If you’re planning a novel – or really any sort of writing project – there are a whole host of different services and applications you can use in planning. Programs like Scrivener are touted as the best way of logging all of your background and plot information. Personally? I don’t use any. Instead, I use Evernote.
Evernote is a personal organisation tool that allows you to take notes in a variety of ways. It has a web app, phone app, desktop apps. It can do all sorts of fancy things like team integration, storing files and tables and links and recordings, doing handwritten notes, or web clipping. It’s pretty awesome.
I’ve talked a lot before about why and how I plan in general, but I’ve never gone into the full details of it. Today I want to look specifically at how I use Evernote, not just for planning my novels but for managing my business as a whole. So here are five tips about using Evernote as an author publisher, from novel planning to managing your life.
Dive In Headfirst
When I started using Evernote five years ago, the main thing I read was to jump in headfirst. To put everything about my life in there, so that it was all in one place. This is the best advice I have ever read about using Evernote. Honestly, you might as well stop reading here. Don’t, though. I’ve still got some useful things to tell you.
I quickly found that it was really nice to only have to look in one place for all my notes. This has actually become even more true since I’ve started keeping a bullet journal. I keep my weekly and monthly tasks in the bullet journal, then my notes about things (or sometimes longer lists) in Evernote. Evernote also has the things I need to take around with me, like my shopping list, because it’s much more portable.
If you don’t do this, it will likely be more irritating than helpful – you’ll be groping about to find things in different places, and it just won’t be as rewarding for you. So if you try it, put everything in it.
Organise Notes in Stacks
If you’re putting everything into Evernote, you’re going to need to organise it. Fortunately, Evernote is designed for this. You can have multiple notebooks, and then put those notebooks into stacks (categories). Here’s an example:
You can see there that Author Work is a stack of relevant things. I can look at them either per notebook, as in the example above, or I can look at all of my Author Work notes in one go by selecting the parent notebook. This can be really nice if you want to look at several of your most recent notes across the stack, or if you want to go in and look at the more specific ones.
I use stacks for everything. That ‘Gaming’ notebook you can see in the image is a stack – it contains a different notebook for all of my roleplaying games. I have everything in it, from party inventories to fiction that I’ve written, to notes for events I’ve run. Periodically I just sit and read through my Evernote for hours, enjoying the memories.
Keep Notes of Ideas
In addition to keeping all of my more traditional notes in Evernote, I also use it for “I just had this idea but it has nowhere to go”. Let me give you a couple of examples:
Look familiar? Yes, it’s the original idea for the poem I posted to the blog earlier this week. As you can see it wasn’t a poem then. As soon as I had the idea, I wrote it down like this, and then it was there when I went through my notes for ideas later on.
I also use it for ideas for books in general. Some spoilers for Mundane Magic in this next example:
As you can see, my planning is sometimes a little bland. However, it works really well if I get ideas whilst I’m out of the house, or when I’m trying to fall sleep. By writing them down – and I write all of these ideas down – it means I always have some there when I need them.
Create References For Plot/Characters
So let’s go a little more specific now. One of the things that I use Evernote for a lot is planning my novels. All of those things that you need records of – the plot, character descriptions, meta information, setting information.
The great thing about this is because Evernote doesn’t take up any literal space, you can have lists for all sorts of things. For Protos, I have lists for the different kinds of Primism and Ancestrism, for magical laws and books cited by Yijun, the ranking system of the enemy military, and so forth.
Being able to refer to all of this is amazing, because it means that building world and plot depth is easy. One of the things I didn’t like about Scrivener and similar apps is that things weren’t all in one place; I would have to flick back and forth to find different bits of information. I couldn’t see all my characters’ information at once.
In Evernote I get to set things up however I want, so I don’t have to page through what height are you, what weight are you, what is your hair like. I can just have it all there and visible, like this:
Integrate With Your Other Organisation
One of the reasons that Evernote has worked so well for me is its intersection with my bullet journal. It’s possible to do all of the things I do in Evernote in a bullet journal, of course, but that takes a lot of time and involves flicking pages back and forth a lot.
What works for me is the following setup: I have all my notes in Evernote. I keep daily, weekly and monthly tasks in my bullet journal. I put project tasks in a separate bullet journal – for example, I have a page reminding me the last time I did all those periodical household chores, like cleaning out the fridge.
It’s unlikely that you have absolutely no system of personal organisation. So if you want to use Evernote, work out what you use now and then build Evernote into it. Maybe you just want to use Evernote for project notes. Maybe you only want to use it for work, to keep it separate. Whatever it is, there’s a way to build one into the other.
Did you find this useful? Want to consider using Evernote? You can use my referral code to sign up and get started – totally free! (This isn’t a sponsored post, but I do get credits if you use my link).