An Evernote Guide for Writers: 5 Ways to Use it for All Your Projects

An Evernote Guide for Writers: 5 Ways to Use it for All Your Projects

The first thing I do when I start a new writing project isn’t  outlining or researching.

Nope — first, I set up an Evernote folder expressly for that project.

Haven’t heard of Evernote?

It’s a free app that lets you collect about a half-dozen types of notes (text, screenshots, photos, voice memos and more), organizing them with tags and folders so you never lose anything. Whether you’re working on a novel, your blog, or work for clients, Evernote can shave tons of hassle and friction from your writing process.

You can access your notes three ways: through a program on your computer, through any web browser or through a smartphone app. Your notes sync across all your devices, so you always have access to everything from your grocery list to your novel notes.

I affectionately refer to Evernote as my “exobrain.”

One reason I love Evernote is because it’s so adaptable to anyone’s writing process.

Here’s a quick Evernote guide with five ways I use it for every writing project.

1. Collect research

From learning about flintlock pistols for your steampunk zombie novel to tracking down statistics for an article on immigration, writing requires research.

This is what Evernote was born for.

Whenever you come across internet research pertinent to your project, you can save it directly into a project folder in Evernote with the web clipper extension for your browser. Photos, articles, bookmarks and even screenshots all sync into the program without having to leave your browser.

Evernote even has a feature on the smartphone app that allows you to quickly snap photos — of the cover of a book you want to read later, scenery that’s perfect for world building, you name it.

Need to capture written text? The “page camera” feature is optimized for handwriting or typed content.

2. Gather your thoughts and find inspiration

When you’re a writer, the world’s fair game, right?

We take inspiration where we can get it — and Evernote is perfect for quickly capturing ideas and epiphanies in the moment.

I used to jot down interesting ideas I didn’t know what to do with on scraps of paper and throw them in an ideas file folder. Odd character quirks, overheard scraps of dialogue, photographs of fascinating places, and ideas for stories I wanted to pitch to magazines all lived in a chaotic, unsearchable mess.

As often as not, though, those little scraps of paper also ended up going through the wash or getting tossed out by accident.

Now, I write them directly into Evernote in an inspiration file that I can visit whenever I’m looking for a little creative boost. Plus, it’s searchable, and I can tag ideas with things like “character” or “article” so I can easily find the right category later.

You can even leave yourself a voice memo if you don’t have time to type.

3. Work on the go

Stop logging onto social media to kill time, and start using Evernote instead to write a few hundred words on your latest project.

While some writers enjoy drafting in Evernote, I prefer typing up scenes and then pasting them into my Scrivener file when I’m back at my laptop. Evernote isn’t bad to write full drafts in, though — it has most of the same features you would find in a dedicated word processor, including fonts, alignments and styles.

You can also fill those spare minutes by reading through some of the research articles you may have clipped from the web, saving to read later.

4. Organize your edits

If you’re working on a larger project — whether that’s a novel, memoir or feature article — there are a lot of balls to juggle. Particularly when it comes to the editing stage.

I tend to use Evernote a lot during the editing process, creating checklists for myself of problems I need to fix, or continuity issues I need to watch out for. This lets me jot down any thoughts I have (like the need to check the color of a character’s eyes, or add references to an event earlier in the story) without breaking my writing workflow.

When I get ready to do an editing pass, I categorize all of those tasks, then check them off the list as I fix them.

5. Collaborate with others

If your writing requires any sort of collaboration, Evernote makes it easy to share what you’re working on.

Along with the ability to share notes and folders, Evernote also offers a dressed-down chat platform that allows you to converse about what you’re working on.

Then, instead of looking through your email, text messages, or Slack to find out what conversations you had about a certain subject, they’re all saved (and searchable) in your Evernote.

Have you tried Evernote to streamline your writing process? What are your favorite tips and tricks?

Filed Under: Craft

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  • Gale A. Yee says:

    I am a researcher. I used to be able to print all my notes for an article in Evernote and print them out all at once, put them in order and write my article. However, in the newest version (10.9.10 mac), I can only print out notes one at a time. This was time consuming and tedious since I have over 150 notes. Do you know why Evernote deleted the feature of multiple note printing? Many thanks for any help.

  • Jane says:

    This is going to sound crazy – but I have had the paid version of Evernote for 3 years. I have never used it enough to have to pay for it. I can’t seem to cancel the auto renew so it keeps renewing. Maybe if I put into practice this ideas, I might come to love Evernote and use it widely enough to warrant the subscription. Thank you for these ideas.

  • Logan says:

    Great article, thanks Jessie! We recently released an app called Arkiver (web, iOS & Android) that can be used to collect, organize and privately share photos, videos, documents, audio and also add notes and quotes. Everything is saved to your own Dropbox or Google Drive and it is forever free for early adopters. The interface is very visual and looks and feels like Pinterest but has powerful search and tagging features too. I’d be curious to get your feedback from a writers perspective. Thanks!

  • Ashri Mishra says:

    What an amazing and well written article.

  • Great article Jessie. I’m a big fan of both Evernote and Scrivener. I use Scrivener when I have some dedicated writing time at my writing desk or coffee shop. For everything else I use Evernote. New story ideas, phrases that appeal to me, entire outlines for stories, and background research notes. I find it very helpful to have Evernote up with all my research and outline when I’m actually doing the writing in Scrivener. Having Evernote available on all my devices is a big plus as well, and I can access everything via a browser if I’m on a public computer.

    Keep up the great article writing.

  • Krithika Rangarajan says:

    Thanks for your valuable tips, Jessie.

    I have heard only wonderful things about Evernote, but did not know – and am still in the dark – about how to use their advanced features.

    Your article will provide a springboard for my #EvernoteVenture 😀

    Thanks again

  • Linda H. says:

    Starting using Evernote again after reading this post yesterday. I’ve made new notes that encompass a new training, expanded existing notes, and now clearly see it’s a better product. I’ll switch back to Evernote from Wunderlist and begin using it with my Schrivner writing tool as well.

  • peggy frezon says:

    I fall in the 50+ age range, so have been in the tiny scraps of paper all over the place camp. But I think I might give Evernote a try. Thank you!

  • Douglas Rice says:

    Awesome post! I just picked a Microsoft Surface that comes with a pen. When you click the “eraser” on the pen, it brings up Evernote! Now that I’m seriously committed to this, your article comes as a breath of fresh air, as well as – right on time!!

  • Linda H. says:

    I’ve used the free Evernote app on my smartphone and PC, but it limits me as to how much I can copy, add or paste to it. It tells me I must upgrade to the Premium version, so I’m not sure how you gather so much using the free app?

    I like Evernote, but switched to Wunderlist. After reading this, I may go back to Evernote and try it again. I also have Schrivner, so I can related to using both to create a blog, article, or other content I’m working on for a client. My client base is growing as are my number of projects, so keeping them organized it ideal.

    You gave me some thoughts about making notes and checking Evernote. Think I’ll try it again and see how I can work through some snags. It works well for both personal and business usage, so it may be the ideal process for both after all.

    Thanks for posting.

    • Jessie Kwak says:

      Linda, I started paying for the Plus version, but only recently. It’s a step between the free version and the Premium, and includes email forwarding – a feature that used to be free, and which I use a fair amount.

      I figured for an app I use every single day I didn’t mind paying – Plus is only $35/year.

  • daniel keddy says:

    Hi, great piece on Evernote. I currently use it for work as a tech writer, but I hadn’t thought about using it with my personal writing. I have a premium subscription which I found is more useful than just the free app.

    Thanks for the suggestion for using it on novel projects.

  • Kaz Matsune says:

    I am using evernote for just about anything from business ideas, web bookmarking, hightlights from digital books on amazon, check lists and so on.

    I am also using to write my third book. I use category and tags to organize my notes. I can access all my notes from my phone, pad, and laptop and works well for me. Free subscription has its limit, so I upgraded to premium plan for more storage and access from multiple devices. Lovr it 🙂

    • Jessie Kwak says:

      Thanks for mentioning highlights from digital books on Amazon, Kaz – that’s something else I do. Makes it really easy to search later and find your notes and favorite passages!

  • I’m disappointed. Was a lover of Evernote until it stopped working with Chrome.

  • Ian says:

    I’ve used Evernote in the past, I’m not sure why I stopped but I’m currently using Keep. It uses labels rather than folders, so an item can be placed in more than one category. Otherwise it seems to have much the same functionality. Items can also be Notes or Reminders. Reminders get placed automatically into my Calendar.

    • Jessie Kwak says:

      I’ll have to look into that, Ian – sounds like a cool app.

      • Kathy Kuhl says:

        Ian, you can do that with Evernote by giving a note one or more tags. I use Evernote to store research notes. I photograph longer quotations I might use. When I see a book I may want, I just take a photo of the cover and the ISBN, & save it. I love that text in photos is searchable.

  • I used to use Evernote, but I got so used to using Google docs for everything now. I love reading what you do with it though! Great work!

  • Kamesha Small says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this information. I am just getting started with my blog and was curious about how to keep up with ideas, notes, and inspiration! I love the tips as well. I started downloading the app as I was reading the article. I am going to download on my tablet and laptop as well.

  • Thanks for the post. I might give that a try. I currently use either Excel or Google Docs for keeping my notes about a novel, but it still seems hard to keep things organized.

    I tried Scrivener at one point as well, but that just didn’t work for me. I do know a lot of people who swear by it, however.

    • Jessie Kwak says:

      I like keeping novel notes in Evernote because you can organize them by topic. You can keep a note on a specific character, or plot point, or the type of slang phrases in your fantasy world…. That makes your research easier to find than having to scroll through a massive Word doc (totally done that), but the best part is that it’s searchable.

      Scrivener seems to be hit and miss for people, so I get that! I’m an ardent fan, personally. 🙂

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