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Make Your iPhone a Writer's Notebook
by Lisha Cauthen

Return to Writing Tools & Technology Issues · Print/Mobile-Friendly Version

You can do a lot more with your iPhone than fling birds at pigs and list groceries.

Make it a writing tool.

Writers have always struggled to capture their fleeting genius, especially when it comes at awkward moments. Sometimes you come up with a perfect character name, chapter title or premise while at your day job. Maybe you want to whip through a paragraph of your WIP while in line at the DMV. Don't depend on a misplaced notebook, lost scrap of paper or sweaty palm. Catch your thoughts with the one item you're almost never without: your cell phone.

If you use the Notes app that came with your phone for writing memos, it's pretty much the equivalent of scribbling your pearls of wisdom on gum wrappers. Here are some apps more tailored to a writer's needs. I've categorised them into Simple, Bells, and Whistles.

Simple Tools

Lumen Note
A virtual scratch pad for when there's no time to categorize your thought. Just get it down. Lumen Note saves it for reference on your laptop, later.

Documents Free (Mobile Office Suite)
Bare bones. Write text. Stick it in a folder. The end. Can sync with GoogleDocs for backup.

The free version has space for 24 ideas; the paid version has unlimited space. Enter the title of the project, and then flesh it out as much as you want. Werdsmith will keep track of word goals in percentages, moving finished projects to a "briefcase." No backup available.

Drop each idea into its own notebook. Then color-code your notebooks, perhaps by genre, age group, fiction/non-fiction, submission market, etc. Set deadline reminders. You can organize your notebooks by date, title or color, and if you still can't find what you're looking for, there's a search function. You can share your brilliance by SMS or e-mail, and can back up your information on Scatterbrain's cloud.

Microsoft OneNote Mobile for iPhone
You must set up a Windows Live SkyDrive account ahead of time, but then you'll have all your fantastic ideas backed up automatically. And the app itself comes up fast on your iPhone, very clean. You can add photos if you wish and the notebooks are searchable.


Pictures are a great way to archive information. Photograph pages in research books at the library instead of photocopying. Shoot pictures of historical plaques or business cards. Snap an inspirational scene, a person who looks like your villain, the house your main character might live in, a turn of phrase that you love on a sign. (But, writers, we have to be careful not to be creepy!)

NoteMaster This app takes a little work to grasp. Once learned, NoteMaster captures notes or pictures, and lets you annotate over the picture. Bullet, number and checklists are available. You can also sync your stuff to GoogleDocs.

Scribe Each idea turns into a notebook where you can toss in text, pictures, sketches and video. Your notes are automatically geotagged at origination. While Scribe doesn't back up your information, it's simple to email the whole package to yourself. Easy interface.


Not all creative brains wrinkle the same way. That's the beauty of writing, and that's the beauty of apps. Here are some with special features:

Jot it Down! Can't get over the itch to write things down? This is the app for you. Choose a color background or use your own photograph. Then select a pen color and width, and write with your fingertip. E-mail yourself or post to Facebook or Twitter. Very. Simple.

MyScript Memo Jot your idea down with your finger. Then you can convert your script into typed text and Gmail it to yourself. You can also leave your information in script if you like, and make sketches. SMS, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote compatible. I have to say, I thought I had a wizard in my phone when I saw it convert my handwriting to text.

Verses -- a notebook for creative writers Okay, picture book peeps and poem people, this one's for you. Comes with a rhyming dictionary. Yes, indeed it does. Never get slowed down in the midst of perspiration/inspiration again.

TinyVox Pro TinyVox Pro "tapes" your recordings and files them in mp3 notebooks that look suspiciously like cassette holders. These can be short memos, interviews, concerts or ambient sounds. Maybe there's a conversation going on behind you between some teens whose voices you would love to capture. (Again, watch the creep-factor.) You can also open the files and add to them. Then you can store them in SoundCloud, e-mail them, post them to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. very user-friendly.

And the Grandaddy of Them All...

Evernote Takes a little time to learn, but you can make a note, put it in a notebook, tag it and search it. You can add a voice memo and/or photos. Searchable, sendable. And your notebooks will be accessible from your Evernote account on any device you give access to--computer, phone or tablet.

New apps hit the market every day. Most are of a negligible price, and often go free for limited times. Find the one that fits your needs. Don't let your genius slip away.

Copyright © 2012 Lisha Cauthen
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Lisha Cauthen is a YA writer of novels for guys that girls like to read too. She is a card-carrying KS SCBWI AdCom member, Sunflower Scoop Editor, HWKT Bon Vivant, and iPhone apps diva. You can find out more about her at: http://lishacauthen.wordpress.com


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