By Lucas Nowicki and Malikana Mulele
Writing an investigative book has to put to the fore the importance of human narratives, not just a focus on facts and data. It is the key to what makes a good investigative journalism book.
“In many ways, trying to dig into a story takes a degree of obsession and a dash of insanity,” said Julian Rademeyer, author of Killing for Profit, an expose of the illegal Rhino horn trade in Africa.
According , Rademeyer, Jacques Pauw, Pieter-Louis Myburg and Ron Nixon, there are two sides to writing a good investigative book, the first being the forensic fact based side, the other being the inclusion of human narratives.
“There should not be too many facts in the books. One should plan a book like you would plan one big article, it must tell a story,” said Pauw, author of Presidents Keepers, an expose of state capture in South Africa.
An additional consideration during the process of writing an investigative book or any book for that matter is the multiple challenges you will face, from meeting deadlines with publishers to juggling writing alongside full-time jobs.
“I would write about 500 words a day, and keep reminding myself of why I am writing,” said Nixon, author of Selling Apartheid: South Africa’s Global Propaganda War, an investigative novel that interrogates the global propaganda war waged by the Apartheid government.
Myburgh, author of Gangster State, a narrative of corruption in the Free State province of South Africa, encouraged journalists to view the process of writing an investigative book as separate from combining past articles on a specific issue. He said one should look at the approach of writing an investigative book as a journalist and how it gives journalists a “luxury of space to create a palatable long form narrative”.
There are a number of resources online that can guide journalists in writing an investigative book. We’ve put together this list and welcome comments or reviews and other suggestions.
Pulitzer Prize and bestselling author, Glenn Frankel, shared his advice on writing a non-fiction book.
Memoirist and writer based in the United States, Jessica Barraco, shared her tips on writing an investigative memoir.
The Centre for Investigative Journalism lists a series of resources that offer an in-depth look at investigative techniques and tools for researchers.
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