Talking Up the Tools #2–Microsoft OneNote

Microsoft OneNote
Continuing last week’s Useful Tools discussion, this is number 2 on my lists.

I was fortunate to have OneNote included in my Microsoft Office Suite. Apparently it’s not always, but is available for purchase separately also.OneNote

I discovered OneNote before Scrivener. OneNote is more freeform breainstorming tool and I love it for the way you can stick absolutely anything on the page. Images, links, text. And you can rearrange them however you want. You can have any number of tabs each with any number of separate pages, resizable to your specs, and you can color code them. it’s like spreading your bits of info and pictures and ideas over a large corkboard, with a table in front of you and little drawers and baskets and piles wherever you want them. You can colour code files and tabs at leisure.

On the left you have easy immediate access to every “Notebook” you create–no fishing for files on your computer, and you can change in between them as frequently as you want. Along the top is the “Ribbon” that all Microsoft Office users are all ready acquainted with.

OneNote saves to your computer if you wish but it lives on the SkyDrive Cloud (google) and is therefore accessible to you anywhere there is internet. You can work with your documents on the computer program, or online, or even on a mobile app, (although these two are simplified,) so you can add notes or check them on the fly.

I love OneNote in the preliminaries of an idea, the collecting of bits and bobs that help gradually form a concrete story in my mind. The images seen on the internet, the scribbles I come up with when just about falling asleep, or when I’m commuting. I can write whole documents or snippets. It’s like a giant, easy to use, mind mapping game.


Q & A —This is in answer to someone wondering about OneNote: Okay. The online and app versions are pared down versions. You can still view and edit in them but the main program is part of Microsoft Office.

However not everyone’s Office suite includes OneNote. Fortunately mine did, but I discovered it by accident. When I originally installed Microsoft Office on my PC I did not see any option for One Note.

If you have the Microsoft disc for your suite, you can shove it in the disk drive, poke around and see if you have the option of OneNote there and add it to your installed suite. It can be bought separately off the website, too.   I came across some OneNote reviews online when I first looked into it,  followed directions and found mine like this (I didn’t’ have the disk):

When you normally go to uninstall a program on your computer, in control panel, it just shows the program name and “uninstall” option. When you do this to a program suite like Microsoft, and click uninstall another window pops up that says Uninstall, Repair or Modify. When you click modify it gives various options to uninstall portions of your choice, or add an install. This is where I found the option to install OneNote; I ran the install and voila.

Not 100% straight forward, but it worked.

VastI footer…writes for under 18’s & is currently torturing her first complete manuscript with revision. She encourages all writers thus:

To know is nothing at all. To imagine is everything” -Anatole France

Writing Truth, Even in Fiction

My senior year in high school I learned a valuable writing lesson, maybe the most valuable I’ve ever learned.

I worked tirelessly over my junior high and high school career to earn good grades, so when I applied to universities, the acceptance letters high school2rolled in. However, I also found myself in the situation many kids find themselves in—a college fund of zero. My decision would come down to money. One of the universities held a yearly essay contest promising a $10,000 per year scholarship to the winner. Of course, I signed up.

Essay centers were set up across the nation. The closest one for me: Seattle, a four hour drive from my home.

I settled into a hotel conference room, all mauve and brass and vinyl padded chairs, pencils sharpened and ready to write my heart out along with a room full of fellow hopefuls.

They kept the topic a secret. There was no way to prepare for the essay, though, I’d kept an eye on current events just in case they wanted us to engage one of them.high school4

A supervisor handed out booklets and then went to the front to write the essay topic on the white board. I hung on each squeak of the marker as it slid over the glossy surface.

With the topic scrawled over the board, the supervisor stepped out of the way and told us to begin.

I read the topic and then read it again. It wasn’t what I’d anticipated. No current events or opinion pieces on hot-button issues. The question took me aback—“What do you hope to do with your education?” I stared at the board, reading the question a few more times while other students’ pencils began scratching the college ruled paper.

I knew precisely the answer I wanted to give, but my answer, I felt certain, would mean losing the contest and the money.

high school3But, should I lie? Tell them what they wanted to hear? I didn’t dare mention it to guidance counsellors who asked what I wanted to do after high school. I didn’t even dare mention it to my parents. I was bright—I was supposed to do something amazing. So I sat there, time ticking, wondering whether I should tell the truth and lose or a lie that might win the contest.

I thought, what if I won with a lie? How could I accept the reward? After minutes that seemed like hours, I picked up my pencil. I had to tell the truth. I wanted to be that kind of person—honest even if the cost was high. It became more about who I was than about the money. So, I wrote an honest essay and walked out the door, my head high, but knowing I’d hooped the contest. I’d have to find another way to pay for my education.

I returned home and put the contest out of my mind. I’d lost, but I was at peace with it.

Weeks later, a letter came in the mail. I couldn’t believe it. I’d won!

What I learned was to always be honest in my writing, always tell the truth. And what is the truth to me when I’m writing fiction? It’s not following the trends, it’s writing what’s on my heart to write. It’s writing those things, popular or not, that keep me up at night and distracted while driving down the highway. It’s writing those characters that call to me from the dark corners of my mind. It’s writing what I need to write whether it’s marketable or not. At the end of the day, I have the satisfaction of knowing that truth won out, against money, perceptions, and popularity. And as a writer, my integrity is more important to me than selling a manuscript.


Melinda Friesen authored Enslavement, a young adult dystopian novel, released by Rebelight Publishing. When she’s not writing, Melinda works as marketing director and acquisitions editor at Rebelight Publishing Inc.

Dancing Between Censorship and Free Expression

untitledWhile in Phoenix, I visited the Burton Barr Central Library to view an exhibit called State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda.  Against a backdrop of historical film footage, posters and photographs, the exhibit explores what propaganda means and how Hitler and the Nazis used it to shape opinion, seed ideas, and generate hatred.

At a time when Germany was in the throes of economic and political turmoil, Hitler promised prosperity and security.  He skillfully milked the fears of the German people by targeting Jews, Communists and other groups as the source of their problems, often employing words and images that on the surface appeared benign or even positive.

As a writer, presenter and teacher, two segments of the exhibit were particularly striking to me.  One sequence of photographs showed Hitler practicing ‘stage presence’.  Every hand gesture, glare, and intonation of his voice was carefully scripted for maximum impact.  Knowing the destruction that Hitler caused, it was chilling to see photos of him honing his manipulation skills in such a calculating manner.

book_burning_zps7a4bb16dAnother striking moment came when I viewed film footage from May 1933.  That month, in most university towns, nationalist students marched in torchlight parades and threw pillaged books – many by Jewish writers – into bonfires.  In Berlin, some 40,000 people participated, led by Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, who addressed the crowd with a carefully crafted speech:  “No to decadence and moral corruption. Yes to decency and morality in family and state….And thus you do well in this midnight hour to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past.”

In these two segments, I saw the two arms of Nazi propaganda at work.  One, the manipulation of facts and images. The other, the stifling of free speech. One advanced Hitler’s twisted ideas; the other ensured that those ideas went unchallenged.

Most democratic countries have laws that protect freedom of expression.  Most, too, have laws that prohibit the purposeful skewing of facts, particularly when these denigrate groups and encourage hatred.  Admittedly, it can be a slippery slope keeping a balance between the two.

freedom to readIn Canada, during February’s Freedom to Read Week, we acknowledge the power of words, the freedoms of expression that we cherish, and the system of checks and balances that safeguard them.  The Freedom to Read website lists activities being held around the country in libraries, schools, and public spaces. Also on the website is a list of ‘challenged’ books – books that have been questioned for their content and ideas.  Each challenge sought to limit public access.  Some challenges were upheld, others rejected.  In any case, the list reminds us of the delicate dance between censorship and free expression.

censorship buttonMany children’s books are on the list and I recognized a number of titles.  I was often surprised by the objections raised by adult readers and sometimes entire interest groups.  Material I might have unquestioningly supported was offensive to others.

None of my books appear on the list, but perhaps this is due to the wise counsel of my editors.  At times, editors have cautioned me about some potentially controversial aspect of my writing, usually with words similar to “this might be more appropriate for an older group.”  Case in point was the story about the Peruvian plane crash of years ago where survivors cannibalized the dead to stave off starvation.  Somehow I thought that would be an interesting read.  “No, not under any circumstances,” my editor told me.  Thank goodness for her level head.

Here is a small sample of children’s books that have been challenged in the past decade or two.  To fully appreciate the depth and swath of the list as well as the decisions reached by the review committee, I would invite you to visit the website yourself.

a little piece of groundA Little Piece of Ground by Elizabeth Laird

Novel about a 12-year-old Palestinian boy living in an Israeli-occupied area.  Challenged by a Canadian bookseller as “a racist, inflammatory, and a totally one-sided piece of propaganda.” 2003

Asha's MumsAsha’s Mums by Rosamund Elwin and Michele Paulse

A children’s story book that depicts same-sex parents.  Challenged by school trustees for its questionable family values.  1997

the waiting dogThe Waiting Dog by Carolyn Beck and Andrea Beck

Children’s book about a dog anxiously waiting for the mail to be delivered to his home.  Challenged by an Ontario parent who objected to depictions of violence and said the work was age inappropriate. 2006

maxine's treeMaxine’s Tree by Diane Leger

Children’s book which tells the story of a girl who tries to protect a tree in B.C.’s rainforest.  Challenged by an official of the woodworker’s trade union in B.C. for its anti-logging viewpoint. 1992

no place for meNo Place for Me by Barthe DeClements

Young adult novel about a young girl dealing with her parents’ divorce. Challenged by a parent who said the book promoted the Wicca religion.  1995

harry potterThe Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

Popular children’s book series.  Objection from a Newfoundland parent for its depiction of wizardry and magic. 2000

Related websites: 

State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda

Freedom to Read

Other posts you might enjoy:

The Ethics of Writing for Children & Teens

Hot Topics Made Palatable for Kids

Nothing But the Truth

Larry Verstraete ( is a former teacher and the author of 13 non-fiction books for youngsters.  Science, history and true adventure are his favourite subjects.  His version of nirvana is writing about a topic that combines all three.

For Larry Verstraete, an award-winning author of books for young people, writing is all about the journey and often the perfect writing storm occurs when high adventure, science and history converge. An advocate for literacy, Larry often visits schools and libraries to share his passion.

It May Sound Like It Was Easy But It Probably Wasn’t

the-light-between-oceansLast month I read  M.L. Stedman’s book The Light Between Oceans. The short biographies I found for Stedman said she was a London lawyer who got an idea for a book one day and sat down at her computer and started to write a novel.  The first agent she showed it to thought it had potential and before you know it…….. the manuscript was bought by publishing houses around the world, her book was on the best seller lists, Stedman had won a half dozen awards and Dream Works had scooped up the movie rights. 

Could it really be that easy?  An older woman simply decides to write her first novel and becomes an overnight success?  I decided to investigate further. I discovered that after getting the idea for her novel Margot Stedman hired a private writing coach to help her learn to write fiction. Her income as a lawyer made it possible for her to go on creative writing holidays and she studied fiction writing by taking courses at the University of London and eventually became a part time writing student there. 

Dutch translation of The Light Between Oceans
Dutch translation of The Light Between Oceans

She spent months crafting her initial idea first as a short story and made trips to Australia to do extensive research. She put in long days of writing holed up at the British Library and says concoting her novel took a great deal of “‘rolling the pastry, this way and that.” She first got the idea for The Light Between Oceans in 1997. Getting it into print was a 14 year process. 

When you hear fantastic tales about new authors who have become overnight successes you can be fairly sure there is more to the story.  Success in the writing world is almost always the product of hard work, education and a substantial investment of time and money. 

If you enjoyed this post you might also like……

Why You Should Read The Light Between Oceans

Wrote Children’s Books

A Writer’s Association- Get Connected

MaryLou Driedger is just beginning to write fiction and non-fiction for children after working as a teacher, newspaper columnist and free-lance journalist for thirty years. She also blogs at What Next?

MaryLou Driedger is a free lance writer with a long career as a newspaper columnist, curriculum writer and contributor to lifestyle, education and religious publications.

Talking Up the Tools #1–Scrivener

Anyone seriously pursuing a writing career discovers that you can spend 127 % of your time on reading stuff like this blog and this post, on the craft of writing, the do’s, the don’ts, the tips, the tricks, the business thereof, how to tickle the publishers the right way, the rules, how to break the rules, this works, that doesn’t, et ceterata, infinitus & ad nauseum.

A great whopping of it is tremendous stuff, but it’s tricky to know what to spend time on and still leave yourself enough time to write, and a few snippets of time to grab a bite, a coffee, and let’s face it, wee-wee breaks. All this with a minimum of insanity broiling the brain. Gotta keep the Black Hole’s at bay. There’s already too many writers up there.

Information Overload=Black hole Implosions

I won’t tell you how to manage your time balance. (There’s websites out there for that too.) But I will tell you my favourite tools for getting the jobs done that save time in the long haul.


I’ve always been a pen and paper first draft writer. And then type it up for revisions. It just feels right to me.

But I recently bought a program because somehow, by doing some major edits in my recent manuscript, I tangled the whole third quarter section of it up. I printed it out spread it over my large dining room table, shuffled, snorted, sorted it through by chapter,  by section, it still wasn’t right. I just couldn’t get my head around it. I had heard of Scrivener and what it can do and just thought, maybe that’s the Doctor I need right now.

I downloaded the trial and started on it. I was hooked in a week, didn’t even wait for the trial to expire, and bought it. Only $40 dollars for my story’s prescription. The revision still took a lot of elbow grease and get wrenches, but it was no longer overwhelming.

Scrivener is a powerhouse for writers. I imported my whole novel into it from Microsoft Word, and using previous page breaks, set each scene on its own page and index card with one right click. I noted, then discarded chapters divides, split my scenes into more scenes where necessary and voila–I could see much better where I was at.

I can view each scene with a summary on the cork board view. I can see each scene fully in full edit mode. I can scroll through all the scenes in order like a complete manuscript and check for flow and word count. I can work on my story in so many forms all within the same document. And if I need to print the whole manuscript, Scrivener will compile it and print all as a unit. It can also reeconvert it to  Microsoft file for final clean-up and submission.scrivener-screenshot-690x430

There are bonus features. Without creating a new document, you can create character sketches with images, you can store images for scenes, you can keep point form notes, and you can store research notes and website links all together in any order you want. When you go to compile your manuscript, these files are not included unless you so specify, so your ms stays clean. I have the windows version and it’s great. You Mac users are fortunate because you version has yet more little features for a great writing/ creating experiences.

There are some templates available for manuscripts and script writing and others. What’s not to love? ♥

So far I have had to keep picture files and excel files and video files and Internet bookmarks and Word documents all in separate places on my computer. Scrivener brings it all together.

And it auto saves, with easily accessible backups. What more to say? I am sold on this one.

VastI footer…writes for under 18’s & is currently torturing her first complete manuscript with revision. She encourages all writers thus:

To know is nothing at all. To imagine is everything” -Anatole France

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