Book writing babble

Photo on 2009-12-09 at 01.08 #2

So it’s 12:52 am, and I’m once again sitting in the Mirage Diner. My next book is due in exactly one year. This sounds like a long time. At least I think it does, since people always say to me, “Oh, you have a long time.” But the other book writers I’m friendly with—the Howard Bryants and Jonathan Eigs and Leigh Montvilles and Mark Kriegels—know from experience how this stuff works. In the world of biography, I’d argue that time is rarely a friend; that months soar by and you never, ever, ever think you’ve done enough.

As I write this, I’m digging through a chronological account of the 1977 NFL season. It’s tedious, and maybe I should hire a researcher to help. But I hate using other people—one, because it’s an extra expense; two, because, once I start writing, I want to have as much instant recall as humanly possible; I want to remember the details of that Chiefs-Packers game. If someone else researches it, I have no knowledge base.

Truth is, as much as I complain, I love this stuff. As a young punk back at the start of my career, I thought it was all about the writing. I knew nothing of reporting and researching. Absolutely nothing. So when I didn’t have the right information, I’d try and write around it. Maybe I could fool an editor or two, but the product sucked. Now, I’m all about the digging and chronicling. I always say to my wife, “What’s it all about?” and she instantly replies, “The nuggets.” And that’s true. My philosophy during the reporting process is to read every article that ever existed on the subject; interview every living teammate—whether that means a 10-year compadre or a guy who spent six days in training camp. I know I’m doing right when I start dreaming about the subject. I had some crazy nightmares about Barry Bonds during the Love Me, Hate Me reporting. Crazy, crazy s***.

I’ve been criticized in the past on sportsjournalists.com for always highlighting how many interviews I conducted in the course of writing a book. But, hell, I consider it a badge of honor. I really do. When I read the promotional material for a book and it says, “So-and-so Author interviewed more than 50 former teammates …” I almost immediately discount the effort (unless it’s a player who played so long ago that most contemporaries are dead). Here’s my philosophy on writing about stars: Lawrence Taylor might not remember playing with Eric Dorsey or Rob Carpenter. But Eric Dorsey and Rob Carpenter certainly remember L.T. That’s why you make the extra calls—for that one golden story; for that incredible single bite that jumps off the page. While researching on Bonds, I called Jay Canizaro, a scrub second baseman who had a cup of coffee with the Giants, was known to be soft-spoken and aloof … and told me all about Greg Anderson’s steroid methodology.

One more thing: The debate I’m having with this book is whether to report it all, then take six months and write, or to do both simultaneously. I’ve always reported, then wrote, but this book is gonna be my longest, my most heavily reported, my most detailed. I’m a tad concern about having to go back to the beginning and drawing a blank.

Oy. Just babbling. Probably interests nobody but, uh, me.

11 thoughts on “Book writing babble”

  1. After looking at this post, I guess the book’s not going to be about Joe Morris, huh? 🙂 Have fun diggin’ Jeff! You do it well. And you should definitely wear your “number interviewed” as a badge of honor. Do people have any idea how long it takes to do that many interviews?

    Also, I think it’s great that people are learning that if they don’t give you an interview, you will not just stop with them in order to get the full story. It will be up to them if they want their side of of the story included or if they’d want it told from someone else’s viewpoint. There’s always going to be someone that’s willing to talk about other people’s “nuggets.” LOL Good luck!!

  2. Hey Jeff,

    I’m looking forward to the next book. Big fan of “Boys Will Be Boys” and I also read “The Bad Guys Won.” I enjoy the updates on the new book. Your research really separates you from the pack.

  3. You are the best!!!!Can’t wait for the new book….you told me the topic over the summer and I promised not to leak it!!!!Those nuggets that your wife speaks about are exactly why I am such passionate reader of the sports genre. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!!

  4. Write as you go man. Write as you go! Take a page out of the American pension plan’s pay-as-you-go system. It’s used by countries worldwide to alleviate national debt. Bolivia’s President Evo Morales is the most recent endorser of the idea.

    So take it from Evo. If you’re gonna pay as you go, you might as well write as you go. Alleviates the debt on the mind, man.

    No debt. No blanks.

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