This started out as a response to a conversation about outlines in a writing forum I belong to. But it grew too large to post in just one message, so I decided to make it a blog post instead. I have been slacking on the blogging anyway…
When I write, I usually start out free-form. But once I have a general idea of the story down, bare bones, I force it into an outline for my own sanity. I need order. And I am really only talking about novels, shorts I can do without this method.
Recently I have started using MS OneNote to do this. I know I am not even using all the functionality that this program offers, but in general I start a tabbed section for the WIP and then create some tabs for scenes to start. I also create some tabs just for misc. snippets of stuff I want to use later but don’t necessarily have scenes created for yet. (I put these tabs at the bottom of the list though, so they don’t distract me until I need to refer to them.)
I also usually create a few tabs specifically to store snippets of research info I have grabbed off the net. Then I label them by topic like “eating disorders”, “mental illness”, “pregnancy”–stuff like that. I also keep these tabs toward the bottom so they don’t interfere with the scene tabs.
For the scene tabs I name each tab with a brief description of what the scene entails, such as “Sarah Moves In” or “Jared Announces Plans” etc. Then I just start writing out ideas as they come and put them under the appropriate tab.
All the tabs are lined up to the right of whatever page I am currently working on, so I can see all the headings of the scenes as I write. I can glance over to the right at anytime and see where I was, where I am and where I am headed with the story. It keeps me in the flow. As the scenes grow, I eventually make an overarching tab that becomes the “Chapter”. Then the scene tabs become sub tabs of the Chapter tab.
I used to use physical index cards before this, and I still do sometimes, but this way is more organized for me since I can flip over tabs and through scenes just by moving my cursor.
Bonus–you don’t have to stop and save your work either. OneNote is constantly saving. I have NEVER lost anything from not saving (though maybe I just jinxed myself).
Anyway, this tabbed method is nice because I can see all the scenes and chapters in a row and can arrange and rearrange to my heart’s content just by pointing, clicking on the tab and moving it with my mouse.
Later, after I have a good layout of chapters and scenes that I am relatively happy with, I copy and paste the whole notebook into WORD. It transfers the tab titles too, as if they were chapter headings. It looks pretty cool when it is imported there. Then I work within WORD after this, but not until I am ready for round one of revisions/edits.
Side topic: OneNote is also cool because you can grab snippets of research info off the web by copying/pasting. Then when you paste it in the program it automatically pastes the url from where you got the info from. So if you ever want to go back to that site and read more or refresh your memory about why that source was good, you just click on the hyperlink and it takes you there. This has helped me keep my “Favorites” side bar to a minimum. Before this I would bookmark everything on the web and then my “favorites” grew so large it was impossible for me to sort through them when I wanted to revisit something.
Does anyone else use OneNote? For this purpose or otherwise? What do you like about it or not like about it?