Wednesday, May 6

Why One Note is One-Derful for Writers

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

I’m always on the look out for ways to make my writing easier, and my husband recently introduced me to One Note. He uses it to keep track of details across multiple (and complicated) projects for work, and suggested it would work just as well for novels. It's free, and works across all platforms.

He was right, and I’m loving it.

One Note allows me to create workbooks for individual writing projects, with tabs to organize aspects of that project (displayed clearly across the top), and I can add pages as needed to further organize my information (displayed nicely in a column on the right). I can create text boxes and group them on a single page, or treat the pages like one big file. I can add text, or photos, or anything I deem needed for that topic. I can even drawn on the page if I want.

It’s similar to Scrivener’s folder/page system, so if you’re used to that, you’ll find the interface easy to work with. Though honestly, One Note is simple as pie to dive right in and start working. It gives you a two-minute video that explains the basics right in the program when you launch it for the first time. 

Benefits of One Note


Easy to organize:
With the workbook/tab/page format, it’s easy to group information and arrange it in the way that helps me the most. I can have one workbook with notes for a novel, to-do lists for activities associated with that novel (such as due dates, events, marketing and promotional), links and research I want on-hand for easy reference, and pretty much anything else I need to save for later. I can even create subpages on pages for deeper organization.



To-Do List: One nice feature is the ability to mark any task as a to-do, even across workbooks. You can see at a glance what needs to be done.



Works across multiple platforms: I use both PC and Apple products, and it can be a pain switching between them. But with One Note, I can sync my files and access them on any device I need to (This requires Microsoft One Drive). This is particularly handy when I want to make notes on my phone, which doesn't have access to my writing program (Scrivener). 


Using One Note


I have a workbook for my current writing projects (both fiction and non-fiction), tabs for sections, and within each tab are the pages that contain more information. Such as:

Ideas: This is where I keep all those flashes of inspiration and general thoughts I want to keep track of for a particular project, but have no place to easily write them down without them getting lost. Which always seems to happen to me.

Characters: The first page is where I have the characters boxed by group for quick reference. I have a box listing the protagonist and the main characters, one for secondary characters, one for antagonist and minions, one for ancillary characters, etc. This way, I can quickly see everyone in the novel (and know if I have names that are too similar) and easily jump to their page for more detail. Individual pages contain all the history and details of that character (include photos and physical details), a summary of their role in the book and their story arc (their front story).


 

Plotting: This is where I keep my outline and scene summaries. I like to break novels down by act (act one, act two-A, act two-B, act three) and summarize what happens in each act.


World Building: This tab contains all the notes and mechanics on my world. My current WIP is fairly complicated world-wise, so there’s lots to track and plan out. I have a summary page, but also a page for history and how the world works.

Research: This tab holds all the notes, photos, websites, and whatever else I need to write the novel. I use a page per topic and can quickly look up anything I need, when I need it. One Note adds links and footnotes for items pasted into the page, so I always know where it came from and can return to that site with a click.

I really like One Note’s tab/page format and how easy it is to see everything and keep track of it. I can also mark items across multiple workbooks for a To-Do List for even better project management. This is especially nice if you want to use One Note as a day planner—something I’ll transition into now that I see now easy it is.

If you’re looking for a way to keep track of notes and research for your book, consider giving One Note a try.

Have you tried One Note? What did you think? What other organizational tools do you like?

Looking for tips on revising or planning your novel? Check out my book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel. It's also a great guide for revisions! 

Janice Hardy is the founder of Fiction University, and the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, (Picked as one of the 10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, 2014) Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She is also a contributor at Pub(lishing) Crawl, and Writers in the Storm.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indie Bound

27 comments:

  1. I use this and it is awesome! I used to use Evernote and since I switched to OneNote I've never looked back. I find it so much easier to use then EN.

    Ciao!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know a lot of non-fic writers who use EN, but I've not tried it. ON works so well for me I can't see switching. Glad you like it too!

      Delete
  2. Hello..
    Quick question. Is one note similar to Scrivner? If I started using One note would I be duplicating? Does anyone use Scrivener and One note? What od you use to write your stories-Word, Scrivner? I am trying to organize so that I can sit down and focus without all my notes and writing all over the place...Thanks

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I use Scrivener, and yes, some aspects are very similar. The folder/file setup is similar, and Scrivener has areas for taking notes and keeping your writing organized. If you use Scrivener and want to use the additional organization aspects, you might not need One Note.

      I use both, but I actually prefer to have my notes and outlines in a separate program. I tried to keep them all in Scriv, but I just found it more cumbersome to do it that way. I really like One Note's interface and how I can use it on phone, Mac, and PC (which might not be an issue for everyone if all their devices use the same operating system).

      I write in Scriv, but outline, research, and plan in One Note.

      Delete
  3. I use both Scrivener and OneNote, and, like Janice, I write in Scrivener and outline and research in OneNote. I set my OneNote up like Karen Wiesner's workbook in her First Draft in 30 Days book, so I have pages for characters, settings, timelines, etc. I'm not using the online version, however. I just find it easier to use the larger screen on my laptop (besides, I find it a pain to log into my online Live account every time I log onto my computer).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Janice,

    I love OneNote for keeping track of self-publishing tips and ideas, reviews of my books, useful blogs, websites for writers, classes I've taken, etc.

    So many uses!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Forgot to say, I outline and write in WriteWayPro, which is like Scrivener but simpler to use - I hated Scrivener!

      Delete
  5. Organize? Is that what I'm supposed to do with all the PostIts that are scattered hither and yon? Well, I just might do it with this. It sounds interesting. But if my desk is cleared, then I'll have to dust it once in a while. Seriously, thanks for the tip and the great explanation on how to use it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hehe, it's an option :) Buy hey, if post-its work for you, why change it -grin-

      Delete
  6. Janice,

    I love to plan, so One Note sounds ideal.

    Is One Note cloud-based or downloadable?

    Thanks for the recommendation!

    Carrie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Free download, though if you want to sync it with other devices it does require Mricrosoft One Drive.

      Delete
  7. I started using OneNote about a year and a half ago and I really love it. I use it to keep track of all of my to-do lists for my blog and business, etc. etc. etc. I love too how it can be accessed via OneDrive so I can retrieve needed lists when out and about with just my phone. There are so many uses, and I'm sure we all use it in unique ways. I also like its built-in ability to do simple math functions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The notes on the phone aspect is a key benefit for me, too.

      Delete
  8. I think Scrivener and One Note et al are wonderful for deep planners. I'm rather like the commenter who asked about the Post Its and such. I just haven't found the need for "official" organizers even after decades of writing. But if I had to choose, it would be One Note. Scrivener drove me up the wall and distracted me from the actual writing so much that I haven't opened it since the month or so that I tried to use it. So I'll give One Note another look!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Scrivener has a terrible learning curve. First time I tried it, I hated it. Then I went back after I attended a workshop on it at a conference and gave it a second chance. Once I figured out how to use it I really liked it, but it takes a while to get there.

      Delete
  9. I use OneNote too, although not as extensively as you do. I should organize mine better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like having notes in their own "boxes" so the format works well for my process. Just makes everything easier to find.

      Delete
  10. I've been using OneNote since shortly after it showed up with Office 2010. Love it. Solved the problem of loosing my scribbled ideas (or forgetting ideas because I never wrote them down). All I have to do now is open a new page in the 'ideas' tab and type. It made life easy while I was college student living in two places; I never had to worry about forgetting my notes in one place or the other. Haven't hooked mine up with MS One Drive yet, but I probably will in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Microsoft? Bill Gates?

    The guy who shut down MSN Groups in February 2009!

    Suppose he shuts down One Note in 2019?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll worry about that if it happens :)

      Delete
    2. I had that attitude or an even more sanguine one about his online products before the MSN Groups went.

      Delete
  12. I'm so glad you wrote this post! I've heard about similar features on Scrivener, but to be honest, I'm overwhelmed by that program. This sounds like a great alternative. I'll sometimes save links in a document, but this seems like a great way to keep your writing "Bible" all in one location. I'm going to give it a try :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hope you like it! It's easy to use and it all makes sense.

      Delete
  13. I just discovered One Note, and this post is exactly what I needed to get started. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh good! Hope it works for you as well as it does me.

      Delete
  14. Janice, you are a girl after my own heart. I am addicted to OneNote, so much so that I have put together a novel notebook package that people can use to get them started. More details here:

    http://cchogan.com/onenote-novel-template/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's so handy. Very cool, thanks for the link!

      Delete