Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Note taking -- Philip's advice

I asked my writer/publisher friend Philip for advice on note taking. (Good note taking is essential when gathering material for a book.) His reply, which follows, is brilliant:

OK, Different kinds of notes work for different people. My take is that you record the audio portions if you can, then take notes later. If that isn't acceptable, jot down he salient quotes sparsely and write your impressions and observations aggressively. Was it hot in the room? What were the odors? Humid? Comfortable? Crowd mood? Overall reactions to/reception of the speaker/trainer(s). Was the food good? What were the dominant spices/flavors? What did you FEEL like before/during/after the course/sessions/practice? Was it 'worth it' to you? Would you tell someone else to go go for it or warn then away? Who was the archetypal participant? Did cliques form? If so, what was the inter-group dynamic?

Take your reporter's notebook to a coffee shop and practice. Who's in the place? What's their story? Are they well dressed/clean/rich/poor? What are they driving? The idea is to suss out the cultural and motivational clues that suggest people's lives.

Is the coffee any good?... fresh? Did the barista treat you well? Is the place busy?...on a main drag?...well lit?..have free WiFi? Would you go back? Would you send a friend there? Do they know your name if you are a regular customer? If so, would you rather have remained anonymous?

All that being said, the final product shouldn't hit your reader in the face with all of the factoids, rather it needs to be apparent that you have a high degree of comprehension about your subject.

Notes can take up a whole notebook, but then I think the trick is to find one or two vignette(s) that characterize the events or places.

Also, for more, and more divergent, ideas about notes re-read 'Telling True Stories'

I hope this helps..

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