How To Write A Novel Using OneNote

Use OneNote To Structure Your Novel

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Learn how to plan an outline, organize your notes, and write a novel using OneNote. The way you set up your novel from the beginning is important for how you edit later. Writing the entire novel in a single word document is possible, but it is difficult when you want to move scenes around and try different flows throughout your work.

Why One Note?

OneNote is a life saver—and time saver!  OneNote is versatile program that allows you to keep your notes, outlines, research, and drafts all in one place.  You can SNIP CLIPS OF RESEARCH straight from the web to a section in your notebook.  For all research items, OneNote adds a REFERENCE to the bottom of the snip-it.

Writing a novel using OneNote gives you the ability to MOVE CHAPTERS AND SCENES EASILY—giving you flexibility with structuring your novel right from the start.  Add tags to notes or scenes for quick reference. Make a SCENE CHECK LIST and keep up with your progress.  Also, you can track how much time and progress you make by adding a word tracker to your notebook.

The possibilities are limitless!

How to Set Up OneNote For Writing A Book

Start by opening a fresh notebook. I keep a different notebook for each of my novel series (and potential novels I haven’t written yet.)

Set Up One Note For Planning a Novel

OneNote Sections for Planning A Novel

After you create a notebook, you will need to MAKE SECTIONS to keep your writing, research, and outlines organized. A lot of writers only use 2 sections: Meta and Body. I, however, like to break my meta data up a bit further.

  • Writing Tracker
  • Notes
  • To Do
  • Locations Meta
  • Character Meta
  • Outlines
  • Body
Organize Your Writing Process Using OneNote

How to Set up a Writing Tracker in OneNote

Bullet Journal Facebook Group

I used to TRACK MY WORD COUNT using my bullet journal. I switched to using OneNote for several reasons.

  • Timeliness: it can take a long time to write a novel, especially is you work long hours and can’t spend more than a few minutes at a time on your writing. If you are like me, you are a weekend warrior; you focus on the meta/planning process during the week and put the actual writing off until the weekend.
  • Thought tracker: I write notes in my tracker to help me keep on the same thought process for what I need to do later. Example: “Need to go back and proofread later” or “possibly move the scene to a different part in the novel”

My writing tracker shows the life and development cycle of my novel. I can identify when my creative process is running dry and time when I am most productive.

In OneNote, create a page. I decided to track my work by the month, but you can always do a continual tracker. Insert a table with 5 columns.

  1. Date
  2. Completed: This is your scene list with any notes you may have. 
  3. Ending word count: I list off how many words are in each scene I have completed
  4. Total # of words: This is the total number of words written this date
  5. # of Words to Go: This is where you track your goal for the month: Example I want to write 50,000 words by the end of February
Track your word count using OneNote

How to Set up Notes and Research Pages in One Note

Any author knows that notes are important. I have several writer’s notebooks full of notes and helpful information, but I’m not going to carry them to the park with me when I want to work on my writing outside. OneNote gives you ACCESS TO NOTES you use frequently. You can easily flip from your work to your notes section without flipping through paperback books or carrying around a bookbag full of reference material.

Organize Your Research Notes Using Onenote

Pages you might include in your notes section:

  • Definitions or list of terms
  • Words you want to use
  • Formatting data: font size, chapter spacing notes,
  • Research about character development
  • List of crutch words
  • Words to use other than said or smile

How to create a to-do list using OneNote

Keeping a to do list is a good way to make sure you don’t forget something important.  Between work, home, blogging, and overall life in general, there is a lot to keep up with.  When writing a novel in OneNote, I use my to do tab to write down quick thoughts that pop up that I don’t have time to deal with at that moment.

Use One Note To create a novel writing to do list

How to create Meta Pages using OneNote

For my first novel, Forbidden, I started out with Meta data in an excel sheet.  This worked well for a novel with a short character list, but if you have a large cast, it gets annoying flipping through excel sheets to find the information you are looking for. Also, excel is not as flexible as OneNote.

Many writers make one section called Meta and put all their information under that section. I prefer to spread my data out a little more. Do whichever works best for you.  For me, The Sanctorian Series covers a lot of ground between 2 worlds and includes the 3 races of Sanctoria as well as the humans on Earth.  I found it better to SPLIT THE META SECTIONS in locations and each of the 4 races.

organize meta data when writing a novel using onenote

How to Use OneNote to Flesh Out Locations

When writing about locations, you want to make them as believable as possible.  One way to do this is to GATHER PICTURESof like places from the web and use them as reference. Each of my locations has a letter and number assigned to it.  I use this in my outline: more on that later.

Also, if your story covers multiple locations, you can CREATE A PAGE for the main location and sub pages for each sub location.  For example: The Produrai Community in Forbidden encompasses the Queen’s hall, Lyla’s Triwound Tree, The Courtyard, etc.

how to flesh out locations when writing a novel using OneNote

How to Use OneNote to Flesh Out Characters

You can use OneNote to make notes about the lives of each of your characters as well. Use pictures from the web as a refence for your descriptions. You can TAKE SNIPPETS straight from your writing and copy them into the character meta page FOR REFERENCE later.

Things you might include in your character meta pages:

  • Name
  • Character Arch Type Notes
  • Basic Data: age, hair color, physique
  • Character goal/motivation
  • Background story
  • Pictures
  • Reference notes for later
how to flesh out character profiles when using OneNote to write a novel

How to Use OneNote To Outline Your Novel

Keeping up with your outline in OneNote is simple. Make a section named outline.  In this section, you can add pages with notes and tips for writing each ACT of your novel.  Having a space to look back at your notes makes working out your novel outline easy.

Other than notes pages, I keep each copy of my outline as a separate page. As your story progresses your outline progresses.  To keep up with your outline, insert a table on a page.

Things you may want to track in your outline:

  • Scene Number
  • Scene Purpose
  • What part of the Act Map you are working on
  • Scene description
  • Character insight
  • Scene Setting/Location
  • List of characters
  • Notes for later
Organize Your Novel Outline when using onenote to write a book

Setting Up Your Novel in OneNote

Create a section with the title of your novel.  Each page in this section represents a scene in your work. By focusing on writing a scene rather than a chapter, you will be able to move parts around and keep your work organized. 

I do not write directly in OneNote as I do not want to spend hours when I am finished cutting, pasting, and reformatting my work into a word document. Instead, I write each scene in a word document and when finished, insert the scene into the scene page as a printout.  This allows me to flip through the pages for quick reference as well as make notes on the actual document without marking through the original work. 

For example: I wrote a scene that had important character insight I knew I was going to need to reference later in a future scene.  I used the pencil tool in OneNote and circled this part of my work in big red marker.

Things you may want to include on your scene pages:

  • Scene meta data from the outline
  • Word count
  • Important notes for later
how to organize scenes using onenote to write a book

Also, by inserting each scene directly into the page, you can directly access it by opening the document from OneNote.  You don’t have to flip through your files to find the scene you are looking for. It is right there at your fingertips!

OneNote is an awesome program that keeps your writing, writing notes, and outlines organized and easy to reach. It saves time during the writing process to have access to everything you need in one spot.  Writing your novel using OneNote grants you flexibility with structuring your novel right from the start. 

I would love to hear how you use OneNote to write your novel.  Drop me a comment in the comment box below and let me know how OneNote works for you.

Published by Cynthia Brandel

Published author and founder of, Cynthia has captivated the world with her works of fiction including The Sanctorian Series and her latest work, The Revenant City Series. Lover of young adult reads and fantasy reads, Cynthia has transformed her passions into a full-time career.

5 thoughts on “How To Write A Novel Using OneNote

  1. Thank you so much for this. My knowledge on OneNote is fairly limited and this was really helpful.

  2. Good morning, this is an amazing product. I did have a question. How did you get your leftmost bar set the way you did. I love the look of it and would love to set mine up that way but don’t have a ton of experience with onenote.

  3. Not sure if you read my first comment but I realized sub pages have a minimize feature automatically when you use OneNote on Windows 10 as well has the ability to sort alphabetically. I was using OneNote in OneDrive and it was missing these features.

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