Just Do It

SO here’s the situation: My wonderful agents, Gail Ross and Howard Yoon, hooked me up with a bright, literate, absurdly knowledgeable former oil rig captain named John Konrad. John was personally connected to a lot of the people who were on the Deepwater Horizon on April 20 when a well 18,000 feet below the surface blew out, killing 11 of the rig’s crew and eventually destroying and sinking the rig, resulting in the worst oil spill, by far, in U.S. history. John and I spent a couple of weeks on Skype together cooking up a 15,000-word proposal for a book that would be a non-fiction suspense narrative that placed the disaster in the full context of the essential, little understood culture of offshore oil exploration. We ended up with HarperCollins editor David Hirshey, a writer himself and the man behind the great Esquire Dubious Achievement Awards in the 1980s. The book’s working title is “Fire on the Horizon” and it’s already got a mention in a New York Times roundup of upcoming blowout books. That’s the good news. Bad news: the book needs to be written — and edited — by Nov. 1. That’s why I’d hung a “Gone Writin'” sign on this blog. But Weingarten persuaded me that I ought blog about the process of reporting and writing such a big project on such a small deadline. “Just write a snippet a day.” he said. The first snippet begins now.

71 Days Until They Rip This Book Out of My Virtual Typewriter

When I close out this blog item, I am going to begin to address the 50,000 words of notes that I’ve strung together  for what amounts to the middle sections of the book. I’ve been looking into all the stuff I’ve amassed, and when anything related to a specific point in time — from the moment the Deepwater Horizon began its life in the shipyards of South Korea to the moment the well was finally capped after spewing millions of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf for three months — I’ve put it into the appropriate spot on a timeline. Now I’m going to begin to go through that material and try to shape it into narrative.

I’m not really sure how that will go, or if it will end up retaining the shape I’ll give it. But when you have so much to work through on such a tight schedule, you don’t have the luxury of waiting until you know exactly what you’re doing before you begin doing it. In other words, Nike was right.

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