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Writing Tips: Five Ways to Use Google Keep

google keep header

Let’s kick off these writing tips with a pop quiz. Aside from running out of coffee beans, what’s the number one crisis for writers and cartoonists? Organization. Now, if you’re one of the one percent of one percent creative types who doesn’t get distracted every five seconds, this little post won’t help you. Plus, the rest of us hate you.

image02I started using “to-do” lists years ago just to keep things prioritized. It helped immensely, until I kept losing the lists.
So I switched to digital solutions. There’s a lot of them and I’ve tried almost every one, from the “post-it” app to “Remember the Milk” (is that still around?). They worked, but w
ere sometimes clunky and crashy. Also, it was hard to lug around a tower unit so I wouldn’t forget something at the art supply store. Then a little while back, Google Keep showed up in the Play Store. Been using it ever since. And it does a heck of lot more than remind you how much you haven’t gotten done. Here’s a few:

1.Virtual Index Cards

Back in my cubicle days I would spend my lunches with a stack of index cards writing screenplays. You can do the same thing with Google Keep. I mapped out a picture book using one note per page. The apps smooth UI makes it super simple to rearrange cards. The one drawback is you won’t be able to work on multiple projects at one time. Best to outline one idea at a time.

Keep also has labels, which will allow you to group things by subject. Or organize a novel by acts and chapters. Again, best to keep it basic outline. Enough to give you a framework to start writing. As of now, Keep isn’t quite robust enough to handle a highly structured outline. You can transfer it into Scrivener (everybody uses Scrivener now, right?) and flesh it out.

2.Google Keep for Cartoonists

Yep, you can sketch notes in Keep too. I had been using the Samsung app that came with my phone, which was better in the drawing department, but Keep beats it in several other categories which I’ll mention later.

So anywhere, anytime you can scratch a comic idea into Keep, and you can even use a separate note for each panel. Quite handy when you’re waiting for your son to get out of school. It also has pinch and zoom to get in closer and add a bit more detail. The app needs a more work on its pen selection, but hey, we’re shooting for fast and furious and not a Mike Mignola watercolor.

3. Google Keep is seriously Portable

This is my favorite feature and the one that made me switch from my Samsung app. If you can get online you can get to your notes. Don’t have your phone? No prob, so long as you can borrow one or a laptop or a modified toaster, anything that can get online, you’ve got your Keep. I will say, it is much easier using it to storyboard on a laptop, simply because of the wider screen.

4. The Obvious Reason: Organize Your Day

This is of course is the main purpose behind Keep, and boy, howdy, it shines. I have one list for longterm items and another for the daily business that needs to get done. One thing I’ve had to be careful off is adding too many notes. Best to consolidate items whenever possible. And it’s super fun to check the little boxes everytime you complete a task.

When I was putting together my first Dog eat Doug collection and wishing InDesign was a real person I could punch in the face, I kept track of my process in Keep. That way, on later volumes, I had all the tricks for reducing PDF file sizes right at the tip of my mouse button.

Keep is handy for research and collecting photo reference. You can zip articles and such over to Keep right from your browser. I’m starting to do this more and more. Evernote has been my go to for collecting reference materials for many years but I find Keep’s clipping interface much less cumbersome, and I don’t have to dig around to find it later.

Also should mention the “reminders” feature, which is exactly what it sounds like. You can have notes pop up on your phone and laptop to remind you about an upcoming conference call or to take a shower every six days.image00

5. Best for Last: Dictation

Writers and Cartoonists know that ideas are fleeting. You bite into a doughnut and suddenly you see before you, from start to finish, the greatest sci-fi, noir, who-dunnit story of all time. Two bites later and it’s gone. Forever. Or is it?

“Okay, Google,” I said, showering my Samsung Galaxy with crumbs. “Take a note.”

Those few words are all you need to save the most awesomest idea ever without touching a button, which means you can have a doughnut in both hands. Sure, you could waste this power on making grocery lists and such, but that would be like SpiderMan using his powers only for spackling rusted bathtubs.

That’s the tip of the iceberg. I didn’t even mention the collaboration feature, as I haven’t tried it out yet. All in all, Google Keep is like having a tiny forest sprite as an assistant. Except less sparkly. Give it a try, if you haven’t already, and let me know if you have even better uses for it than I could come up with.