Make Your Workshop Notes Work for You

Workshop-NotesWho loves to take workshops? *Raising hand and waving it around!*

Who has random notes on paper that either get stuck in a desk and never looked at or thrown away? Who took notes on a computer but never accessed them or used the again?

How about we make what we learn from those workshops easily accessible and useful?

By taking the below steps you will maximize what you get out of each workshop because you are immediately incorporating it into your daily use. In addition, you’ll have those notes already organized and summarized with easy Search capabilities to quickly locate information.


Step 1: Where We Take Notes

Step number one is to bring a computer with you to every workshop, every time. You will rarely get a spare moment to transfer all those hand-written notes to your computer. Taking notes directly into your computer has the following benefits.

  • Saves you time transferring/makes sure your notes make it in to your computer
  • Mobile and more easily accessible from anywhere
  • Notes become searchable = more useful

*If you are a non-computer person (I know many authors who still prefer to hand-write), consider making a binder to hold your notes similar to how we set up Notebooks/Sections/Pages in OneNote.


Step 2: How We Take Notes

I’m going to use OneNote as my example. I use OneNote because it keeps my notes in one place (rather than opening multiple files) and is easily searchable. However this method can also apply to other note-taking apps/software as well as Word.

  1. Create a Notebook called “Workshops” (if you don’t frequent workshops often, then your workshop notes could be a Section in another notebook like “Writing”)
  2. Create a new Section for each workshop you take
  3. Create Pages for each topic in that workshop
  4. Type your notes directly on the pages


Step 3: Always Summarize & Follow Up

businessThe next step in taking your workshop notes is to summarize. You’ll want to do this immediately after finishing the class, while the material is still fresh in your mind. A summary can take several forms:

  1. Create a Page in that workshop Section with a summary of the information that stood out for you
  2. Add to any running “idea lists” or checklists you have in other notebooks/sections of OneNote
  3. Add to any “process” notes you have in other notebooks/sections of OneNote
  4. Favorite the important links or copy them into any link lists in OneNote
  5. Go take any actions that don’t involve notes:
    • Sign up for other suggested workshops you think you’d like
    • Purchase books or materials they suggested that you think you’d find useful
    • Research anything they mentioned (tools, book cover designers, editors, local book stores, you name it)
    • Check out links they mentioned as helpful (save them to your links list if you find them helpful)


Step 4: Create Usable/Repeatable Tools

If you really like a concept from a workshop, try to create a reusable template that you incorporate into each new book project as you start.

For example, after taking a “Save the Cat” workshop, I created a template for my personal use that breaks down the different beats, timing for those, has notes to remind me of important details, etc. I fill that template out for every book now.

If you have a template on that subject, add to it with any details that you feel you want to incorporate into every project you do.

KEY: when you start a new project, check through your lists, templates and the notes summaries to fresh those concept in your mind. You can also do this mid-project when a specific topic applies (like ideas for humor, or ideas to get past writer’s block, etc.). When stuck, reference your notes!


In Conclusion

You’ll be more likely to incorporate what you’ve leaned from your workshops you into your method if you consciously review your notes. Making your notes as easy as possible to review and use will make you more likely to do so.

Best of luck and enjoy those workshop!

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.