David Brown – How a Columnist and Author Used Evernote to Write His Latest Novel

community_stories_davidbrownDavid Brown has been writing professionally since 2008. He is a correspondent for The Atlantic and also has standing columns in The Week and Mental Floss. The author of three books, his latest release, Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry (published on April 1, 2013) had been in the works for two years. He use Evernote, Everywhere: Mac, iPhone and iPad. David love his Livescribe pen for writing on paper and having his notes automatically save to Evernote ; he also love ifttt for keeping all of his apps in sync, with Evernote as the hub.

I use Evernote for… Researching and writing my columns and books

I started writing full-time in 2008 and have been using Evernote consistently to the point where I don’t remember a time before Evernote! I use it so much, it’s become transparent. Everything goes into my Evernote account — from recipes to notes for my next column. I recently finished my latest book — a project that I worked on for two years — and Evernote was there every step of the way.

For non-fiction writing

For my latest book, a work of non-fiction, I spent a lot of time researching at the library; it’s where the heavy lifting happens. If you’re writing about the CIA, as I was, having access to physical materials was a must. At any given time, I have about 40 books checked out; it’s a colossal project. Often, I only need one or two pages of information from any given book, so I use Evernote to snap a picture of the page in question, the cover, and boom — it’s in my Evernote account so I know exactly where to look when I want to incorporate this information into the manuscript. Instead of going to the copy machine, I can immediately save it to my Evernote account and make this content portable and searchable. That said, most of my research is Web-based, and having the Evernote Web Clipper is invaluable for saving information as I come across it. Research-wise, everything from interview notes to photographs lives in Evernote.

When you’re doing a lot of research, you begin to build this mountain of information. I try to keep things organized, but I’m bad at it. The beauty of Evernote is that its search function is so robust, it does the work for me, so I don’t have to spend so much time organizing things. I have one notebook for the book and I tag everything. The more notebooks I have, the more ambiguous things become so I prefer having just one notebook per project and use tags so I can easily pull up everything that has to do with that subject. For example, I’ll tag ‘military campaigns for the 20th century” with tags like 20th century, military campaigns. I like categorizing things — it helps keep me on track as a writer.

When I get into the writing stage, I turn to Evernote because it’s already my central place for accessing information I need to build my story. Everything autosaves in Evernote, so all I have to focus on is getting the words down.

In addition to helping capture thoughts and research, Evernote is invaluable in terms of collaboration, especially with my co-author. Once you bring in an editor and various other individuals, working on the book can become a headache. Nobody has the time to sit down to learn a new application, so I suggested we use Evernote to share information. Everyone picked it up and learned it intuitively. Having it available on all platforms made it an easy transition and I was happy because everything related to the book stayed in Evernote.

For fiction writing

While most of my work is non-fiction, I have written a novel and, of course, found Evernote to be extremely useful. Every novelist is supposed to carry around a notebook, and mine is a Moleskine that I have with me at all times. It’s funny how often you run into something and say, “I have to remember THAT!” I’ll jot down how kids are playing in a playground, or what a bird looks like. Sometimes, I’ll just snap a photo with Evernote on my phone and tag it for later reference. You never know how it might end up fitting into a story.

For journalism

Evernote is, as you may have guessed, also my main tool for writing my columns. I depend on Evernote to help me stay on top of the news cycle by clipping articles that I can quickly reference as I’m writing my latest column. I create outlines in Evernote for all of my columns, and often have the app open both on my computer and iPad so I can do quick reference checks; it’s great that all of my Web Clips have built-in citations to the original source and are tagged.

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