Today I’m going to talk about my love affair with Evernote, the note-taking application. Outside of Safari/Chrome, Microsoft Office, and Dropbox, it’s one of my most frequently used programs. I have notes for personal use, such as my vintage china pattern names, my Macbook serial number, adjusted recipes, and genealogy notes. But for the most part, I use Evernote as a complement to my writing.
Here’s why I think Evernote is a great tool for writers:
1. Brainstorming notes, research, and to-do lists are in one place
In Evernote, you create notebooks which hold notes. I have a notebook for each novel I’m working on, as well as an overall “Publishing” notebook. My novel-related notebooks include notes for:
- Brainstorms and outlines–this is where I talk myself through difficult chapters and outline any upcoming scenes
- Research–notes on each research topic, links, any creative liberties I’ve made to historical fact, etc.
- Character profiles–background, dates, relationships, inspiration photos
- To-do lists–mainly, things to change in the next draft
- Outtakes–where large swaths of deleted paragraphs reside
On the publishing end of the spectrum, I track blog posts, facial/body expression lists, writing expenses, editing lists, my author biography, weird grammar rules I never remember, and any interviews I’ve done.
And all of it is in one place, backed up by the cloud!
2. Access across various devices
I have Evernote installed on my iPhone, my work laptop, my Macbook, and my iPad.
You know that moment when you’re just about to fall asleep and suddenly a plot point pops into your head and there’s no way you’ll remember it tomorrow if you don’t write it down? We’ve all been there. If you have Evernote installed on your phone, you only need to open the app, type your a-ha! moment, and snooze peacefully. The next day, it’ll be accessible anywhere, whether you’re writing during your lunch break at work or all Saturday at home.
Note: Also useful for brilliant realizations while drinking with friends.
3. No need for pen and paper
I know many writers prefer pen and paper, and if that’s you, you can keep on doing what you’re doing. But there are some of us in the world who aren’t great writers (in the physical sense of the word). I have decent handwriting, but scrawling words on paper hurts my hand after a while. Plus, as a millennial, I’ve been typing since I was in middle school. I’m excellent at typing, not as much at writing, so Evernote works better for me than a real notebook.
Additionally, I like the freedom an electronic notebook gives me. Do I want to switch the order of my chapters? I only need to cut and paste my outline into a new position and voila–it’s in order. Do I want to change a character name halfway through the first draft? Replace it in the notes instead of scratching it out on paper. Easy peasy.
Evernote is a freemium product, so the basic functionality costs nothing. I pay $24.95 a year for the Plus version, mainly so I have offline access–perfect for brainstorming on airplanes!
Now that I’ve gushed about Evernote (for free, since this is definitely not a sponsored post), I will say there could be some improvements. I wish they had advanced formatting options, like table shading and different highlight colors. To be fair, I’m one of those Microsoft Office geeks who uses Excel spreadsheets, formulas, and conditional formatting on a daily basis. Evernote doesn’t quite get there, and perhaps that’s for the best. But for it’s primary note-taking purpose, it’s a very useful tool I don’t know how I could live without.
So tell me: Am I missing any other amazing writing applications?
I’ve heard a lot about Scrivener, but haven’t tried it because I sometimes write at work, and MS Word is best in that environment, where I can make it look like I’m doing something work-related. :)