Before we begin, practice healthy creative habits: Clear your space of clutter, set aside some time to focus and spend 2-3 minutes doing your Daily Free Writing before you begin. See Lesson 2 for more about DFW.


Now that we have a rough outline in place, it’s time to gather. We’ve emptied out what we have so far, but it’s time to refill. For this exercise I’m suggestion two tools. First, Trello, to set some limits on your research and inspiration gathering so it doesn’t become a rabbit warren of endless internet searching (so fun and delicious but potentially distracting).

Sign up for Trello (it’s free). It will take you to this main page:


The Welcome Board is a sample of what can be done in Trello, so it’s worth taking a look. However, today we’re going to click “create new board”. Name it whatever you like, it’s private and only you can see it. Then create three new cards: Research, Inspiration, Completed.

It should look like this:


These are like buckets, where you’ll store tasks for your book. When they are complete you can drag them over to the completed bucket you just created. It’s the limit of what you’ll be looking for – to make sure you’re focused on what your book needs right now. To finish this task go to your outline and read what you’ve put together. Make a list of everything you need to research but be specific. It’s better to look into the “latest study on bilingualism and late life memory loss” versus “bilingualism in general”. Research should answer a specific question related to your book that will help you move forward. “Who was the first person to create art on the computer” is much better than, “Research the history of digital art”. We’re looking for questions that at their heart can be answered definitely.

You will have more questions later. This is not your last chance. We’re just focused on what we need at this moment to move forward.

For each item add a new card to your Research bucket. After you’re done it might look like this:


If you have complicated questions, within each card you can add a check list like this:



For your next bucket, you’re looking for inspiration on how to tackle form and style questions. For example: how do books about my topic typically begin? What do their first chapters look like? Do they use a narrative device? What examples are there of successful books that have used a structure similar to mine?

It might look something like this:


This is your task list. You will add to it in the future as well, but as items are completed, you can make notes within the card then drag it into Completed. I use a completed bucket instead of just archiving it because I want to be able to reference that information quickly but still make a note for myself that I finished looking into it.

Trello is your to-do list for research. It keeps you focused.

Storing Your Research

For this, I use Evernote. It’s free. Go sign up. You only need the Evernote Basic account at this point.

Evernote lets you save entire articles and webpages. Install the Evernote Clipper to add it to Google Chrome so you can save content with one click. It will add a little elephant icon to your top toolbar:

If you’re on a webpage that answers one of your book related research items, you can “clip” the article by just hitting that icon. It will look like this:


Press Save.

Everything you save will be placed into Evernote. The full article. If the website disappears, if you lose access, if things change, it doesn’t matter because you have a snapshot of that moment and it will never change. In the research for my book I was often saved by Evernote as the original sites had simply disappeared. I highly recommend using Evernote for this purpose because it’s a permanent record of the information you collected without having to solely rely on your notes. Here’s what it looks like with a few items clipped:


As you get the hang of it, you can also add tags to make items easier to find, but the cool thing is even if you don’t, it’s all searchable. If I search for “painting” it only shows me the items with that word included (it also searches tags but if the word is already in the article it’s not necessary to add it as a tag, it will show up either way).


Today’s Assignment

Sign up for Trello and Evernote and get the Evernote Clipper. Create your to-do list in Trello and complete as much research as is reasonable, but don’t feel like you have to complete all your research today.


1Daily Free Writing
2Get Trello set up
3Get Evernote set up
4As much as you're able right now, put together any items that came up for you during your writing and create a to do list