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Writing a book

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Col. Nathan R. Jessup, Apr 19, 2020.

  1. If not now, when?

    The time is right, I suppose, to finally write the nonfiction local sports history book I've always wanted to write. Luckily, this particular topic is fresh and timely but also a pretty extensive history; not to mention that it's teeming with potential sources for information.

    This will be my first foray into the book-writing world, so I'm curious if any members could share their experiences. Also curious if anyone else has gotten the itch to finally dust off an old idea -- or even a manuscript -- to finish in the coming months.
    Driftwood and Liut like this.
  2. Tarheel316

    Tarheel316 Well-Known Member

    I can’t resist this ... you can’t handle the truth!
    Liut and Col. Nathan R. Jessup like this.
  3. Liut

    Liut Well-Known Member

    Go for it, Colonel! I researched and wrote a book that was released more than a year ago.

    The biggest piece of advice I can give is this: passion for the subject is a must! Sounds like some potential sources might be readily available to you. That was not the case for me. I had to dig, dig, dig because the subject of my book is a very niche part of professional sports history.

    So passion and enthusiasm will keep you going when frustration occurs.

    When you get to the writing process, you will likely sweat over words and sentence structure. Again ... passion will be your force multiplier.

    Wish you all the best, man!
  4. Liut

    Liut Well-Known Member

    Gee, I thought there would be tremendous response to your original post, Colonel.

    I've been away over the weekend. Guess there's more excitement over on the politics' thread. PM me with any questions!!! Best, Liut.
    Col. Nathan R. Jessup likes this.
  5. I appreciate it, Liut.
    Liut likes this.
  6. BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo

    BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo Well-Known Member

    A handful of tidbits off the top of my head:

    1.) I will echo Liut (you were a great Whalers goalie) by imploring you to be sure you are passionate about your topic before diving in. Writing a book is a lot like running a marathon (or I imagine it is, having covered lots of road races back in the day but never having actually run a marathon). You will be extremely enthusiastic and ready for the long haul at the start, but you'll run into the wall a few times, crap your pants and possibly wonder why you volunteered to take on the most painful task of your life. But then you'll get excited again!

    2.) As the prospective author of a local sports book, you sound aware of this, but don't do it for the money. There is none (or not much, anyway). Do it b/c you have a passion for a topic that nobody can cover or write about better than you.

    3.) If you get an advance, don't even THINK about trying to figure out how much you're making per hour.

    4.) Do as much research as you can before beginning to write. During your interviews and research, you're going to find fun threads, new roads to travel down, etc that you weren't aware of no matter how well-versed you previously were in the subject. Wait to write and you'll save yourself a lot of hours spent writing perfectly fine words that nonetheless need to be edited or eliminated.

    5.) When you get to writing, try to average 1,000 words a day. It's easy to say well, I'll write 1,000 words a day! But you'll probably find that it's more like a 3,000-word burst of inspiration in which you feel like you can do no wrong, followed by 2-3 days of exhaustion, surfing Twitter, playing video games and wondering where you misplaced that mojo. This writer's high followed by crawling up the hill and begging the circling buzzards above to finish the job is pretty much the marathon analogy.

    Like Liut, feel free to drop me a line with any other questions. Good luck!
    Liut and Col. Nathan R. Jessup like this.
  7. Thanks, @BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo. Sounds like some good advice.

    Here's one dilemma I've been dealing with in the back of my mind -- and I feel kind of silly about it because the reporter and writer in me says, "Just keep doing your interviews and take care of everything else later." However, I do find myself thinking at least a little bit about when I'd like to formally announce that I'm working on this book. While I do not envision myself getting the least bit rich off this project, it does potentially have a strong regional audience; part of the reason I'm writing this book is to spread the word about some of the interesting and noteworthy stories that people have never heard. I think that would drum up interest. I could funnel potential customers to a Facebook page and regularly post updates and related content, sort of driving an audience before it's even available for preorder.

    If I were writing a book about the New York Yankees or L.A. Lakers, I'd probably not be thinking about this step, but when it's Podunk High School or Podunk U, it seems that it feels different.

    Again, the writer in me says to not concern myself with such a thing right now. But, as you may be able to relate, my current stage is one of excitement and part of me wants to share some of that with the world.
    Liut likes this.
  8. BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo

    BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo Well-Known Member

    Pshaw, how can you be excited? Be jaded, like the rest of us! :D

    I tend to be cautious with big work-type projects and mention them when I see a finish line, but there's definitely an upside to mentioning the project early, especially if it's local and you are entrenched in the community. Publicizing it could not only generate early interest in the book, but also tap into sources you might not otherwise encounter. Maybe someone on your FB page sees the post and says hey, he lives out of state now, but I know the son of the guy who coached that team in 1950. I could see you shortening the path to some of your key interviews that way. Plus, people asking about it could give you a boost when you run into a wall at some point.
    Liut and Col. Nathan R. Jessup like this.
  9. Matt1735

    Matt1735 Well-Known Member

    Agree with doing all the interviews and research before you start writing. If it's a finite subject, work on an outline now of where you think it will go. If not, piece the outline together as you go or even after you are done with interviews and research.

    Either way, be flexible. You will start writing and find something you didn't know or didn't remember and you need to write to all you know, not what you thought you knew.

    I hope that makes sense, and I also will help if I can.
    Liut and Col. Nathan R. Jessup like this.
  10. BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo

    BYH 2: Electric Boogaloo Well-Known Member

    Ahh yes, definitely do an outline, so that you can laugh at it when you're done and the first six outlines look NOTHING like the final product! It's good to have the structure, but as Matt says, understand it will change with the research and maybe even the writing.
  11. Appreciate all the help, fellas. I will report back in the coming weeks with updates.
    Liut likes this.
  12. And I thought transcribing a few 15-minute interviews for a Sunday piece was time consuming. Whew!

    I've interviewed nine subjects so far. I've transcribed all of their interviews, except for the two most recent subjects. All told, that's about 14 to 15 hours of interviews, which has turned into more like 30-40 hours after transcribing. (It's worth noting that six to seven hours of those interviews were with one individual, a central character who's the only person I've had to interview over the course of a few sessions)

    The book follows a chronological order, highlighting key games and events over the past 25-plus years. That has made it somewhat easier in that I'm interviewing X number of people whose stories all relate to Chapter One, then I can move on to interviews for the next chapter and so on. I'm working off an outline, which is flexible and changing slightly each week.

    I've drawn inspiration from an author like John Shea, whose book with Willie Mays, "24," was just released. I read Shea's acknowledgements at the end, where he details that he interviewed more than 200 people for the book, spent 100-plus hours with Mays, and started the project 15 years ago. Still, he got it done. And it's tremendous.
    Last edited: May 19, 2020
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