Novel Plotting and Planning

How I use Microsoft One Note

Check out the video on my You Tube channel covering One Note

There are countless ways to plot and plan your novel. You can use a notebook, binder or white board if you like physically plotting. You can use any amount of online programs or apps. You can just not plot at all. The right to chose is yours.

My plotting and planning preferences have morphed over the years. From using pen and paper to what I use today – One Note.

When I really started focusing on my writing in 2005, I plotted and planned my novels by using hard cover, spiral bound notebooks. I wrote the story in pencil in the notebook as well as all plotting materials. At the end of the story, it makes kind of a scrapbook. I have these for almost every book I’ve written.

In 2018 I started using Mircosoft Excel and a USB dedicated to my writing to keep all plotting material. I’m just going to say it – I HATE Excel. With a passion. I have to use Excel in my 9-5 and it’s triggered panic attacks. I’m not kidding. But I used it for a brief minute because it was there.

At the end of 2019 I looked into One Note. Like Excel it was included in my Microsoft 365 subscription (I pay $7 a month for access to Word, Excel, One Note, etc). I hated it too. It made no sense to me at first. But I did love the idea of using tabs like in a notebook.

I forced myself to learn it, at least enough to operate it, and it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Once you get the hang of it, it’s easy to use and navigate.

Breakwater Notebook, Amelia Tab, Personal Details Page

Breakwater is a current work in progress and has been for a few years now. It’s original plot structure was in the hated Excel so I moved it all over to One Note. I first used One Note to plot and note another work in progress throughout this Spring and Summer, Cedarwood.

Above, You can see how I created the One Note Notebook entitled Breakwater and added Tabs or Sections; Amelia (I do one tab for each main character), The Town, The Plot, Chapter Summaries and Calendars.

Each tab has it’s own set of Pages and Subpages.

These are outlines that work for me and I love them.

Below, you’ll see The Town Tab with the Inspiration Page open to show some photos that I found.

In the above, you’ll see the Plot Tab opened to the Soundtrack Page. I love keeping track of lists of songs that remind me of the story or the characters I’m working on.

Watch the You Tube video above to see a tutorial on how to set up this Breakwater Notebook and the tabs. This will be the second novel I’ve used One Note to plot and I love it!

Also, a quick add. I’ve also been using an online program called for an extra, added push for plotting and planning. There is a free version and a paid version, so I can only speak to the free version, but it’s pretty cool.

I use it more to just track my daily word counts, but it’s absolutely worth a look. You can set up your goal and each day you input your progress. It gives a little confetti celebration every time you enter progress so that’s pretty cool.

If you’re a plotter or just want an easy place to store notes, ideas or web links I’d suggested getting to know and using One Note. It’s simple and fun, can be personalized and better than Excel. Just my opinion.


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