Monday, August 8, 2016

What to Do with All That Research?

By Morgan Tarpley

The other day I was thinking about all the research and idea notes for my current novel and their various forms of organization. I will admit that I’m easily overwhelmed when it comes to all the methods that are out there to utilize. I’ve tried many of them.

There are so many ways to organize research and ideas for a project that I thought I’d go through some of the ones that I’ve tried over the years on the path to the perfect combination for me. I still haven’t gotten it just right yet, but I feel I’m close.

My current manuscript is my guinea pig, and by the time I start my next novel I hope to have narrowed the methods down some more. I would love to hear if any of these particular ideas work for you.

The first method involves collecting digital research material on my Kindle Fire. I’ve created a host of collections for each of my upcoming novels that contain both non-fiction and fiction books which I will use for research.

The next methods of research/idea organization are creating folders through email and Dropbox. Before I got Dropbox, I started creating a folder for each upcoming novel and if I found items of interest online I would email them to myself and save the emails in a folder. I guess I was pretty much doing a makeshift Dropbox. I still use my email folders, but I’ve expanded to Dropbox to directly upload documents and images, etc. for my research. It’s very handy.

Another method of mine is one that I’ve borrowed from the late great Michael Crichton using notecards and a shoebox. I actually wrote a blog post about it and more here last year. I write down ideas and tidbits of information on notecards and toss them in a shoebox for that certain future novel. I have to say it’s been a really great system.

The methods I started when I began novel writing and that I still use involve a simple binder system with tabs for different research topics and a notebook/journal that I take notes in and explore ideas, etc. I’m a total visual person so actually writing and doodling help my creative process.

The newest method I’ve explored is the use of Evernote to collect information through a partial screenshot, etc. straight to my account online. It’s really a smart way to organize information, but I haven’t gotten the exact hang of it yet. It’s definitely work checking out. Another method I’ve used a little bit that I know many writers love is Scrivener. I got the program last year, but unfortunately haven’t really explored it much yet either.

Well, these are the methods I’ve entertained so far on my writing journey. I would love to hear from you what you use and if you have any suggestions. Thanks!

Morgan Tarpley is an award-winning newspaper reporter and photographer in Louisiana. She is also a novelist currently seeking representation. Besides writing and traveling to over a dozen countries, her interests include acting in her local theater, genealogy, photography, and singing. She resides in Louisiana with her husband.

For more information about Morgan, visit her website ( You can also connect with her on FacebookTwitter or Pinterest.

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