Save Every Note with Evernote
by Anne M. Leone
I’m the most disorganized person I know. But this special talent has forced me to learn a few tricks. For example, if I don’t write a detailed grocery list, that impulse buy rustic loaf will only be found weeks later, molded to the bottom of a reusable bag. So with my first foray into historical fiction, I envisioned dozens of sources, stacks of musty books, sticky notes sticking every which way, and piles of nearly indistinguishable note cards. I knew I needed a system.
Cue Evernote. Everyone in the writing community seems to be talking about it; last year in the SCBWI Bulletin, Natalie Dias Lorenzi’s “Keeping Your Facts Straight in Fiction” mentioned several useful online apps for organizing research, including Evernote. This past summer, a conversation popped up on SCBWI’s Blueboard about using Evernote for writing on the go, as well as collating agent research, story ideas, and just about everything else. Intrigued by the idea of a digital platform that could organize my entire life, I began to investigate. Whitson Gordon’s Lifehacker article, “I’ve Been Using Evernote All Wrong. Here’s Why It’s Actually Amazing” suggested, “The more you add, the more useful Evernote becomes.” I took his advice, downloaded Evernote, and haven’t stopped adding to it since. I promise I don’t work for Evernote, nor have they offered to subsidize my writing career. But for this disorganized person, Evernote has been exactly the system I needed. So what is Evernote?
Evernote is a free online app. It can be accessed via the web or downloaded to most any phone, tablet, or computer. It allows you to generate notes, which can be sorted into notebooks, and collections of notebooks. For example, my latest work in progress is about two girls, one African and one European, who trade in their current lives to become pirates. I collected all of my research about female pirates on one note, pirate philosophies onto a different note, cannon use onto a third. But all of these notes are stored in a single notebook called “Research: Pirates” which is part of a notebook collection called “Pirate Book.”
Evernote isn’t just text based. I can snap a picture of a graph in a library book, or take a photo of a historic wharf. These pictorial notes can be added to my Evernote collections directly from my phone’s photo app.
Evernote also stores websites as notes. This is incredibly useful, not only for research, but for keeping a running bibliography. Whenever I search for a book in my library’s digital catalog, I instantly clip that record into a notebook called “Bibliography.” I also keep a reading list of similar or inspirational novels, researchers I might contact, and museums I could visit. My website notes can be annotated, highlighted, or trimmed to show only the exact information I need.
Find it fast:
All this information is not only on a single screen at my fingertips. I have also eliminated thumbing through note cards, wondering if I made up that slave ship captain named Samuel Pain, or if I wrote his name on a pink sticky or a white notecard. Every word in every note can be searched, important keywords added as tags.
As my research accumulated in Evernote, panic began to set in. What would happen if my browser crashed, or my computer died? Thankfully, nothing. Evernote backs itself up to the cloud, and the downloadable version can be backed up traditionally, in case I do something like accidentally delete a note.
It doesn’t matter how I access Evernote: it’s available to me whenever and wherever I am. Additionally, as long as an internet connection is available, anything I enter will be synced. That means I can do research from home, add notes at the library, brainstorm title ideas at a coffee shop, and snap a picture on the wharf, and all my tech devices will have my information up to date, stored and accessible.
Evernote for everything:
Evernote is so easy to use and convenient, I’ve started organizing recipes, research for this article, submission ideas, and lots more. It also offers a reminder feature for to-do lists, a presentation mode, and a share and chat feature. Every month, Evernote Basic gives me 60 MB of space for new uploads, so I haven’t yet needed to upgrade. But the Plus and Premium Services include additional storage space and features.
Evernote for you? I realize I’m a complete convert, but Evernote might not be for everybody. In her article on saving research, Natalie Dias Lorenzi suggested a few other programs, including Diigo, Pearltrees, and Livebinders. Wherever you end up, I encourage you to dive in. It’s fun to be organized!
When she’s not knee-deep in historical fiction, Anne Leone writes contemporary middle grade. You can find out more about her and her writing at www.critically-yours.blogspot.com.