Although I can only speak on behalf of myself and my own writing preferences, I always love finding new toys to use to write my manuscripts and stories. With Scrivener and Storyist and Evernote and everything else under the sun available, it can be hard to keep it all under control! Which is why, today, I’m introducing a tool that you might already know about, but if you do, you might not be using it to its full potential. Without further ado, here’s my ultimate guide to using the online program Trello as a writer!
As a note, a lot of my information and inspiration I got from the incredible Kara over at Boho Berry, where she did a tutorial all about using Trello for an editorial calendar. As you’ll see below, I’ve tweaked it a little to fit my writing process, but you should go check her out, too! Also, thank you to Allison at Wonderlass for the pretty graphic in my featured image! 😀
WHAT IS TRELLO?
In a nutshell, Trello is an organizational productivity tool. It’s a way of organizing thoughts on digital lists and cards, like piles of notecards or sticky notes. But believe me, that’s just the tip of this gorgeous iceberg, but we’ll get to the rest in a minute. It’s all online (that I know of), so you have to be connected to the internet to use it. It can also seem like a lot of features and can make you get overwhelmed, but once you break down everything it can do, it can be a total lifesaver for us writers!
Cards are the basic tool in Trello. As you can see, this is my card that I use for random names or characters that I think of (don’t mock them, I like to get outrageously unique with names, but feel free to steal them!). I like using my lists to hold ideas, character sheets, research notes, anything that I want to have on the side of my novel that isn’t part of the actual “manuscript”. You can do basic list formatting by using a hyphen and adding a new paragraph, as well as a few other tricks listed under the formatting button when you open it to edit. Within each card, you have the option to add comments, members, labels, checklists, due dates, and attachments, but we’ll go over all of that in a second. Just know that this is your basis for the rest of your lists in Trello, which is our next topic!
Lists are basically a combination or pile of cards; think of it like a notebook. For any given project, I’ll usually have a list for running ideas, research, resources and references (like the ones above, again, don’t mock), etc. You can rearrange these lists from left to right however you want, just like the actual cards themselves within the lists. What’s also cool about Trello is that if you’re researching online and there’s something you want to save quickly, you can do that with the bookmarklet, which I’ll bring up in a bit!
Alright, checklists are one of my favorite part of using this program, because y’all know I love myself a checklist! It’s pretty explanatory, but I use checklists for things like my scenes, character research, etc. The amazing thing about Trello’s program is that you can create templates for your checklists by creating one card with a bunch of checklists. Name each of the checklists “__ Template”, then when you need to add a checklist to one of your cards (or multiple), you click “add checklist”, then “from template” and you’re good to go!
Labels are really cool for writers wanting to split their book up into chunks, or at least, that’s what I use them for. You can make as many as you want, but they only have a certain number of colors available, so you might have to deal with picking from a few. With these labels, you can add a quick color reference onto any of your cards! For instance, my book that I’m working on right now takes place over a period of about six or seven years. So, I have a different colored label for each major year, so that I can keep a sort of faux-timeline down when I’m making my scene notes.
Okay, so I’m kind of cheating on my image here by using my old editorial calendar for Trello for the blog, but that’s only because I don’t really have a reason to make due-dates for my own writing. However, when you make a card, you can assign it a due-date, which could be useful if you want to stay on a writing schedule or if you need to be submitting manuscripts to your editor/agent/publisher/etc. Plus, in the “calendar” view of Trello (which you have to turn on under “power-ups” in settings, then it sits right in the upper right hand corner of the screen), you can easily see those color-coded labels that I mentioned earlier!
Alright, so you’ve got your Trello all set up for your writing and research process, but what if you want to work on more than one project? Do you have to make multiple accounts just to separate them? HA! Trello is already two steps ahead of you, and has provided the option to make more than one “board” which is basically the entire setup that you’re looking at here, with all your cards and lists on it. Right now, I have a board for my blog (kind of inactive, since I’ve switched editorial calendars), two of my “books”, one group board for my contribution to The Young Hopeful, and one for general ideas or notes.
Again, my blog editorial calendar layout was inspired by the fabulous Kara at Boho Berry!
For writing my personal stuff, the bookmarklet for Trello is one of my absolute favorite features. Basically, it works like the Pin button or Evernote button do: if you’re on a website, you can click the bookmarklet and save the page to a card, and you can specify which board and which list you want it in, as well as the card’s rank or placement on the list. I love using this for research and resources that I find online!
I haven’t used this specifically for my book yet (though I have for blogging, like the group board I mentioned earlier with TYH), but if you’re working on a collab writing project or you want to keep your editor or agent up to date on your writing, this would be the perfect tool for you! You can assign cards to certain members, add members to any board, and exchange comments with mentions, like on Twitter or Facebook, so they’ll get a notification about it.
Well, guys, those are all the tips on Trello that I have for right now, but if you love getting new resources to use for writing, be sure to follow my writing resources board on Pinterest, which I’ve linked below! Good luck writing, guys!