Sixteen thousand words. Eight chapters at 2,000 words each. Plus a preface, afterword, bibliography, etc.

That’s my very rough estimate of the word count I’ve got to work with for my Alan Lomax book, based on my quickie analysis the other night of a comparable book, Elizabeth Partridge’s Restless Spirit: the Life and Work of Dorothea Lange. (I counted paragraphs in each of its 12 chapters, then counted words in the fourth paragraph of each chapter, then did the math for fewer, longer chapters.)

I couldn’t have told you how long I’d expected my text to be, but it would have been more than 16,000 words. (And it may still be. We’ll see. Oh, and this just makes my 6,200-word draft of The Day-Glo Brothers seem all the more laughable.) But whatever the length, I’m glad to know these parameters — they’ll help me gauge what to include and leave out as I begin writing.

But more than that, I’m glad just to have parameters — the physical parameters of a 128 page book printed on paper. There are limits to what I can cover in this book, and that’s fine with me. Every day, it seems, I get an invitation via Facebook to try out some new application. It seems so endlessly expandable — there are no physical limits to what purposes and functions and features can be tried, so why not keep adding, and adding, and adding (and inviting, and inviting, and inviting)?

It makes me crazy. And so I take great comfort in having so simple a purpose: to tell a story, to share my fascination with Alan Lomax’s life and make his life and work meaningful to an audience that, with few exceptions, will never have heard of the guy.

And to do it in 16,000 words.