OneNote, the Sequel

In our last exciting episode, I talked about my favorite software program in the entire universe and touched on how to add web information into your notes. I may have also implied that OneNote can save kittens from trees and hug lonely pandas. It can’t. It doesn’t have arms. But if it did, these are the kinds of things that it would do because it’s just that kind of program.

Since this is supposed to be a blog about my writing journey and not one about the non-writing related uses for ON, I thought that I might actually get around to talking about writing at some point in this post. It’s pretty much a certainty if you use this software for any length of time you’ll be able to come up with your own uses for it and undoubtedly they will be more clever and well planned than anything I’ve come up for it so let’s get to the point, shall we?

My preferred genre is urban fantasy. This means that in my writing universe there are more races than human. A lot of these are things that I’ll never see outside of my imagination, which is what makes my note taking so important. Even the more common place (in urban fantasy, anyway) creatures such as vampires and werewolves have “rules” unique to my universe and those rules must be obeyed.

A slight tangent here… I think that there is a huge myth amongst newbie writers. They assume that writers are gods of their creations. This much is true. But like our own Creator, writers are bound by the weaknesses and flaws of their creations. A human being isn’t likely to fly away from danger because we don’t have wings. If you make something implausible happen in your own fiction your readers WILL notice and will not be amused. /end lecture
Ahem. So yes, the rules must be created and they must be obeyed. I love using OneNote for this. The tabs, pages, and subpages allow a lot of organization to take place.

Using my own work as an example, I keep a notebook labeled “DW Universe”. This will be my main reference for all works that take place in this universe. Each separate WIP will merit it’s own notebook where I will keep track of characters, settings, plot lines and the related information, but each WIP will be included in the DW Universe notebook, which will continue to grow and evolve as long as I continue to work in that world.

The DW Universe notebook has become a wiki of sorts. Thanks to a feature in ON that allows you to link to other pages and paragraphs within the document, I am able to easily relate characters to their races. Let’s say that I have a character named Melvin the Merman. Let’s further speculate that in my world mermen are rare and thus highly sought after by the mermaids. They all also have sparkly blue tails and bright green eyes. Creating a link from Melvin’s page to the page on merfolk is like shorthand. It’s easy to see at a glance what his appearance is and that if he were to date a human it would not be a widely accepted choice amongst his peers.

These links have proven to be invaluable because I have made probably 100 pages of entries. Some are things I’ve written myself, some of it comes from research, and there are lots of images. Being able to find a key picture or the article I wrote about the racial traits of dryads in my world is important. Being able to find those things quickly, is even more precious.

Besides the links, you can add tags to help you quickly find information. And everything you add is searchable, even photos of text you’ve taken. You can make audio recordings and ON will automatically run voice recognition software to make a sort of transcript that can also be searched. I haven’t played with this feature yet, but it does seem pretty promising.

And, of course, you should consider the biggest selling point that Microsoft markets: the ability for more than one person to share notebooks. If you’ve ever wanted to do a collaborative project with someone, ON would be ideal for that. No media is off limits to this software. Voice recording, pictures, handwriting (scanned or written on a tablet PC), emails, internet documents… probably more that I can’t think of off the top of my head… They can all be integrated and Outlook especially works wonderfully with the program. I don’t use that feature as much as I should. I’d be a much more organized person if I did.

I hope I’ve done this software the justice it deserves. It really is the most important tool I have access to besides Word. It has taken my notes to another level of usability. Putting the ideas on paper is important, but so is being able to find what you’ve written weeks later.

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