Knowledge Management for the Creative Writer

Technical Writers, now called “Technical Communicators,” have been familiar with “Knowledge Management,” or “KM,” for decades.

But what is KM?  One source describes KM as “the process of capturing, distributing and effectively using knowledge,” attributing that definition to Tom Davenport in 1994.  Others have discussed the topic at length.  Some of the most important aspects are “lessons learned” and “institutional history.”

Does this matter?  Ask NASA.  A story circulates: NASA cannot put “a man on the Moon” today.” Why? The knowledge left with the engineers who left when funds dried up, goal accomplished.  And when those engineers died, now decades ago, the “lessons learned” and “institutional history” died with them.  Now, for all our “advanced technology” with iPhones and 3D printing, we would be pressed to send someone back “in five years,” as Vice President Pence insists.”

Whether you believe this is an important goal or believe that we should send the funds into social welfare programs, abandoning our position of global leadership in this area, is a question we will soon see debated.  But, soon, someone will become a leader in this critical area.

Now you ask, what does this have to do with ME, a creative writer?

How about this old aphorism, “insanity is repeating the same behavior, the same old dramas, expecting different results”?

“My characters are flat. I don’t know why.”

“I have a great start, but I never can finish my stories.”

“My stories are good, but they are complex.  People tell me that I am inconsistent.”

Any of these sound familiar?

How about this one: “I wrote a great novel in 2006.  But, I have never done it since.”

Did you fail to capture “lessons learned”? Is your own personal “institutional history” gone, vanished forever when the story engineers in your head retired after 2006?

Maybe YOU could benefit from knowledge management!  Unless you are part of a team of writers, you should consider personal knowledge management.

The topic is huge, one that requires a better treatment than a single blog post.  But here are some ideas:

Popular online tools include Evernote and OneNote.  If you strictly use the Apple ecosystem, the built-in Notes app is free.  With other features associated with iOS and MacOS, it can function as a basic KM system. If you blog using Apple, you might use ByWord.  And if you are a Windows user who prefers the security of offline tools, you might opt for InfoSelect, All My Notes, or The Journal.

Scrivener has grown to the point that it has many KM features.  They may be all you need.  But, different KM tools have different strengths and weaknesses.  Concurrent use of several different tools, copying and pasting common content from one to the other, will show the strengths and weaknesses to you.

How to use? Again, this is a complex topic, and it is beyond a single entry.  Here are a few ideas:

        • Use tags to identify characters, locales, and themes.  A periodic search on each tag after finishing a chapter (or several, if you are a risk taker) helps you identify inconsistencies while they are easily uprooted seedlings rather than a stand of redwood Giants.
        • Use the same methods of tagging across your creative works to produce series and identify patterns in your writing, bad or good.
        • Use tags and folders to house online research (Evernote and Onenote and alternatives).
        • Keep (and tag) inquiry letters and capture responses by email and paper (using a scanner or device camera); who responses to you? Who likes your work? Who hates it?
        • Warehouse writing templates and forms and markdown snippets from tools such as  Byword and Ghostwriter and alternatives.
        • Dig into the vendor websites for other ideas, particularly All My Notes and The Journal (Both of these require an up front purchase and only run on Windows. But both of them have authors who personally address your questions with a 24 hour turnaround. InfoSelect also has excellent support and had been in development the longest, dating back to “Tornado Notes” in the 1980s under MS-DOS. All of these have a strong user community, particularly the Info Select Yahoo Group.
      • Other tools can be helpful, a topic for another post.


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