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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Making Sense Of Writing It Down

As a freelance writer, you may well end up having to interview sources and you will need a way of keeping track of the information. I always travel with a recording device, spare batteries, a power cable and a notebook. I'm not talking about a laptop, but an old fashioned notebook with lines in it that you write in with a pen.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all the technology might fail, so having notes is a good backup and one I have had to use more than once when my editor was breathing down my neck for a story that had been chewed up by the Dictaphone or simply not recorded.

The second is that writing things down helps to fix them in your memory. As a journalist I would sit on the train on the way back from an interview and start to sketch out my story with the aid of my notes. Very often, I would not need to listen to the tape much, except to check that my quotes were right.

Now, the thing about interviews is that they are not tidy. Yes, you may have a neat list of questions but an interview is a conversation, which mean you may start out one place and end up another. This can get very confusing when you are taking notes, as you may find that you are putting pieces in all over the place, or correcting or clarifying previous information.

However, there is a simple technique that can help you to make sense of the chaos, and it's this. Write on every other line. In other words, leave a blank line between each line of notes. When something comes up that's related to an earlier note, you have space to write it. If something needs to be clarified, you have space to write it. And when you're done you'll still be able to read all your notes. Try it; I promise it works – even for my terrible writing.

Recommended reads:
Talking The Talk: Secrets Of Interviewing Success

Taking The Free Out Of Freelance

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