How I Use Evernote to Hack My Writing Life (#iwsg, #amwriting, #evernote)

Hi, I’m Cate. And I’m a GINORMOUS nerd.

Seriously, I’ve let my Nerd Flag fly high and proud since high school, long before it was considered socially acceptable to do so. Certainly before the Golden Age of the Geek.  I was in theatre, show choir, and band (though not all at once–when I discovered The Threatre, that was it for me). I was in the writing club, and I took college level English and History from the time I was a freshman.

So, when I tell you I have a lot of interests, you understand where I’m coming from. Also when I tell you my time commitments are not only varied, but more task-based than appointment based. This means I’m always looking for a system that becomes “sticky” with me, and also cost-efficent.

It doesn’t help (or maybe it does) that I have a Gollum-like tendency to make good friends with any new tech that finds itself sucked into my household, sometimes against its will. I hug it, and pet it, and call it George. If it has a screen and I have hit the vodka bottle harder than might be considered necessary, I’ll probably lick it. Because YUM NEW TOY. IT TASTES OF VODKA, THIS PLEASES ME.

I want to be very, very clear when I say that this is how I manage my time and tasks. Some of this may work for you, or none at all. Every single writer’s journey is wholly unique to them, so you have to figure out what works for YOU. By being honest with yourself and your personality and your habit-forming learning curve and all things you, you, you. Me? I’m easily distracted by New Shinies and the occasionally squirrel. I also tend to run into sliding glass doors a lot.

First of all, I have a full-time day job, because of bills and insurance and other Reasons. I have a husband who is in school, and two Ninja Katz, but no children. I am also a horrible housekeeper, which I’m trying to improve. My husband, being a former chef, does most of the cooking.

I have a serious Netflix problem. (Or is a serious Netflix problem only when your internet goes out or you can’t pay the subscription anymore? But I disgress.) I also recently got back into studying music (piano and violin), and I game with my husband at least once a week, and we watch our shows twice a week.

I’m a hyrid author, meaning I both traditionally publish and indie publish. (Oh, hey–is that Scrivener?! ::LICK::)

Hopefully this gives you an idea of what I call my Big Rocks, if you’re familiar with Franklin Covey. I am a full-time employee, a part-time author, and a wife. I am a student of music and storytelling.

I also have only so much energy/mind power to go around in a day. So when I was in the market for a new Planner (Franklin didn’t have quite what I wanted/needed for a decent price, as I also wanted something portable enough to fit in a small bag as well as my big ol’ Bag of Holding), I went trolling on Amazon, like you do.

Now, I’ve been using the Evernote web app for awhile (free version), and really like it. So far the day job hasn’t blocked it like they did Pandora (why, day job tech monkeys, WHY?!), along with cloud-drive type sites like Google Docs. I was also aware that Evernote had a thing going with Post-It, which I’d never had need for, but still think is pretty danged cool.

But Evernote didn’t really become fully sticky for me (no pun intended) (heh–“sticky”) until I came across the Evernote weekly planner and journal.

Evernote Planner + Journal

The left-hand page of the planner gives you the weekly planning bit, Monday thru Sunday, with 4-5 time slot activities per day. The right-hand gives you a full page for notes. I take a lot of notes, as ideas and thoughts occur to me, and (because I listen to a lot of writing podcasts) it helps to jot these down before I forget. These wee notelings become “admin”, and I decide later whether something is Urgent or not.

In order to accomplish my writing goals, I have to be able to consistently draft between 27K and 30K words per month. (So one-third a novel or a full novella each month). I book my projects for the year ahead of time, and decide where in my production schedule they go. I’m generally juggling three separate projects each month, all in different stages of production.

But I also know I can only handle a certain amount of tasks in a single day before my brain is fried. So my drafting project goes into the top slot of each day on the left, where I keep track of the number of words I need to hit that day to meet my monthly goal, and how many words I actually wrote. Everything else with a definite deadline (revisions, R&D, submission packet elements like synopses and cover letters, podcasts, blogging, etc) gets scheduled in the empty time slots as needed. Because there are only 4-5 time slots available in each day, I’m not tempted to fill my days with too much Stuff. Got an empty activity slot? Throw in a music practice session.

As I complete tasks, I check them off. A nice addition is that I can use my Android Evernote widget to take a picture of a page that then uploads to the web app. BECAUSE THE PLANNER PAGES ARE DIGITIZABLE. And it comes with STICKERS!  ::LICK::

Every week, I move over regular daily and weekly activities and fill in the blank slots as needed. I review admin items, keep the urgent/important stuff and move everything else to the Evernote journal. I handle admin as the husband and I are watching TV.

The Journal is where I keep my budgets, write flash fiction, and outline the major plot points of my stories. This is also where my list of BETA readers resides, review sites, and list of author services like editing and cover art goes. ALSO also, where I keep ID and password hints to all my writing/publishing vendors and sites.

I take both notebooks (journal-sized) with me everywhere, including to work, because I never know when an idea’s going to hit me, or there’s going to be something from a podcast I want to make note of and don’t want to forget.

Because here’s the thing: the writerly brain is a muscle. Once you start excerising it regularly it’s kinda hard to STOP, if you know what I mean.

Evernote Web App

Okay, I use the free version. Because free has pretty much everything I need.

My day job consists of a lot of report downloading, payment processing, reconciliation, analysis, and research. A more nerdy, non-IT job you never did see. It would probably leave the normal citizen cross-eyed and drooling.

This also means I spend the bulk of my time, if not all of it, at my desk. In a cubicle. Which I refer to as the Fortress of Solitude, or occasionally the Bat Cave, when I’ve got a particularly complex research case on my docket.

I mainly use the Evernote web app to copy/paste things from Scrivener and back, between work and home. During my lunch hour I can usually fast draft around 1,000 words, as long as I know what I’m supposed to be writing and stay on task. Or I can plug away at revisions, or brain dump my next to-be-drafted project.

If I’m fast drafting, at the end of the day I jot down the word count in my Evernote Planner ::FONDLES:: and copy/paste what I’ve got into a Drafting folder in Evernote with the project title and chapter number in the subject line. I get home, open the folder, transition the content into Scrivener.

This is especially helpful for revisions, as I do several passes. I do one in Scrivener, move it all into Evernote, chapter by chapter. The different format helps me see the words differently. Move it into MS Word so it looks different yet again, and build a submission draft for a final polish. Attach the Word Doc to an Evernote entry so I can access it from anywhere like a cloud drive. Or, if I’m working on an Indie project, it all goes back into Scrivener for formatting and compiling.

And all the while, I get the not insignificant satisfaction of checking things off in my Evernote Planner, and deleting/moving things out of my “queues” in the web app.

Prioritize. Optimize. Digitize. (What? If course that’s word. I’m a writer, and I wrote it, therefore it must be a word.)

Anyway, I’ve found that Evernote makes it for me to manage all the moving parts of my creative process and the business aspects that come along with it. Basically, it’s a bit like another Scrivener I can use when not attached to my laptop and a vodka IV. It also makes for a really handy cloud drive, so I don’t have to use yet another app or program. I can keep ARCs and contracts in there, too, so I can email them to anyone who asks from my phone. I can add notifications and deadlines, and all sorts of literal and figurative bells and whistles.

Mainly I like the Evernote system I came up with because it does all the brainwork of remembering and holding ALL THE THINGS so my grey cells don’t have to. The work of writing and publishing becomes a set of achievable, routine tasks that engender discipline, without become a Chore.

Because chores aren’t fun AT ALL. Just ask my laundry pile mound Kiliminjaro. (Ummmm…was that Fraggle? Or an Underwear Gnome? I couldn’t tell.)

 abominable snowman






2 thoughts on “How I Use Evernote to Hack My Writing Life (#iwsg, #amwriting, #evernote)

  1. Bryan Lee says:

    Hi Cate, my name is Bryan and I’m a big fan of Evernote like you 🙂 I also use Evernote for my writing so much so that I made a service that allows me to connect my Evernote editor to WordPress. As a fellow nerd, I love to hear your feedback on this service. I like to invite you for a spin, would you be interested in testing out the app that I believe would great help in your writing productivity 🙂 cheers

    1. catemorgan says:

      Hi, Bryan. I’m not sure how Evernote and WordPress would go together, but I’m interested in hearing more. You can tell me more about your app by using my contact form (Menu item “Hi, I’m Cate”).

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