Thursday, January 16, 2014

Writing a book in @Evernote on women and public speaking

Most DGC blog readers know I write another blog, The Eloquent Woman, on women and public speaking--and this year, I'm working on a book on the same topic. To do that, I'm centering my organization, research and writing activity for the book in Evernote, the robust note-taking, -storing, -sharing system that works in the cloud and on all your devices. Here's how I'm using Evernote to get the book started:
  • Collecting string: Long before I knew I was writing a book, I was filing articles, photos, research papers and other resources in Evernote as fodder for The Eloquent Woman blog. I have thousands of notes related to public speaking in general, and women and speaking in particular, a wonderful way to jump-start my research.
  • Organizing chapters: Evernote lets you organize related notebooks into "stacks" for easier use, so I started a new stack of notebooks devoted to book chapters. I've been moving notes from the blog notebooks into the relevant chapter notebooks (look on the left in the screenshot above), and as you can see, the content of the notes is shifting my chapter organization. While I began with one notebook per chapter, I now have sub-chapter notebooks for themes that are emerging, so my original Chapter 5 might now be followed by a Chapter 5a, 5b, and so on. Because the notebooks in the stack are shown in order in the left column index, it's easy for me to get a feel for the entire book at a glance. 
  • Getting ideas: As a writer, this process is yielding enormous creative fuel for me: In the process of sorting notes into notebooks, I get a visual and numeric picture of how many notes I already have on a particular topic, which helps prompt me to think about how much space it will earn in the book. Which themes are more robust than others? My chapter notebooks also have notes I've generated, since you can use Evernote as a word processor, including outlines, things I don't want to forget, lists of sources and more.
  • Finding holes in my research to date: The opposite is also true: I can easily see which chapters only have a few notes so far, which might mean more research--or a change in what's included. By sorting all my existing material first, the holes will be evident, perhaps allowing me more focused research going forward.
  • Organization backups: Even if I weren't creating notebooks like a boss, Evernote is searchable--so I could search all notes or particular notebooks looking for a missing file, if needed. Evernote includes its own backup of my files, so all my devices can crash, but I'd still be able to access it all on the web. And every note retains a "note history," so I can restore a recent version if I manage to destroy it somehow.
  • Conducting interviews: I take written notes from phone interviews in Evernote, but I especially love using Callnote, which records audio and/or video from Skype or Google+ interviews, putting the file right in Evernote at the end of the call.
  • Layering in other material: A major feature of my public speaking blog is its index of famous speeches by women, based on a weekly feature that curates and analyzes such speeches. Once I've finished sorting the notes that already reside in Evernote, I'm going to plumb the index for famous speeches by women on the topics I'm covering in the book, or speeches that exemplify particular issues, topics or speakers. My hope is to develop companion books that collect famous speeches by women, by topic, type of speech, or type of speaker, and those future volumes will be getting their own notebook stacks in Evernote.
  • Proposing the book: I'm also keeping what you might call "admin" notebooks on publishers, agents, copyeditors, research sources and archives, and the book proposal, as well as information on author pitch conferences and other resources that will get the book published.
  • Selling the book: Selling is well in the future, but I'm keeping notes on ideas for marketing the book, stealing good ideas from other authors writing on similar topics, collecting screen grabs of good social media tactics, possibilities for my own public speaking on the book and more.
  • Workshops: I'm developing a workshop on women and public speaking that will debut this year in Washington, DC and perhaps in the UK, so outlines and materials for that session are getting their own notebooks. Evernote lets you copy notes from one notebook to another, so it's easy to pull good material from the book notes and put them in the workshop notes.
  • Capturing new ideas and research: As new material comes across my line of vision, I have myriad ways to get it into the notebooks I've created for the book. Evernote offers a web clipper for all the major operating systems, a major time-saver that lets me clip a selection, full article, full page or the blessedly simplified page minus ads and decorations. The web clipper suggests the right notebook with a lot of accuracy, but also lets me override that if I wish, and I can add tags and notations before saving it. I use Powerbot for Gmail, so when an email comes in with fodder for the book, I just hit a button, designate where I want it to go in Evernote, add tags and push send. (You also get an Evernote email address to which you can send notes you wish to save.) In fewer cases, I have hard-copy material that gets scanned using a Doxie scanner that's compatible with Evernote, sending material straight into my default notebook. And when I'm on the go, my Evernote phone app takes pictures and sends them into specified notebooks, or lets me dictate or tap out notes to save.
  • Sharing: Evernote lets you share notebooks or notes, sending them via email, unique URLs, or as "shared notebooks" with other Evernote users. I have a group of volunteers who will be early readers, and sharing notebooks with chapters will be the easiest way to get their insights. If I wish, I can adjust the share so that they can add material or comments.
And that's all before I get much further with the writing, which has begun in Evernote. This process also has had an influence on my blogging: Because I've identified interesting themes in the note-sorting process, I've started to collect and share them in "book journal" posts that let readers of The Eloquent Woman get a peek at what I'm considering as I research and write. So far, I've shared two book journal posts: Seen or silenced? More on women speakers and their wardrobes, and another on Misogyny around the world as a barrier to women and speaking. More of those will be coming through the year.

If you use this link to sign up for a free Evernote account, you'll also get a free month of its Premium service (at $45 for the year, it's a bargain). How are you using Evernote for big projects?

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