OneNote for Authors: Getting Started

In my super-secret under-cover life (a.k.a. my day job), I frequently teach people various organization skills – from keeping up with emails, to task management, to home org tips and tricks. I thought it might be fun to share some tips on one of the tools I use both in my author life and my under-cover life: OneNote!

Today I’ll just cover the basics. I’ll get into more specifics in another post soon.
OneNote Uses for Authors:
As an author, I use OneNote in multiple. In particular, I keep notes on EVERYTHING I do, including:
  • Notes for books such as research, websites, ideas, editing needs, outlines, tracking series details, and more.
  • Notes on querying including research about editors/agents/publishers that I’m looking into, query letter drafts, queries sent, responses, and more.
  • Notes from workshops and classes and how I’d like to apply concepts.
  • Publishing information including formatting for Kindle vs. Smashwords vs. Create Space to help me get faster at that, tracking all the websites and tools I use, etc.
  • Social Media/Marketing Management including check boxed to-do lists, monthly schedules for blog posts, ideas of upcoming marketing fun, and more.
And that’s just my author stuff. Don’t get me started on all the every day, family, and day-time job stuff I track.
Getting Set Up:
The first thing you need to learn about OneNote, and set up, is how it is organized. Think of it just like notebook binders we used to have in grade school (or am I showing my age?). A binder for each class, tabbed sections within the binder for topics, and pages inside each section for the notes.
Note: OneNote is a Microsoft Office application. The steps to do the below will differ slightly for different versions of MS Office. I’m on Windows 8 with Office 365.
Notebooks are listed down the left side of OneNote. Notebooks are like your class binders. To create a new Notebook:
  1. Click to the File menu at the top
  2. Click the “New” option on the left
  3. Under “New Notebook” select where to save (I usually save to Computer)
  4. In the “Notebook Name” field, enter the name for your Notebook
  5. Click the “Create Notebook” button
As an author, I have the following Notebooks:
  • Svatura Series
  • Shadowcat Nation Series
  • Ghost Series
  • Standalone Books
  • Querying
  • Workshops
  • Publishing
  • Social Media/Marketing
  • Ideas
Sections are the equivalent of tabbed sections within your binder. I use these to breakdown the larger topic into sub-topics. Sections are listed as tabs across the top of the page. To create a new Section:
  1. On the left side of OneNote, select the Notebook in which you want to create the section
  2. Along the top, there will be a tab that has a plus sign… Click that tab
  3. It will change colors and say “New Section #” with the ability for you to type and rename
  4. Type over that text with the name for the section/tab
For example, in my “Svatura Series” Notebook, I have the following sections:
  • Svatura Characters & Details (tracking them for the series)
  • Plot Lines
  • A tab for each of the 4 books in the series, the box set, and a new short story anthology
Pages are like the note pages in the tabbed sections of your binder. This is where you take the notes. Pages are listed along the right side of OneNote. To create a new Page:
  1. On the left side of OneNote, select the Notebook in which you want to create the section
  2. Along the top, click the section tab in which you want to create the page
  3. Along the right side, click the “+ Add Page” button
  4. OneNote will automatically create a new page and put your cursor where the title of the page is
  5. Type the title for the page
  6. Then click anywhere below the title and start typing your notes
For example, in my Svatura Characters & Details tab, I have pages for the main cast of characters, for the bad guy cast of characters, for the minor characters, etc.

Tip: You can create multiple areas of notes on one page, simply click somewhere else on the page and start typing.

Tip: You can drag and drop those areas of notes anywhere you want (very loosey goosey, I know – but you’ll get used to it)
Tip: You can make subpages. Once a page has been created, on the right hand side, right click the name of the page. Then click “Make Subpage”. It will indent the page. Helps with grouping of like notes within a section.
I hope that this was helpful for you in some way. In my next round, I’ll get into more specifics about how I use it.
Please feel free to comment and tell me what you’d like to see next. I can either cover the more technical stuff like creating tables, inserting files, sharing, etc. Or I can cover it more author style and show examples of how I use it for individual books, social media/marketing, publishing, etc.
Happy OneNoteing friends!!!
(P.S. I know the pictures bleed into my right navigation on the website – but you can see them better that way.)

7 thoughts on “OneNote for Authors: Getting Started

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  1. With their Office 360 now you can have OneNote on your PC, Mac and ipad. It's nice to take notes on a story while on vacation with my ipad. Everything syncs between platforms and you can share specific notebooks with other people.

    One thing you might mention is on the PC version you can use the drawing tools to create family trees. That went over well with the historical and contemporary family series authors. (drawing tools aren't on the Mac OS's yet.)

    I did a recent Storybible talk and I used my Mac Curio program and the Microsoft OneNote as my two examples. Another thing is to compare OneNote with Evernote.

    And as a side note, Microsoft just did an update that says you can now drop files into the pages and access them through AirDrop. Haven't tried that yet but would love to drop in financial files under a business tab.

  2. Thanks for all the great tips Beth! Looks like I've found a fellow OneNote fan. 🙂

    I haven't tried the AirDrop thing yet either, though I will soon. I do love the sharing/accessing between devices ability and plan to do a longer post on that one soon. I haven't tried the drawing tool. I might just look at that today!!

  3. Is there a way to edit or change a notebook title? Also, mine says ‘this version only saves to OneDrive. It came with my pc and Windows 7. Is there a way to update free or change this setting?

    Thanks for this blog topic!

    1. For changing Notebook names:
      1. Go to the File menu
      2. Click the “Settings” button next to the name of the Notebook you want to change
      3. Select properities.
      4. Change the “Display Name”
      5. Click “Ok”

      For OneDrive-
      In that same properties space (stesp 1-3 above) there is a button that says “Change Location”
      You can select OneDrive (which sounds like your default), or save it to your hard drive. There should be a folder on your harddrive for OneNote.

      Hope that helps!

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