Today’s post is part of a new series I’m trying out. I’ve been writing long(ish) articles (1000+ words) lately, so I thought I’d give both of us a break by publishing something bite-sized.
The series is called ”How I Work,” and each post will cover something related to the nuts and bolts of editing. Today’s topic: how I make notes as I’m writing.
Notes to Me
When you’re writing online, it’s easy to get distracted. The whole Internet is at your fingertips! That’s why I avoid writing my outlines and first drafts online. I usually use Evernote to write those–there are far fewer distractions that way.
For the most part, Evernote is an effective writing tool, but it does have its drawbacks.
One of the biggest issues I encountered when I started writing online was what do I do if I think of a link to add, something I need to look up, or something else to tell my future self to do? Because of the way formatting works in WordPress, I don’t add any links or other formatting while writing in Evernote.
How do I get around this?
I could keep a separate list of links and formatting to add, but the best way I’ve found is to add comments [IN BRACKETED ALL CAPS] directly to the text. I don’t quite remember where I learned this trick–I know it was from one of the bloggers I follow. Whoever you are, thanks!
I used to add comments in parentheses (like this), but since I use parentheses pretty regularly (probably too much), that would get confusing. Another method I tried was adding special formatting to phrases that needed links, but that caused problems when pasting the text into WordPress. Lesson learned.
That ‘s why I settled on the all caps in brackets method. I don’t use all caps or brackets for much else, so they draw my eye pretty well.
But what do I put in them? Like I said, it can be anything I want to remember. Often, it’s just links I need to add later. If I’ve obviously mentioned the name of the website in the sentence, then I’ll just put [LINK]. If it’s not so obvious or if I need to look up (i.e. Google) the link, I’ll put something like [LOOK UP RELEVANT SITE AND LINK]. It’s not super consistent–it’s just whatever makes sense at the moment.
I don’t just limit it to links, though that is my most frequent use of this technique. I’ll also use brackets to make comments on the writing as I create it.
For instance, if I don’t like a word, I’ll just put [FIND BETTER WORD] and then keep writing. Instead of wasting time pondering one word, I shut up my perfectionist editor’s brain by making a note to come back to it later.
I also use brackets if I have to stop in the middle of writing a draft (because ”Life is what happens when you have other plans,” as John Lennon put it). For instance, when I wrote the draft of this post, I added something like this:
[GIVE SPECIFIC ADVICE FOR DEVELOPING YOUR OWN TECHNIQUES]
I’ll also do this to mark placeholders. Especially for long articles, I’ll usually write the ”body” first and add the intro and conclusion later.
To make sure I don’t forget them, I add [INTRO] at the beginning and [CONCLUSION] at the end.
That’s All for Now
Thanks to Life Hacker’s superb “How I Work” series for inspiring this article.
That’s my system. What’s yours? Maybe you don’t need one. Do you find this insight into my process useful? Share in the comments.
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