This is why I use Excel to monitor weekly writing goals. I get off schedule. Life gets in the way. And because writing isn’t my day job, I can shove it aside when I need to deal with other commitments. But, the writing goals don’t go away. I just write double or triple time to make the work up. I’m on spring break this week and writing 2,000 words a day to make up for lost time the past three weeks. Not the way I had intended to spend my week off, but I will be caught up by weeks end and able to reach my ultimate goal of turning in the second book to the publisher in October when my first book comes out. I’ll hopefully get back to my once a week post now too! Following is Part II of a post on outlining.


It’s basically set up just like an infinitely expanding notebook. Each notebook opens with tabs across the top, called sections. When a section is opened, pages are labeled in list form down the right hand side of the section. The page is where you take your notes. Notes can include pasted web pages, video clips, free form notes, Word documents, pictures and graphics. And you can drag and drop your information easily. The following graphic came from Google Images. I would cite it, but no webpage was attached. It’s a great screenshot of the program though.

The real power of OneNote is when you need to organize a large project, especially one with many pieces. My day job includes writing grants for a public school corporation. The grants can be very large with many people involved in the planning, as well as a great deal of research. For a new grant project I open a new notebook and break it into the sections I know I will be working on: research, abstract, narrative, budget, etc. I still write the actual grant using Word, but all of my notes for the various pieces of the project are collected in one place.

But the best application I’ve found for OneNote is organizing for a full length book project. I have a notebook for my new book with sections for a To-Do List, Research, Character Notes, Quotes, Books to Read, Plot ideas, etc. Within each section I have “pages” of notes that are labeled on the right hand site of the page I’m working on. When I’m in the research tab it is extremely helpful. I can jump from one page to the next without having to scroll and search. I used to take all my notes in Word, but there was no easy way to organize information. OneNote makes it extremely easy to organize large amounts of information.


Templates are available on the Microsoft website. Everything from daily calendars to Christmas lists to home improvement schedules. The templates are a nice way to see the possibilities for the program, but they really aren’t necessary. You don’t need tutorials or heavy reading to use the program. Just click around until you get the feel for it.

This isn’t a sly advertisement for Microsoft. The program is part of the Microsoft Office Suite – that’s how I discovered it. I started using OneNote back in 2003 because it came with the software program I was using at work. I’ve since upgraded to 2007 and now to 2010. It’s still the same basic premise (just prettier graphics), and it is still just as easy to use. I believe there are some free open source note taking programs on the web, but I don’t know anything about them. If you have the Office suite on your computer you may have OneNote already loaded on your computer. If so, check it out!

Next time: Scene Outlines