Book research, book hell …


Writing a book takes on different stages. In fact, from a technical standpoint, I can’t even call writing a book “writing a book.” Because it’s quite inaccurate.

Eventually, one writes a book. But, if it’s a biography (as is the project I’m currently immersed in), and you follow a certain philosophy, the writing doesn’t come until later. Much, much, much, much, much, much later.

First, there is research, and more research, and more research. It’s the key to quality portrayal, and it involves significantly more than simply calling the stars and a couple of teammates. Genuine research, in my mind, entails creating your own library. When I was working on Sweetness, for example, I literally constructed my own Walter Payton library. It contained photo copies of most every yearbook he ever appeared in; every article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune (and included the words “Walter Payton”) between 1975 and 1988; roughly 60 books that concerned Walter, Mississippi, Chicago, Jackson State University, the Bears and the disease he ultimately died of. Whenever I dive into a new subject, the wife loses her mind, because in myriad corners of the house one will find stuffed notepads, random receipts, yellowed clips. It’s my own brand of disorganized organization, and it makes little sense to anyone—but me.

I digress. Yesterday, the wife and I spent the day at a nearby Panera. I entered the restaurant looking like a bag man. I had my backpack (filled with articles), a ripped white shopping bag (filled with articles) and a smaller second shopping bag (also filled with articles). I also brought along two staplers, seven highlighters and a roll of tape. I found my space, ordered my iced coffee and refused to budge for seven hours.

It’s my love.

6 thoughts on “Book research, book hell …”

  1. Jeff, Awesome post. If you don’t mind, I’ve got a couple questions for you.
    -How long does it take for you to develop the library?
    -Do you print the articles from a public library?
    -What would you do during those seven hours? (Why the staplers & tape?)

  2. Jeff (and Mrs. Jeff), I can totally identify with your struggle. I’m into a biography project that dates back to 2004 and a business book project I was supposed to have finished last month — and am thus working on in unpaid overtime.

    The stacks of paper in each case are impressive, but far surpassing them are the piles of digital data on my hard drives. I have scans of unique materials I have found in obscure archives, along with many copies of copyrighted materials from past press coverage.

    Parts of what I have collected (interviews as well as documents) would have value to an archive somewhere. Have you explored possible sales of your material?

    1. I haven’t, Tom. Sometimes donate stuff … thought there was Payton material his son and, eventually, grandkids might like to have. Etc …


    Jeff –

    Well said!

    Great pic of you.

    Sweetness was such a phenomenal read!

    I look forward to the Next Project!!!

Leave a Reply