4 Nifty Apps to Organize and Store Ideas

January 8th, 2012

apps photoThe need to organize your thoughts and store new ideas isn’t just a writer’s thing. I find myself needing to capture ideas for all kinds of things, as does DH (who knew there were so many Star Wars hobby ideas? ūüôā ).

If you’re cruising the ‘net on your laptop or smartphone and come across a cool web site you want to find again, it’s pretty easy to simply email yourself a link. But what happens when you go back to your inbox? Lots of clutter and the need to shift all those self-mailed emails into various folders (or you can do what DH does and just leave them in the inbox. Type A personality nightmare! :o)

There’s a better way.

If you’re a little tech savvy and prefer having your ideas accessible at any time from any computer or gadget, I suggest signing up for a free Evernote account.

What makes this app great is the ability to clip web articles, add tags and comments, and save it all to one of several notebooks you set up. Not only can you save things from the web, you can include pictures you’ve taken on your smartphone and do the same thing.

Oh! And did I mention you can take a picture of restaurant menus, wine labels, anything with text and do a search for a word in the picture? No tags necessary. Cool!

I’ve even used it to keep track of things I planned to get for the Blonde Blur (formerly Tiny Tot) for Christmas. Just take a picture of the item at the store, tag it, and save it to the appropriate notebook. Voila! No more trying to explain to DH what toy I was talking about when we were narrowing the ideas down to fit the budget.

These things alone make Evernote a great app to have. You can use it as a writer’s tool or for any thing you can think of that needs ideas easily accessible.

What about brainstorming?

Creative types, especially writers, often have ideas for their current project at odd hours. Often times, those ideas are just bits and pieces that may or may not link to other bits and pieces of a given project.

For example, I’m brainstorming ideas for my second work of fiction (Apprentice Cat is in the “resting” stage).

Roz Morris suggests in her book Nail Your Novel using a hatbox method. Basically you scribble your idea on a piece of paper and throw it in a hat box for later. I loved the idea, but, being a geek and a Type A personality, I wanted something just a bit more structured and digital. Enter Free Mind and Thinking Space (now called MindJet, apparently).

Both are mind mapping software. Free Mind works on my laptop, Thinking Space on my smartphone.

The only hitch to this perfect solution is that they don’t work together and I’m not willing to pay for a program that will.

At least not yet.

And for those longer items?

I like to be able to access my blueprint for a book and what I’ve already written anywhere at any time. For those times I depend on the cloud.

Until I read Joel Freidlander’s post Life in the Cloud, I hadn’t really given it much thought. I just carried a big bag with everything printed out. Not very efficient, but what else could I do?

Then I heard about “the cloud” and I had to know what it was. When I discovered it was a way to save just about anything in the etherworld and there were free options, I jumped on it. I’d already begun using Evernote for my notes, why not find something to do the same with my documents?
I won’t say Google docs is the perfect solution. I lose nearly all my formatting from my Word documents, at least for the comments and such, but it’s great for just reading what I’ve already done.

It’s also a great way to simply store documents, like a backup drive that’s available at any time for any computer or smartphone.

There are many other apps available for our organizational needs. It’s just a matter of a little research and the willingness to test them out.

What apps or gadgets have you discovered to fit your needs?

Photo by Jason A. Howie

How To Capture Ideas When They Come

August 27th, 2011

Welcome to Toolbox Saturday where you’ll find tools for various things from writing to whatever.

files photoThere are times in every writer’s life when ideas will come flooding in — but not for the story you’re working on.¬† You don’t want to forget those little gems because they would be great in another story, yet they’re useless for what you’re doing right now.¬† So what do you do?

Here’s a few ways how to capture ideas when they come:

Something I learned a long time ago was to keep an idea file.¬† Ideas come in many forms from quotes we’ve read to pictures we’ve seen to that fabulous new movie we just saw (if you have the time ;)). ¬†Whatever the form, it’s best to capture the idea as soon as possible.

For certain items, such as magazine articles, it’s easy enough to rip them out and file them away in a file cabinet. ¬†For others we have to get a bit more creative. ¬†An example would be a wonderful painting from a museum. ¬†It’s considered a crime to grab the painting and run (and I’m pretty sure trying to explain it away as “needing it for my idea file” wouldn’t get you very far). ¬†Thus we must get creative. ¬†You may be able to photograph it or, barring that, perhaps sketch it. ¬†If you’re art skills don’t go beyond stick men, then maybe you could write a description of it.

One nifty little tool I’ve discovered is Evernote. If you’ve got a smart phone, this application can be very useful. Snap a picture of whatever sparked your story idea, then share it to your Evernote with notes, tags, whatever. Your ideas are readily available to you via the web on any smartphone (with the downloaded app) or computer. You can even do this with magazine articles instead of ripping them out of the magazine. Simply take a picture and file it away.

Regardless of how you get the inspirational item into your idea file, remember to write down the idea that was inspired and attach it.  Sticky notes work great for hard copies (though the sticky does eventually wear off so be aware that your ideas may go wandering in your file).

Writing takes ideas. ¬†Being an Independent Author means being creative in every area of your career. ¬†And so, that’s why it’s important to collect the little gems that inspire you along.

What other creative solutions have you found to capturing story ideas?

Photo by mcfarlandmo