OneNote as Novel Organization Tool

I have been working on writing that ‘next great American novel’ for years now.  There have been quite a few plots and characters that have introduced themselves to me, and I have eagerly written a few chapters and plot outlines only to lose the inspiration or enthusiasm or motivation and quit.  The thought of sitting down and writing a several hundred page book is kind of daunting, especially for someone with ADD and a severe case of ‘perfectionism’.  I find it hard to move on to the next chapter/scene/word until I’ve got the last one just right.  I have realized in the last year or so that I just need to sit down and write, and then go back an edit and revise later.  But that is still hard, when I’m trying to write an entire novel.

One thing I have found recently that may help with this is a better way of organizing all of the information I need for my novel.  Too often, I just start writing at the beginning of the story and keep writing until I run out of steam.  I have ideas in my head, and try to keep them all straight, but I usually fail.  Enter Microsoft OneNote!

I downloaded the Beta of Microsoft Office 2010 and it came with a program called OneNote- which advertises itself as a better notetaking and organization tool.  I had heard of it before, but never really used it.  But I started the other day, and though I am still learning about all of the features and functions, for the most part I am very excited about this as a way of organizing my novel to hopefully motivate me to finish something.

The thing about OneNote that makes it so great is the organization of pages and linking.  You can create different “Notebooks” for different projects or reasons (like a different notebook for school notes, one for business meetings, one for personal stuff, or in my case, one for each novel I’m trying to write) And along the top of each notebook are different tabs that you can add, that act like tabs in a real notebook, sectioning off different areas.  Under each tab you can add pages.

The way I use this to help me is that I have a notebook for each novel, and then I have several tabs for the basics of my novel: Characters, Plot, World, Other Stuff, and then a tab for the actual novel itself.  Under each of these tabs I have different pages, under the Characters tab I have a separate page for each of the different characters, with all of the information I may need about each character.  Under the Plot tab I just have one page, just a place to keep ideas and thoughts I have about plot events.  Under the World tab I have different pages for Cities, Culture, Magic/Technology, and Other Stuff, where I keep all information I may need about any of those aspects.

I will admit that I do not know all of the cool features of OneNote yet, I am still playing with it and seeing what it can do for me, but one thing I am excited about is the linking.  You can link within your notebook, for example when I’m writing about plot and I mention a character, I can add a link from that character’s name to the Character Page that I have written about that character.  But you can also link to webpages, if you find a cool website or an image online that you want to reference, or you can link to other files, if you have a Word document that you are already using to write your novel.

There are a lot of other features that makes this a great program for taking notes, and for writing a novel.  I look forward to using it when classes start again in the fall to see if it is better than my old pen-and-paper method which consists of writing it down in a bulky notebook, and then never reading it again. Maybe if the notes were more organized, by content rather than simply by when I wrote them down, it could help me study and d better.

For now, I suggest, if you’ve been struggling with your novel organization, give OneNote a try, you may just like it!

2 thoughts on “OneNote as Novel Organization Tool

  1. I haven’t tried OneNote, but if anyone runs Linux, I absolutely suggest the awesomeness of TomNotes. It’s a very similar app that I found useful in organizing ideas.

    I will definitely try out OneNote and see how it works. Then again, I’m a huge traditionalist and I love my physical spiral bound notebooks. However, one thing physical notebooks can’t do that these computer programs can is link things together. That kind of tool is indispensable.

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