3 Efficiency-Boosting Tools for Writers and Journalists

144362217Three Tools to Help You Write, Interview and Organize More Effectively

When I first started interviewing and writing human interest stories, I’d show up with 5-10 pounds of clunky gear; a cassette tape recorder and extra batteries, an extra external microphone, a portfolio containing my note pad and a couple of pens.  When it was time to write the article, I’d play back the tape, transcribe, rewind to hear what I missed, then transcribed some more. I wanted to make sure I replayed every morsel,and I didn’t miss anything important. That process was time consuming and no fun at all. I even graduated to using my phone and my laptop to record but they lacked in sound quality and specific content was hard to access. I spent more time working the buttons on the recorder than I did in creative thought.

Today, I am so grateful for the tools that help me to do my job more efficiently. Here are three of those tools. Maybe you’ll find something helpful for your writing business:



Smartpen. I discovered the smartpen about three years ago. It has a built-in recorder that records as you write on special dot paper. Of course, you still need to get your subject’s permission to record the interview. You can stop and start just like with the older model recorders. It’s just easier because everything is in the pen. When you get to the office, you just plug your pen into your computer, pc, or iPad, upload the recording and there it is; your handwritten notes and audio. As you write your article and need to reference a particular point in the interview, you can either point your curser to that section of your notes on your computer screen, or touch your pen to the dot paper in that section of the notes. The audio will play back the conversation right at that point. No more rewinding tapes or playing back recordings when you have no idea of the location of the desired conversation point.

There are a few smartpen manufacturers but I’ve only used Livescribe™ http://store.livescribe.com/smartpen.html

I love my Livescribe pen and can’t believe how much more efficient a writer I am now. Newer models also have Wi-Fi and a mobile app.


When I had only one client, recordkeeping was pretty easy. I just used a manila file folder with everything related to my client in it. I saved the files with client deliverables in a Word file and the audio for the interview in another location. Not too much trouble. But when my business grew to multiple clients, file folders no longer worked. This year, I’ve discovered Microsoft OneNote. It allows me to keep client files and deliverables organized in one place on my laptop.

Microsoft OneNote allows you to organize notes, links, research and client deliverables in one place. So here’s how it works: Think of a notebook, the kind you may have used in school. Think of the dividers within that notebook. OneNote allows you create multiple “notebooks” with multiple “dividers” on your computer. I use one notebook for client work, one for blog posts, and one for personal stuff. In my client notebook, I have a divider for each client. And within each divider, I store all my links, emails, research etc. by client. OneNote even allows you to pin web pages right into your OneNote program. And it allows you to record conversations. The recording is kept with the other files for that client. The beauty is that you can store everything in one location. When I need something relating to a client, I go to one place! You can even connect your LiveScibe™ smartpen.


 Free Conferencing. Free conferencing is a handy tool, especially if you are interviewing more than one person. You open an account with a provider (I use Freeconferencecalling.com but others are available). You’ll receive a call-in number and conference code. You just give that phone number and code to your interviewees and have them call in at the time you designate. You can also record the conference call but of course you’ll want to get permission first. If you need to reference the conversation when writing your content, just go to your account on the website and listen. Your conference call, if you clicked “record” is kept in your account.

I hope you found something useful here. Pass this along to other writers. Are there any other tools you’ve found helpful as a writer?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>