Hard Lessons Learned

When I began poking around to find out if my (step) great-grandmother had really homesteaded by herself in Montana as a young woman, I had no idea I’d be writing a novel. So my research records were, to put it mildly, slipshod. At the end of that four year project, I had piles of paper, with no idea how to find anything in all the mess.

Overwhelmed, I hired the amazing Danielle, a then-high school sophomore who first filed and then found every bit of data I’d accumulated into boxes like this

and this

Darn her — she went on to graduate from high school and is now kicking you-know-what in the film school at Montana State University.

Trust me, there is only one Danielle. So, when it became apparent to me that historical fiction was going to be a passion of mine, I needed to get my act together.

That’s when I discovered mailing labels. Avery 8160s, to be precise (please do not consider this an endorsement). Now, when I am reading a book for research, I print off a single sheet, 30 per page, of these labels, listing the title and author of the book. Then, when I jot down a note on a 3X 5 card ( my research retrieval system of choice), I can simply slap on the label and I’m good to go. No matter where or how I file this card,

I will always have the title/author at hand.

I’ll bet you, too, have some slick information organization tips — are you willing to share?

No Responses to “Hard Lessons Learned”

  1. Barbara O'Connor

    OMG – labels! How I love labels! I have TWO label makers and I adore them.

    Here’s a tip for folks who do a gazillion school visits. I use a spreadsheet (I use Apple’s Numbers, similar to Excel) and list each upcoming school with pertinent info like date, location, grade level, etc. But then I have columns with checkboxes to indicate if I have: a. confirmed equipment needs; b. printed customized bookmark templates; c. received a schedule; and d. printed out directions and programmed into GPS (I’m very directionally challenged)

    Then I can see at a glance when each upcoming visit is all wrapped up and ready to go.