OneNote: Get Started

onenote-startedOneNote is a tool of choice for many authors to keep their writing life organized. Get started today with this quick tutorial!

OneNote is a note-taking software offered as part of the Office suite by Microsoft.

The way to think of OneNote is like that large binder you had in grade school. A broad topic is the binder. Subject tabs within that binder divide up sections. And then pages in each tab are where you take the notes.

As an author, you can use OneNote to keep records of things like:

  • 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. CreateSpace 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.

The first thing you need to learn about OneNote, and set up, is how it is organized.

First, OneNote, unlike Word or Excel, doesn’t have you save individual files. It automatically saves anything you enter. It is a system that automatically creates/saves the files for you. So there is no “Save As” mechanism.

Note: OneNote is a Microsoft Office application. The steps to do the below will differ slightly for different versions of MS Office. These instructions are for Windows 8 with Office 365.



Notebooks are listed down the left side of OneNote. Notebooks are like your class binders – you’ll use these for overall topics.

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, some Notebooks ideas include the following:

  • A notebook for each series of books
  • 1 notebook for standalone books
  • Querying
  • Workshops
  • Publishing
  • Social Media/Marketing
  • Ideas/Misc


Sections are the equivalent of tabbed sections within your binder. Use these to breakdown the larger notebook topic into sub-topics. In OneNote, 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


Pages are like the note pages inside 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.

A few tips and tricks:

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

You can drag and drop those areas of notes anywhere you want (very loosey goosey, I know – but you’ll get used to it)

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.

If You Are Using Word or Something Similar: Use a system of Folders and SubFolders for the Notebooks and Sections equivalents and save your notes on individual Word documents.

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