Zettelkasten Forum

FIrst approach to zettelkasten and doubts

Hello everyone,
I'm approaching to zettelkasten as a fiction and non-fiction writer. I like the concept of linking and permanent information storing, but I would like to know if the method I'm going to implement zettelkasten is a working one.

I usually take a ton of notes from narrative non-fiction books I read: story ideas, research etc... Those should be considered "literature notes" in the context of zettelkasten. I find it confusing having these notes in a single file, so I split them by topic or anecdote. But I don't like to have my computer crammed with tons of files. When I read a new book on the same topic, rather than creating new notes and linking them, I tend to group the notes I already have with new notes who adds info to the same topic or details to the same anecdote. Still, I keep a reference to the original source (in the form of citation).

To better explain what I do:

  • I read a book about a writer and I take a note on an episode of his life (which we'll call NOTE 1).
  • Another episode of his life goes to a different note (NOTE 2) in the same folder.
  • I read another book and I find some detail on the same episode as NOTE 1. I don't create a new note but I add it to NOTE 1 and eventually add a citation for the new source.
  • I read a book about a chemist and I take a note about one of his discoveries in the specific folder of that book/project. It isn't directly related to the episode of NOTE 1, but I think linking them can bring to a new perspective. I create NOTE 3 and link NOTE 1 and NOTE 3.

Is that a good practice, or is it better to have a single file for the notes coming from a book, then different super short notes for concepts I want to keep from each book?


  • It might be a good idea to read some of the blog posts that describe the Zettelkasten method. There is a ton of information there which will help you clarify your ideas. I just posted the link to the first blog in another thread: https://zettelkasten.de/posts/zettelkasten-improves-thinking-writing/

  • @pablo24 said:
    I find it confusing having these notes in a single file, so I split them by topic or anecdote. But I don't like to have my computer crammed with tons of files.

    To have one file per "idea" seems to be easier to grok.

    Having many files on your computer is not a technical problem for any semi-modern computer (meaning anything built within the last 30 years; there are files-per-folder limits on old DOS drives that could be reached, but the hard limits are irrelevant for any disk that was created in the past decades). So I wonder: where does your dislike stem from?

    Theoretically, you could have 1 file for everything and then just scroll up/down or use the search function to navigate between parts of that single, long file. But that's not very practical, either.

    Author at Zettelkasten.de • https://christiantietze.de/

  • Thanks. I've read the posts suggested by MartinBB and read Ahrens' Book and I realized I'm implementing zettelkasten properly. Anyway, I've discovered that what I believed to be literature notes are just permanent notes in my implementation.

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