Tips & Stories

Evernote for NaNoWriMo: “Plotters” vs “Pantsers”

Evernote for NaNoWriMo: “Plotters" vs "Pantsers"

Posted by Forrest Dylan Bryant on 14 Oct 2015

Posted by Forrest Dylan Bryant on 14 Oct 2015

If that headline made you do a double-take, we should explain. In the crazy, mixed-up world of NaNoWriMo, where ordinary humans transform into super-writers trying to create a novel in just 30 days, participants tend to fall into two camps.

On one side are the “plotters” — these are the people who organize and outline their stories ahead of time. They know exactly where they’re going and how their characters will get there.

On the other side are people who write “by the seat of their pants,” affectionately known as “pantsers” (we are not making this up). Pantsers find outlines constraining. They prefer to let their imaginations run wild, figuring everything out as they go along.

It might not seem like these two groups have much in common. But no matter how you like to write, there are notes to manage and ideas to wrangle. That’s where Evernote comes in.

Evernote for Plotters: Organize everything

For the plotters among us, Evernote is an ideal companion. When you research your story, use the Web Clipper to grab useful content you find online. If you’re brainstorming on paper or scouting locations on foot, take photos with Evernote on your phone and they’ll live alongside your typed notes. Create notes for each of your characters and locations, your synopsis and outline, and each chapter or each day’s writing during November.

Organize those notes to your heart’s desire. Some writers put everything in one big notebook and use tags to identify various types of notes (research, outlines, character profiles, themes, etc.). Others use multiple notebooks, then group them into a stack to hold the entire novel. Either way, be sure to add shortcuts so you can get to the right notes quickly.

Lifehacker and writer Raychel Rose have shared two excellent systems for organizing writing projects. We’ll look at more systems in a future post.

Evernote for Pantsers: Capturing inspiration

No time for plotting? That’s fine, too. Even if you prefer to make things up as you go, having Evernote on hand can make the process easier. Ideas can strike anywhere: at work or school, when you’re walking down the street, and when you’re in bed half-asleep. Capture those flashes in a voice memo, and you can draw from that well of inspiration any time you get stuck.

Writing without an outline means you need to keep track of character names and the rules of your world. You’ll also need to remember where you left that army of ninjas if you decide to focus on Raoul the Shirtless Stablehand for a few chapters instead. A few notes in Evernote will help you keep all your fictional facts straight, and that means less editing later.

In an article for Romance University, author Joya Field has more good thoughts on how pantsers can stay organized.

Your turn

How do you like to write? Do you organize in advance or take notes as you go? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter, or in the NaNoWriMo forum.


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5 Comments RSS

  • Raychel Rose

    Thank you so much for linking to my blog post! Wonderful post.

    • Forrest Dylan Bryant

      Thank for sharing your system in so much detail, Raychel!

    • Giacomo Lawrance

      Clipped your post to Evernote! 😀

  • S. J. Pajonas

    This is a great list of resources! I make a notebook for each book I write and add notes to it as I go along, including one for an outline and many with inspiration and character information. Evernote is a big part of my writing life. 🙂


    I have just been posting to Evernote items that I don’t want to lose, but now I have so many that I am losing trees for the forest. Any suggestions on how to quickly get notes into folders.