Most of us who write series discover the same dilemma after a while. We can’t remember when So-and-So had a baby or when this or that happened in our fictional world. So, unless you keep a physical notebook with this info, or documents/spreadsheets on your computer, we are bound to make mistakes in our stories that the reader will and do pick out.
Although I’ve only written two books in my series, of which the working title is The Cowboys of Colton, Texas, I’m discovering I’m running into these issues. Because the series premise is based on three cousins who founded the town and county after winning a poker game the year after the Civil War, I
have a ton of back-story that I sprinkle throughout the books. I’ve come up with an extensive family tree with births, deaths and notes of who these people were and how their lives could affect the current modern day generation, which is the one I’m writing about now. All of this things are in Word Docx. I also have a Docx that is a long list of saved links to websites I’ve used.
I also have maps I’ve sketched in a paper notebook. I’ve scanned them into my computer, but they sit
in my Picture file. I have an Excel spreadsheet of characters outlining everything from what books they do or will appear what they look like and whatever else I think I might need later. In my Picture file, I have photos I’ve found that remind me of the character’s physical appearance. I also have Excel based calendars that I use to keep track of the timeline of events in my books. Butterfly covers six months of time, The Hardest Words to Say covers roughly a month, the third book, The Last Wish, will tentatively cover a year.
Right now, I have all this info scattered all over the place. Sure, I have the Docx and spreadsheets saved in one folder, but it still is cumbersome. I can’t easily jump from my family tree to my maps. For a long time now, I wished I could come up with a way to keep all this stuff in one place—a virtual notebook. Then over the weekend, someone clued me in. 2007 Microsoft Office OneNote has several of the same features as some of the other plotting/research software for writhers out there. And it’s already on my computer.
So, I’ve been playing around with it. Because it’s Microsoft, it already has an air of familiarity to it
that Scrivener (www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html), when I tried it, didn’t have, and I quickly became lost in all the bells and whistles. In OneNote, I used the template Work Notebook, which gives me Tabs in which I can create Pages. So far, I set up a series info tab in which I’ve started to transfer the convoluted family tree of the three principle families in the series. Later, I will also copy the scans of my hand drawn maps, the spreadsheets of the character sketches, along with any photos I’ve collected, and any pertinent notes. Then I’ll create tabs for each book, with pages of notes and links that I have for research, along with the calendars for that book. The possibilities are limitless. But what’s exciting is that it’s all in one place. And the best part—OneNote automatically saves!
It’s still new to me, and I’m still on the learning curve, but I know OneNote has a huge potential and
can be used for an impressive array of different purposes. I’ll keep you all posted on my progress. Writers are always looking for ways to make what we do easier in the limited time that we have to do it. Instead of looking at expensive software that may end up not fitting our needs either, why not try out
something most of us, who have 2007 Microsoft Office, have free on our computers.
Until the next time….
Happy writing and reading!