*WARNING – This post contains a lot of writery, authory, novel production type stuff. It may be quite boring to any of you who have never been a part of the writing process. Sorry.
I had been looking into an organization strategy for writing my novels for several months. Recently, I upgraded my MS Office programs and acquired Onenote. From the product description, it seemed like it would work just fine. But I had no clue how to make it work. After all, it was unlike any software program I was familiar with. So I did some template research, and found there was very little out there to help writers. I did find a couple blogs about the subject. From them I gleaned enough information to start using the program.
I was asked to write a blog about using Onenote to write a novel. So here’s what I’ve done. Everybody’s writing process is unique, so you’ll want to tailor this for yourself. Hopefully, by the time I’m done, you’ll have a good idea of how the program works and how you can use it.
If you’re like me, you have a folder on your computer with at least half a dozen Word and/or Excel files, containing character descriptions, setting lists, summaries of different length, outlines, and of course your master file. What Onenote does is put all that information into one easy to navigate location. When you start using Onenote, you’ll find all those cumbersome files obsolete.
Think of it like a three-ring binder, with tab dividers for all of your different sections. As you collect information and organize, you stick stuff under different tabs. Under these you compile everything you need to write each story.
What you want to do is start a new Notebook for your story. One Notebook is all you need for one story. These Notebook tabs are at the top. Switch between these tabs when switching between projects. On the right hand side you’ll see a New Page button. This is where we’ll create your subsections, pages, and templates.
So let’s talk about creating a template. Click New Page. An Untitled Page will pop up. It’ll be blank, with a title text box at the top. Let’s make this a template Master Page for your novel. Type in the box “Master Page – Title Here.” Just like that…it’s a template, remember? Always start a new page generic, so you can save it as a template. That’s important.
Next, click on the page somewhere below the title. A new text entry box will pop up. Resize this all the way to the right. There’s no screen size limit, so don’t go past the margin. Each entry box has a little gray line so you can grab it and drag it around, if it interferes with other things. In your text box, type the following items: Title, 100 Word Blurb, Long Blurb, One page summary, hidden ending, One page summary, complete. This text box is going to function much like Word. Go to the Home link at the top, and make all of these things Heading 1. Now you can simply fill in the info beneath the heading. (Tip: if the heading format doesn’t revert back to Normal on the next line, look for the Normal setting in the text styles.)
Beside your title, click and create another entry box. Put your cursor in it, go to the Home and click the “To Do” item. It’ll put a workable check box there. Make three of them. Label each one: 1st Draft, 2nd Draft, Self Edit… or as many draft processes you normally do. (Tip: move the main box further down if this one is too big.)
Beside your Draft check box, click and create another entry box. Type in “Master File. Go to the Insert menu at the top and click on Attach File. Browse to your master MS file, and attach it here on your Master Page. You now have a quick link to your MS. (Tip: do the next step and save your template before you actually attach the file.)
Once you’ve done all that you’ll want to save this as a template. If the template menu has been closed, simply click the arrow on the New Page button so it drops down. Click Page Templates and the template menu will open. At the very bottom is a link “Save current page as template.” Name it Master Page Template, or something. Now you should see it in your list of My Templates and under the drop down arrow by the New Page button.
We’ve created a template, and the process is the same for all your templates. I created a Master Page, Chapter template, Scene template, Character profile, Extra info, and will probably create one for Settings. You might also want to consider using an Act template, if you like breaking your story up by acts. I’ve included some screen shots of each. (Tip: I only have one template for Act and Chapter, because they’re basically the same thing.) (Tip: I used the Snowflake Method setup for Characters. http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/snowflake.php)
Why so many? Because once put in order, you can right click and make them subpages, and it really creates an organic outline system. All subpages can be collapsed under the parent. For example, say you have Act 1>Chapter 1>Scene 1. Act 1 contains a detailed description of that entire act. Chapter 1 contains a detailed description of that chapter. Your scene template has a lot of descriptions, it’s complete, and you’re ready to write the scene. You write it and click the check box showing it’s written. When all the scenes are written for that chapter, you collapse all the scene pages under the chapter, and then click “All Scenes Written” on your Chapter template. When all the chapters have been completed this way, you collapse them under the Act, and click “All Chapters Written” on you Act template. And once all the Acts have been written, you can collapse them all, if you wish, and click “1st Draft Complete” on your Master Page.
A few other features you should know about. Onenote integrates perfectly with all other Office products. You can insert from any of them. While surfing in Explorer, you can highlight text, right click, and it’ll send it straight to Onenote to be sorted into your Notebooks later. Same with images. Onenote will help you collect all your research easily. You can also go to File> Send and make any of your pages a Word doc.
And most importantly…You’ll notice there’s no save button. That’s because Onenote is constantly saving and backing up your work. In fact, if you give it your Passport login information (Msn, hotmail, live) it will auto backup and sync with your Skydrive. Then you can access your work from anywhere via the Skydrive Onenote interface online. Or share it with multiple people for group projects.
Hopefully, if you’ve stuck around and walked through the process of making that first template, you’ve got the confidence to develop your own and organize it to your liking. I think it’s going to be very productive for me and I hope it will for you too. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. The hardest part is getting past that initial intimidation with a program still unfamiliar to many of us who live and breathe in Word.