Is it Possible for a Writer to Organize Their Research?

By Jennifer Hallmark

As a writer, one of the pesky problems I deal with is how to organize everything to do with writing, especially research. Whether it’s short stories, novels, articles, or blog posts, groundwork is involved and I need somewhere to store quotes, answered questions, photos, and fact-finding. Is it even possible to keep up with it all?


The Inspired Prompt Crew has shared their thoughts this month on how to get started, historical research, current events research, TV and movie research, Biblical story retelling, and character research.

Now that you know how to research for your writing, you need ways to organize. I say ways because there are quite a few options and you need to experiment to find which one works for you. At the moment, I’m using a combination of the methods below. I’m working on the second book in my first series (Book one will release in June of 2019) and book series groundwork is a headache. But I am making my way down this overgrown trail…

(1) Microsoft Word files and documents. I do all my writing in Microsoft Word. I found it easiest to make a main file for my series, then sub-files for each book, and more sub-files within each book such as character birthdays, job information, research I’m keeping though I may not use it in the story, etc. All my groundwork is in separate sub-files that I can easily find. 

(2) Binders. I’m also experimenting with a binder containing only research. That way if I’m tired of sitting at the computer, I can take my binder with me and study, add or subtract notes, and keep the story fresh in my mind.

(3) Hanging folders. I haven’t tried this but my desk has a drawer equipped for hanging folders. This could be a good way to separate research you use in stories, novels, articles, etc.

(4) Scrivener. Scrivener is a word-processing program and outliner designed for authors. Scrivener provides a management system for documents, notes and metadata. I’ve actually bought this program but haven’t figured it out yet. I’m a visual learner so I’ll probably have to sit down with someone and learn hands-on. Many of my friends, especially the novelists, use it and say they wouldn’t keep up with research any other way.

(5) Evernote.  When you go to this site, it says, “Meet Evernote, your second brain. Capture, organize, and share notes from anywhere. Your best ideas are always with you and always in sync.” You can use it with your tablet or smartphone and it keeps up with everything. Again, this is something I’ve signed up for but haven’t used yet.

I hope these ideas will give you a place to start. A lot of my research starts here …

I write longhand in notebooks, run off facts, and pile information until I finally take a day, go through it all, and put it where it needs to go. 🙂

Whatever works for you. That’s the way you need to organize your research.

Click to tweetWhether it’s short stories, novels, articles, or blog posts, groundwork is involved and you need somewhere to store quotes, answered questions, photos, and fact-finding. Is it even possible to keep up with it all? #research #organize

Writing prompt: Instead of a prompt, take one step this week to better organize your research. Download software, buy a binder, or try hanging folders.

The Organized Writer

Would you like to win a $40 Etsy gift card? We have a fun way to do just that during the month of April.  We are looking for six-word stories. Yes. You heard right. We want a full story in six words.

Hemingway inspired us with his famous six-word tale, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

And the best part is we supply the first three words. So enter every Monday and Friday. At the end of April, we’ll choose our favorite. And you can go shopping…

The Organized Writer

**First published on Seriously Write, a great blog which equips writers.

By Jennifer Hallmark

Congratulations! The magazine article you worked so hard on finally sold. And they need a 100-word bio. You pull up folder after folder in your computer. Where is it?

You once had a great story idea about a basset hound, vanilla scented candles, and a high school reunion. What file did I place it in? You spend hours rummaging through paper folders crammed in a desk drawer with no luck.

Does this sound like you? I’ve struggled in the past to find many files, folders, and ideas. Though I still occasionally misplace items, over the years, I’ve developed a system. Maybe it will help you. But first, I want to show you some products that are out there for print or computer.

Paper systems

Freedom Filer-This system is versatile and you can add as much or as little as you need. And the prices are reasonable. There are also many testimonials by bloggers who like this system.

The Paper Tiger-This system is powered by Google Docs and can help you with paper or digital filing or a combination of both.

Digital systems

When it comes to filing your research for a specific book, I found this article on the ten best software systems for 2017 helpful. You can then choose which is right for you.

Here is another article again mentioning twenty-five writing software programs that might help you. Some are even free.

What do I use to organize my writing? I’ll be honest. There is so much out there, it will boggle the mind. With paper, I prefer the idea of buying certain pieces that are right for me. My desk has a hanging file drawer in it that I use for receipts and such and is very practical. I also buy clear cover binders so I can make my own cover like Marketing Tips I Like or Publishers I Want to Research. Below are some pieces I found during the research for this article that are now on my wish list. 🙂

Vertical Desktop Sorter

Vertical Desktop Organizer

Mobile Filing Cabinet

I do most of my organization now digitally. One quick word of advice here. Make sure everything is backed up. I invested in Carbonite about two years ago and I cannot tell you how much it eased my mind from the fear of losing important material. At only $5 a month, it’s been well worth my investment.

The bulk of my work is stored in My Documents on my computer. I keep a separate file for each of my blogs, each book compilation I’m involved in, and each book I have written or a book idea well-established enough to have its own file. I have a book idea file and an article idea file. I have one file entitled Good Articles on Writing by Other Writers, filled with invaluable advice I can pull up quickly.

Other important files for me are: Short Stories, Published Articles, My Newsletter, and My Book Info (which contains bios, pitches, one sheets, blurbs, etc.) I try once a year to purge files also. Get rid of files or documents no longer relevant and reorganize as needed.

For example: If you open My Newsletter, you’ll see another file for main articles. Each month, I write a new main article. By filing it, I don’t repeat ideas and might use the idea for other articles. I also have separate documents for My Master Email Subscriber List, a PDF sheet for physical signups at live events, monthly recipes, Constant Contact hints (that’s who I use to create my newsletter) and a recipe booklet I created to send to new subscribers. Everything about my newsletter in one place.

Click to tweet: What’s most important to becoming an organized writer is finding the perfect fit for you.

Whether in paper files or digital or a mixture of both, life can be much easier for the writer when time is taken to put things in order.

Writing Prompt: Jayne organized the…