Having recently migrated all my electronic notes over to the rather wonderful Obsidian app, and having begun making more detailed notes about the books and other research sources I’ve been consulting, today I found myself in the strange position of making notes about my own book Through Darwin’s Eyes—even though I’m still in the process of writing it. Not only that, but I ended up making a separate note for each chapter of my unfinished masterpiece, linking each one to existing notes on all manner of research topics.
Why did I go through all this hassle? Quite simply, it had got to where I could no longer see the wood for the trees. I had a long list of potential topics that I thought I might want to cover, and I had a set of completed (first draft) chapters. But I’d lost track of which of my potential topics I’d already covered, and in which chapters. My preferred writing style is to try to touch on more than one topic per chapter, and to have recurring topics develop into themes running throughout the book. So keeping track of which topics I’ve covered where can be something of a challenge.
Going through all this faff proved to be an incredibly useful exercise. There were a number of topics I was thinking of covering that, it turned out, I’d already written about. And I identified a number of recurring topics that I hadn’t realised had developed into themes. More importantly, I now have a list of topics I know I haven’t covered yet; and, now I can see the wood for the trees, I’m starting to have fresh ideas about how some of them might belong together in future chapters.
This new way of making and storing notes is already proving hugely beneficial. Ever since I adopted it, I’ve regretted not having known about it before I began work on my current book. But the work I put in today and previously means I now have good enough notes in my system to help me finish the book. Better still, now my new system is in place, banging out my next book should be an absolute piece of cake.