Tools for Writers: Evernote (Part 3)

Using Evernote to Manage Your Research and Your Writing Projects

In part one of this series, I described what Evernote is and what it does. In the second part, I explored “how stuff gets into Evernote.” Today, I’ll be looking at how to use Evernote to organize your research and your writing projects. I’ll leave the topic of how to use it to organize your writing business for another day.

Organizing Your Research

Structure

There are several ways you can store your research in Evernote, the most important thing is to find a structure that works for you. For example, if you are researching the history of Coloma, CA (where the gold was found that led to the gold rush) but you also happen to save items that may come in handy for future projects, you could structure your Notebook Stack as follows:

  • Research
    • Coloma History
      • Note 1
      • Note 2
      • Etc.
    • Miscellaneous
      • Multiple notes

If you use this structure, make sure you give your Notes clear, structured titles that will be grouped together when sorted by title. For example, group notes together by title that give general background information, as well as those related to specific people, places, or events. Using our Coloma example, this structure could work (using the “BG-” prefix to indicate a general background article):

  • Research (Stack)
    • Coloma History (Notebook)
      • BG-General background on Coloma article
      • BG-General background on the area around Coloma at the time
      • Marshall, James W: Article about his background
      • Marshall, James W: Another article about him
      • Sutter, John: His activity in the Sacramento area
      • Sutter, John: His life prior to the gold rush
      • And so on.

I’m using this structure for the book I’m currently working on. And when I’ve used the information in a particular note, I insert “z-” at the beginning of the title, so all the Notes I’ve used for the book are sorted at the end of the Notebook.

Alternatively, if you feel you are going to have several articles about some of the people, places, events, etc., you may want to restructure this hierarchy as follows:

  • Research: Coloma History
    • Coloma Background
      • General background on Coloma article
      • General background on the area around Coloma at the time
    • Marshall, James W.
      • Marshall, James W: Article about his background
      • Marshall, James W: Another article about him
    • Sutter, John
      • Sutter, John: His activity in the Sacramento area
      • Sutter, John: His life prior to the gold rush
      • And so on.

I recommend, in this example, retaining “Marshall, James W” in the title of the Notes within the “Marshall, James W.” Notebook. This way, if you view a group of Notes that are contained in more than one Notebook, you can still sort them logically.

Of course, if you are researching more than one book, you can repeat this structure for each book.

Online Research

The vast bulk of my research is conducted online, so I use the web clipper browser extension to save articles. This is where one of the greatest benefits of using the clipper tool really comes into its own. Whenever you clip an article to Evernote from your browser, it saves the date and time you clipped the article as well as the full URL of the web page. You can also manually enter the name of the author of the article and even the location (which can be set automatically too, especially when using a smartphone app). This information is priceless when it comes to citing your sources. (When citing a web page source, as well as the title, author, URL, etc., you should also state when you accessed the page. All of that information, except the author’s name, is automatically stored for you in Evernote!).

If you click on this image, you’ll see the “meta information” that Evernote stores alongside each note. Within the “info box,” if you click on the URL down arrow, then click on Edit, you will see the full URL of the clipped web page.

If you prefix the articles you actually referenced while writing the book (sometimes I save an article but don’t end up using it), all of those prefixed articles will need to be in your table of sources. My “z-” prefix, mentioned above, also serves this purpose.

Don’t Forget: Your research notes can also be audio/voice memos, photos, text, and even handwriting.

Organizing Your Writing Projects

Because Evernote is such a flexible tool, there are many ways to use it to manage your writing projects. Some authors even use Evernote to write their drafts, which they then copy into Word or Scrivener. Evernote’s text editing functionality has all the basic formatting features you need and, when a note is “maximized” to your entire screen, provides a clean, distraction-free writing environment.

At it’s simplest, you can create a Notebook for your book, with a Note for each Chapter (as well as front and back matter). If your book has Sections, with each Section divided into Chapters, the Book could be a Notebook Stack, with each Section in its own Notebook and, again, each Chapter in a separate Note.

Something I love about this is that, whatever structure you use, it’s all there inside a single app and it’s easy to see an overview of your book’s structure.

Checklists

At various stages of the writing process, the ability to create your own checklists can be an invaluable tool to make sure you don’t miss something. They can be particularly useful when self-editing (use a separate list item for what you need to edit on each run-through, e.g. punctuation, grammar, consistent tenses, repetition, -ly words, etc.). I also use checklists when formatting the final manuscript for self-publishing, whether as a print book or an ebook. I’ve found this functionality to be key in making sure I don’t forget anything.

Collaboration

If you are working with someone else on your project, such as a co-author, researcher, or illustrator, Evernote also allows you to share Notebooks and Notes with others. You can give your collaborators the ability to View, Edit, or Edit and Invite others, thus allowing for full collaboration. Evernote even has its own chat functionality, called “Work Chat,” so you can discuss your Notes, projects, etc. all within Evernote.

Templates and Charts

Evernote also has the ability to create Note templates (or use predefined templates). This excellent article from Evernote’s own blog, entitled “12 Creative Writing Templates for Planning Your Novel” covers this in detail. It includes templates for structuring your writing as well as charts, such as Character Charts, plotting templates, and so on. I’m sure you could create charts to meet your own particular needs too, and they are just as useful when writing nonfiction.

Evernote is a wonderful tool for managing every aspect of your writing projects, especially your research. I’d love to hear how you use Evernote for your writing projects.

About Ian Feavearyear 16 Articles
Ian was born and bred in the rural county of Suffolk, England but feels very much at home in the mountains of California. He is married to the Inspire Board President, Robynne, and is currently working on his first non-fiction book. Ian is Inspire's Blog and Social Media Director, webmaster, and general tech go-to person. Ian is a law school valedictorian with a Juris Doctor from Concord Law School and a paralegal certificate from Humboldt State University.

1 Comment

  1. Evernote is an awesome tool for writers. One key feature that cranks up the power is the ability to link between notes. I use it extensively in plot,scene and character development.

    And recipes…

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