bit rhetorical or pointless to hype our unit so much, but as with infinite other concepts in Frangles, things that took (or can take) a good deal of thought or work can seem simple in the end.  Particulars aside, you can think of this as the work that a reputable marketing company does to come up with a single or several word slogan that has a carefully calculated mass appeal.  While we didn't spend eons coming up with PLP, we use it enough to take a quick look at what the term means and how we use it and measure prose.

Below is the general passage we've been using since the dawn of the know universe to measure a single PLP.  It's a passage from a Kyle Kirby story.  The 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 notes are roughly those fractions of the way through the passage, which we used to help resize editing windows and measure the amount we got done (or didn't).  The measuring unit includes those fractions in place of letters, i.e. "1/2" could be replaced by "the", and "=1/4" could be replaced by "bonk", etc.  So the passage is missing a word or two around there that were deleted for the fractions.  It also got slightly cut up over time, but this passage has basically what we've been using from the start, and precisely what we've been using for a long time.

=======

          A cheery Wednesday morning sunlight woke Kyle through a bedroom window whose shade he forgot to pull down from falling accidentally asleep.  To boot, he could actually hear a couple morning birds chirping too happily outside the window.  Kyle groggily threw his pillow toward the birds and looked at the time.  His alarm--which sounded much like a distant beeping truck backing up, as so many alarms do--had gone off for a whole hour before turning off, leaving a vague me =1/4 a dream of a highway of Pepsi trucks trying in vain to back down the crowded length of Route 57 South and recede from the lava of a nearby volcano eruption up ahead.  The loss of time wasn't detrimental, because Kyle always had it set over an hour early in case of this occasional event.
          Since he was late, Kyle quickly relayed yesterday's events to Todd and hurried to the kitchen to see if there was still any leftover pizza, and found his father munching on 1/2 cheerios.  He had obviously flown in early in the middle of the night and taken a taxi home.  "Kyle!  How's my star plush toy."  This was about his dad's best attempt at fatherly humor.
          "Star?" Kyle thought, and suddenly realized he hadn't changed his clothes, and still had the homestar shirt on.  It was too late to change though.  Kyle found there was no pizza and scarfed down a half bowl of Lucky Charms.
          "Shining like a florescent bulb," Kyle said, and thought =3/4 that was probably a lot worse.  "Sorry I can't talk, I'm late."
          "Unusual," said his father, and attempted a humorous smile, which ended looking genuine, but just a tad clownish.  Kyle hurried to his room, sprayed some more Axe on while frowning at the repeated necessity, grabbed his bag, and headed out the door.  On his way to school Kyle saw a squirrel hopping from branch to branch above him, and felt a tad jealous at^
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[^end of pulp. ie stops at 'at'. ie 3 ats ago, not incl that one. ie not any bracketized, but the one at..grrrr (tiger?)... the word right after "jealous"!! *phew*!!! (did you frwow i could italicise? im the man girlies ya i can italisise jet takes car'a ya at nooo not at!!]

Ignoring Jet's idiocy, this contains:
   
* 328 Words
* 1421 Letters (no punctuation/spaces whatsover)
* 1846 Characters (including punctuation)
* 1846 Bytes (as standard windows text file; 1 byte/character)
* 4.34 letters/word (factoring out half/quarter markers)

There are more factors than you'd probably guess with measuring "pages".  Pages, even sticking to novel pages and nothing else, can have different formatting, punctuation, paragraph lengths, periods of dialogue, etc.  There are slew of intrinsically nonstandardized factors that echew a simple unit like "word count".  For instance, if a line of dialogue in a passage takes up a single line (someone speaking one or two words), the necessity of a new line no matter what the line width is of the space we're trying to fit the passage wastes a lot of horizontal space (as opposed to a line in the middle of a paragraph which will generally fill up a while horizontal line).  But then, we still have the issue of word length; sometimes words will fill up whole horizontal lines, and sometimes we'll be several characters short.  Hence the length and width of a fixed space, i.e. the page size, what we're trying to squeeze a passage into, will affect how many "pages" a long passage of text fits into.  A single paragraph of 20 words will only take up 2 lines of a page of width of about 10 words, such as:

         Once upon a time, there was an ineffable two line
         skit written, but-- crap my space is about to run

But 20 words of 2-word dialogue will take up a baffling 5 times as many lines!:

         "Hi, there"
         "What's up?"
         "Nothing, you?"
         "I'm fine."
         "Hey, Henry."
         "G'day Bruce."
         "G'day Bruce."
         "Stop plagiarizing!"
         "Fair Use."
         "Touche, touche."

So just based on this factor, the issue of what we call a "page" is extremely nontrivial.  If we say "we wrote 10 pages of prose today", this could be 5 times as much work done in one context than another, just based on the ratio of dialogue to narration (and the average prose per paragraph; as shorter paragraphs will take up more physical space than longer ones).  Then, there are a frillion other formatting factors that vary from passage and passage and book to book: tab widths, font sizes, spacing, etc, etc.  Even within the same font, the particular characters used can vary the space the text takes up.  For instance, if we're not using a fixed-width font (Courier New), then the letter 'i' or 'l' can take only a fraction of the space a 'w' or 'm'.  So again, if we use the phrase "we wrote 10 pages of prose today," this could have an enormously different meaning if we used the 9-letter phrase "lily field" constantly, than if we used "worm wowza" containing the same number of letters.  So even with the exact same passage of prose fit into the same page sizes, the font used will vary the space each word takes up, and will vary the size of the "pages" that that passage takes up.
[If we really wanted to contrive things, we could demonstrate plausible passages that will take up 10 or 20 times as much space as others.  For instance, a series of very long paragraphs of mostly thin letters, vs. full short-phrase dialogues with lots of wide ones.]


So, even with physical book pages of the exact same area, dimensions, font style, and font size (a 7 X 5 inch novel with the same sized Times New Roman font), and passages of the exact same number of words and letters, the content alone of those passages can double or halve (or worse) the number of "pages" it takes up.  Never mind the cumulative complications that start happening we account for all those other factors (pages of the same area but different dimensions; different areas altogether; same font of a different size; same size of a different font; all in addition to varying content and formatting of the particular passages).

So, in sub-summary, since a measuring unit for what one means by "page" is nontrivial, we've established a rough standard unit.  For awhile we took this passage -- of a length obtained by averaging the lengths of various paperback novels, short and long -- and resized a text editing window/box that was vaguely of a reading page ratio (i.e. 2:3), then hit "Page Down" on written prose until we got to the bottom for whatever passage of prose we were counting (this is how we measured a "PLP" for the first two years, i.e. 2009 & 2010), hence a passage of dialogue with few words would take up the same space as a longer passage of prose, making the idea of "page" very literal.  That is, a dialogue of very short lines and a thick narration of many more words would take up the same space, and each would be counted as one "PLP".  Hence, in accumulation, the factors of formatting would average out and "PLP" would be quite literally the physical space of a paperback book (taking into account that some passages would be all dialogues and some would be thick narrations, and so the unit Kyle Kirby passage we chose had a rough balance of dialogue and paragraphs that we wanted a "PLP" to convey).

But being up to 900 pages, it's getting ridiculous to keep track of all those physical page spaces, so going into 2011, we'll be using some combination of word counts, and/or character counts (the latter of which can be measured by file size, and doesn't include white space of each line; that is, in a standard text file, a new line is designated by a single character, a "newline" character at the end of each string of text, a string being either a paragraph or a passage of dialogue, etc).  That is, we'll either count every 328 words as a "PLP", or 1846 text characters (including punctuation).  We may try to quantify the precise differences in this method and our previous, but it shouldn't be a whole hell of a lot of difference!  (Hence why you probably just wasted a good deal of time... that is, unless you're a competent editor or a delinquent novelist.  Hrm.)