Daily Blog •January 20, 2015


Magazine Writing Process

Technically I am still in Part I of my write though of my 2015 magazine. If you go to the bottom, you will see an explanation of what I’ve done so far as far reading through from 75 to 300 pages on each team, going through the teams’ season day-by-day. As I’ve finished each team, I’ve made notes on each position as well as categories including coaches, offense and defense (see below).

A couple frequently asked questions came up during this process. First is how do I determine in what order I go. The simple answer is that I have a stack of teams on my desk with all of the reading and I just grab the next pile. It depends if I feel like doing a large team (200+ pgs) or one of the small teams (75).Naturally the 200+ page reads take longer to go through. The order is completely random and has nothing to do with where I think the team will finish next year or their prospects. Basically I have to get all 128 teams finished in a 1.5 month span.

Now I move on to Part 1A of the first write through. I have made the notes on the O-line, D-line, LB and DB’s. Over a 3 day period I bury myself into just 1 position. As an example, I start with the O-lines. I will look at all of the notes I made on the unit, how they performed last year, who they have coming back, count up career starts, evaluate the production from last year, write my Offensive Line and make my overall grade for the team. These I usually do these by conference and I come up with my original ratings for the O-lines in the conference (ranking top to bottom). After spending 3 days on the O-line, I will spend 3-4 days on the D-line following by 3-4 days on the LB’s and finally 3-4 days on the DB’s. By the end of January, I will have all of my first write though positions for each team with the exception of the Phil’s Forecast section.

At this point in the game I am not looking at where a team will finish. I am not looking at their schedule for next year as all I concentrating on is the unit I’m on and how that team ranks in that area. This is a 2 week process and my goal is to be wrapped up by Super Bowl Sunday. To give you an idea on what the staff is working on right now, the Right hand pages are almost ready for the proof process as we have spent the last month plus looking at the series matchups for 2015, pulling over the statistical leaders, the game recaps over the lat 5 years, bowl results, total stats for the last 7 years, coaches records, etc. Everything you find on the right hand page is almost all pulled over including an initial assessment of returning starters. Naturally, as the spring comes, the returning starters for some teams will change due to some deletions but these right hand pages are almost ready to be proof read.

I do not begin my 2nd write through process until the month of March when the spring guides come out with updated rosters, but I will let you know right after the Super Bowl what the month of February brings and what I do in that month - and there are a lot of things to get accomplished.

I just thought I’d give you a magazine update and let you know what I’m doing over the final 2 weeks of January.

Here was what I posted for the first write thru process blog on December 3rd.

Magazine Writing Process (Blog From 12/3/14)

Just to give you an idea of how the magazine writing works I thought I would use today’s blog to show you the three different write thru's I do for each team and answer some FAQ.

FIRST WRITE THRU - This process starts the Sunday after Thanksgiving each year so this year it was November 30th when I officially started working on the 2015 magazine. Naturally I write the teams one at a time and there are 128 to go thru. The first question is how do I choose the order. Well each write thru has a different order. For the first write thru I do all of this years bowl teams first. Now I am writing the teams before they have played a bowl game, players that have left early for the NFL, late transfers, etc. I know this but that is why there is a 3-step process. As far as the stats go when I put them in the writeup pre bowl, someone goes back in and updates the numbers. If someone has a huge bowl game I usually go into the text and change some wording. I usually have a pretty good idea of players leaving early but for those that surprised me, I will catch that in the second write thru.

This write thru consists of me going thru each teams season day-by-day. We have a news media service, which sends us articles from all the newspapers that cover each team out there. The staff underlines all the important info and it gets typed into a file for that team. At the end of the year, every meaningful story is in there and I get ready to just submerge myself on that team for the next 3 to 6 hours. The reading will be anywhere from 50 (Sun Belt team) to 250 pages (SEC team) depending on how much media coverage a team had. As I read thru the report I get a glimpse of the team from every day during the season. I see all the ups and downs at each position and the highs and lows for a team during the year. I do the bowl teams first because when I am analyzing the bowl matchups I like to have reacquainted myself with the team to know it inside and out just like when I wrote the magazine the previous year.

During the reading process I have a yellow highlighter and highlight all notes I want made on my Phil's Notebook pages under each position. These then get typed into my personal (Phil's) note page. This allows me to drill into each team on a individual position basis at any time with a complete recap of the position, injuries, breakout players, etc during the year. I refer to these often.

After the stack of reading is gone thru and all the notes are made, I write 4 different positions for the magazine. I write the Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Receivers and Special Teams. I do the entire magazine into a tape recorder because dictating a paragraph is much faster than typing a paragraph and I have 128 teams to do (3 to 6 hours per team) and have to get them done in a span of about 50 days. At the time I write the position, I look at my computers grade for each team for this year and compare my ranking to it. I then do my ups/downs which I grade each position from a -5 to a +5 as to whether it is improved or weaker than last year. I also put my preliminary grade on each of the 4 positions in my power rating for 2015.

After this process is complete I then have my power ratings updated for 2015 in my computer. This accounts for returning starters, 2014 production, talent grades, etc. I then have the computer open and go thru all the offensive lines in the country over a 3-day period. I look at last year’s writeup and all the notes I made when I did my reading, what they have coming back and do each writeup. When I do all the offensive lines I am comparing apples to apples and have my original grades on all the top offensive lines in the country and in each league. I then do the same thing for the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs. At this point it is the end of January and I have the entire first write thru done for each team. I also have all the base sets for my 9 sets of power ratings done and can do a pre spring run thru of each teams games for the upcoming season during the month of February.

If you think that means I coast during the months of February, March, April and May you would be mistaken as each of those months are more intense, as I have to do my 2nd write thru's, 3rd write thru's and All Conference Forecasts, etc during that span. I will have a blog on all of those procedures at a later time.