Why I Switched to Scrivener for Blogging

on April 22, 2014 in Blog Management, Writers' Resources
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Scrivener: Surprisingly Simple Blog Organization

A while back I mentioned that I was giving Scrivener a try. My hope was to use that writing software during last year’s NaNoWriMo instead of a standard word processor. That didn’t happen. I was still uncomfortable with the software at the time, and I worried it would slow me down.

I’m still a Scrivener beginner by a long shot, but I’m finally putting it to good use.

You know me. I’m an organization junkie. And that’s where Scrivener shines. It will allow me to organize my writing across multiple blogs, book and e-book manuscripts, e-courses, freelance writing projects, and more.

Today let’s focus on how Scrivener can be used by bloggers. Here are the main reasons I chose to start moving all of my blogging to this software.

Note: All screenshots were taken using Scrivener for Windows. If you use the Mac version things might be different.

Becoming a Better-Organized Blogger

On the surface, Scrivener might seem like overkill for bloggers. Isn’t it for writing book manuscripts?

It is. But Scrivener is actually an awesome tool for any type of writing.

It’s easy for files to become disorganized when you use a traditional word processor like Microsoft Word. That’s because those programs are designed to work in a linear way where you see one document at a time. If you save something with a slightly different title structure or save it to the wrong folder, it can be a hassle to dig it out again.

Not so with Scrivener. When you keep the binder view open (the column on the left), you can easily access all files and folders associated with the project you’re working on.

That’s the best part. If you were writing a novel, your manuscript could be set up as a project and you can save research materials, notes, front matter, chapters, and scenes as different documents. At the same time, you can access them all from one place (and drag and drop them to re-order things easily) instead of digging through your operating system’s file management system every time you want to access something new.


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How does that organizational structure translate to blogging?

What I did was set up a project for Blogs & Websites. I then have folders for each of my active blogs I want to track in Scrivener (as well as a folder for guest posts).

If you only have one blog, that can be your Project instead of a folder. You might then choose to create folders for each month to help you organize posts by date.

At this point I’m not organizing posts by date, but I am organizing by blog. In the case of All Indie Writers I’m also using folders for the three main site sections — freelance writing, indie publishing, and blogging.

Here’s what my Binder view looks like with my current folder breakdown (which I’m still in the process of moving files into).

Scrivener Folders for Blogging

Focusing Less on Formatting (and More on Writing)

Another reason I love the idea of moving all of my blogging to Scrivener is that it allows me to focus on my writing without all of the usual distractions of formatting posts.

Rather than working with a rich text editor, for example, I can use MultiMarkdown for basic formatting to minimize keystrokes and avoid taking my hands off the keyboard.

Think of markdown as simplified code. It’s much easier than writing directly in HTML mode (with fewer chances for errors). For example, here are some of the more common commands you might use when writing blog posts in Scrivener.

MultiMarkdown Examples

# - H1 Header Tags
## - H2 Header Tags
### - H3 Header Tags

**Bold Text**

_Italics_

* Bulleted list item

1. Numbered / ordered list items

[link anchor text](http:/ /LinkURLcom)

I’ve created a simple MultiMarkdown cheat sheet you can print out and use when blogging in Scrivener.

MultiMarkdown cheat sheet preview

download

Scrivener can output your markdown version in clean HTML for easy pasting into WordPress or any other blogging platform. You do this by clicking the compile button, choosing your post document (so you don’t compile the entire group of project files), and using the MultiMarkdown-to-HTML compile option.

Here is what the compile options screen looks like (you might have to click the arrow near the top right to get this full set of compile options to display):

Scrivener Compile Options

Unfortunately using the visual text editor does not result in clean HTML, so markdown is your better option. But you could also try to copy and paste from Scrivener’s document view into the WordPress visual editor — but even that doesn’t work flawlessly for me.

I didn’t think I’d like writing this way, but I love it. It’s so much easier, and so much faster than fiddling with the rich text editor in WordPress (not that I ever should have been writing directly in WordPress to begin with, though I’m guilty of it often).

Any advanced formatting I can do in WordPress during the final pre-publication stage. And by focusing on the core of my writing in Scrivener I can draft posts faster than ever without all of my usual distractions.

Writing Without Distrations

Along those lines, Scrivener has a fantastic distraction-free writing mode. You can even decide how big your writing area should be — the full width of your screen, or a narrower overlay centered on your screen. You can stretch or compress it to be any width you want.

For example, your distraction-free writing area might look like this:

Scrivener distraction free writing mode

Or you can choose to stretch your distraction-free writing area to be truly fullscreen, like this:

Scrivener distraction free writing mode fullscreen

In the first screenshot you might notice that you can still see the background on the sides of the screen. Scrivener also lets you fade the background as much as you want, from leaving it fully visible to fading it out completely.

Scrivener distraction free writing mode faded background

Blog Planning With Corkboard Mode

Scrivener gives you three basic view options:

  • Document view
  • Outline view
  • Corkboard view

Corkboard view is a great way to look at everything in a particular folder and move things around.

For example, this is the corkboard view of the folder for my genealogy blog which has a few drafts saved in it.

scrivener corkboard view

I could drag those around to keep my highest priority post drafts front and center or group them based on blog category, planned publication date, or however I choose to sort posts.

In the end, that’s one of the best things about using Scrivener to organize your blogging. There’s no single right way to do it. It’s incredibly flexible software, and you can organize things in whatever way makes the most sense to you.

Other Things I Love About Scrivener for Blogging

Those are some of the main features that led to my decision to move my blogging to Scrivener. But here are a few additional features that I consider added bonuses:

  • You can set word count goals for each document / post. It keeps track of your word count and progress towards that goal at the bottom of the screen.
  • You can assign a status to each post. You can see examples of this in the corkboard view above where I assigned some random statuses to each post to show you how they display — from ideas and outlines to final drafts that are ready to be published. If you don't like the default status options, you can add your own.
  • You can take notes in the Inspector window which you can display on the right side of the screen (along with a synopsis that would appear on each card in your corkboard view, references, footnotes, and more). This is a great place to include things for your reference even if they shouldn’t show up in the post itself. For example, you might include a meta description.

Like I said, Scrivner’s strength is in its flexibility and the countless ways it can help you be a more organized and more focused blogger. There’s a bit of a learning curve. I still have a lot to learn. And I can’t wait to put it to use with other projects.

My next project to move into Scrivener is my mystery novel draft which will need extensive rewrites as soon as I finish the ending of the first draft (hopefully later today or tomorrow at the latest). I’ll also move my existing picture book manuscripts and short stories into Scrivener projects, and all new drafts will be written there.

Now it’s your turn. Do you use Scrivener? If so, have you used it for blogging? I’m sure plenty of you are far more experienced with it than I am. So tell me, what tips do you have that might help me and other readers get the most out of Scrivener?

If you haven't tried Scrivener yet, you can download a free trial for Mac or Windows.

Thanks for sharing!
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26 Comments

  1. Lewis Faulkner April 22, 2014 Reply

    Hey Jennifer–
    Thanks for the great article on blogging with Scrivener. I monitor all the scrivener blogs on Zite and saw your article. You have actually inspired me to try Multimarkdown with your cheatsheet. I’m new to blogging and was a little afraid of that. I have actually written to some big shot bloggers about it but they never say- as specifically as you do here- how to actually do it. I’ve been using LiveWriter and it sucks. I aleady use Scrivener for writing novels. This is a perfect article on how-to. I saved it to try later and it caused me to also check your article on twitter quotes. Great job! I might just become a fan (ha).
    Lewis Faulkner recently posted…How to Return to a Novel that you Put DownMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern April 22, 2014 Reply

      Thanks for stopping by Lewis. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. If you want to know how to use MultiMarkdown even more, there’s a link in the post you should check out. It points to FletcherPenney.net. There you’ll find a link to an even bigger markdown cheat sheet.

      https://rawgit.com/fletcher/human-markdown-reference/master/index.html

      I just didn’t want it to seem more overwhelming than it needed to be for bloggers who are completely new to it. So I tried to stick to the most basic formatting functions bloggers would need.

      I hope you’ll come back and let us know how it works for you if you give it a try. :)

  2. Amandah April 23, 2014 Reply

    I’m not familiar with Scrivener and will research the product. How does it compare to WordPress? Did you stop using WordPress? Also, what about time management? If you still use WordPress, do you find that you need more time to transfer files from Scrivener to WordPress?

    Thanks!
    Amandah recently posted…How to Be Smarter about Email MarketingMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern April 23, 2014 Reply

      WordPress is still my blog platform of choice and I’m not moving any of my sites off of it. Scrivener isn’t a substitute for that. It’s a substitute for word processors (like Microsoft Word). While I’ve done it more than I’d like to admit, it’s not a good idea to write directly in the WordPress platform. There are several reasons for this, but two would be that writing directly in WP doesn’t leave you with local backups and it can save quite a lot of revisions which can weigh down your database. That’s probably a topic worth its own post (maybe I’ll cover that tomorrow or early next week).

      It doesn’t take more time for me to transfer from Scrivener to WordPress. In part, that’s a result of the writing process being easier using multimarkdown. It allows me to draft a post faster. What can slow things down is the formatting, and that’s all done in WordPress after the fact. Even then, I found the process was a bit more streamlined because I did all of the formatting and image additions together rather than feeling tempted to format as I write, which is what happens to a lot of folks when using a visual editor.

  3. Yo Prinzel April 23, 2014 Reply

    I love Scrivener, but I hadn’t thought to use it for blogging. Definitely a great way to use the program!
    Yo Prinzel recently posted…Quick Tip: Getting Your Self-Published Books into the Right Amazon CategoriesMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern April 23, 2014 Reply

      I didn’t realize you used it regularly. Any tips on making the most of it?

      • Yo Prinzel April 23, 2014 Reply

        Hmmm, I thought we talked about this in email, no? It’s vital (for me) in organizing characters and scenes and the compile feature makes publishing a lot easier than other tools (Calibre, I’m throwin’ my stink eye at you!).
        Yo Prinzel recently posted…Quick Tip: Getting Your Self-Published Books into the Right Amazon CategoriesMy Profile

        • Author
          Jennifer Mattern April 23, 2014 Reply

          If we did, it must have been a while ago because I don’t remember. Maybe I asked you about it before buying it last year. I haven’t moved my fiction over yet, but I’m definitely looking forward to being able to organize by scene and shift things around a bit more easily. The mystery novel’s first revision will be extensive — practically a tear-down. And it needs major work on the organization front. It was a good experience with Word in that it convinced me that wasn’t the way to go anymore at least.

          Thankfully I won’t have to

      • Yo Prinzel April 23, 2014 Reply

        Oh, and the target WC/date tool is fantastic. For non-fiction, it’s got great features for footnotes and stuff. My one complaint is that the Mac and PC versions don’t share files nicely.
        Yo Prinzel recently posted…Quick Tip: Getting Your Self-Published Books into the Right Amazon CategoriesMy Profile

  4. John Soares April 23, 2014 Reply

    Jenn, you made a very good point about writing only in WordPress. It is only saved on the server, not locally.

    I deal with that by pasting a finished post into a Word doc, along with the headline and description. Definitely not an elegant solution.
    John Soares recently posted…Successful Freelance Writers Do These Small Things EarlyMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern April 23, 2014 Reply

      I used to do something similar, but eventually gave up because it became a bit of a hassle. Once I published something I didn’t want to do anything else with it. There are a few other reasons to consider writing outside of WordPress though. I’ll post about that a little later today.

  5. Sharon Hurley Hall
    Sharon Hurley Hall April 23, 2014 Reply

    Great review, Jenn. I’m writing one too, having switched to Scrivener a month ago – it’s a wonderful tool!
    Sharon Hurley Hall recently posted…Writers, Are You Looking After Your Mental Health?My Profile

  6. Ron Russell April 25, 2014 Reply

    Jenn, I am relatively new to Scrivener and have not yet really made the transition. One somewhat newbie question I have is are you using a specific template for your blog writing?

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern April 27, 2014 Reply

      No. I don’t use a template. I just use a blank document and my multimedia cheat sheet when I need it. Each post is different enough that I don’t think a template would help. And the folder setup would be different depending on how you wanted to categorize things. I can try to look into making one if it would help though.

  7. Ron Russell April 28, 2014 Reply

    Thanks Jenn. Making a template is not necessary. I am just trying to understand how others are using Scrivener effectively. Thanks for your help and for sharing this with us.
    Best,
    Ron

  8. Sheila May 25, 2014 Reply

    Thanks for this info, I’ve downloaded the multi-blog template, and thanks to your clear and easy instructions, I’ve added it Scrivener.

    I’ve gotten myself a few blogs now, and it was getting harder to keep up. Now I can get everything essential in one place, and maybe post more often! :D

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern May 25, 2014 Reply

      Fantastic. I’m so happy to hear it Sheila. I hope it does indeed help you organize your blogs and make more time for writing. :)

  9. Jay June 3, 2014 Reply

    Hi Jennifer .. I started using Scrivener for my ebook writing, but now use it for blog planning. Would you be ok if I featured some of your tips about Scrivener for bloggers on my Writers website – I’d include a source credit and a link back to your website. thanks, Jay
    Jay recently posted…Kindle Sales Drives Rankings & CategoriesMy Profile

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern June 3, 2014 Reply

      That depends how much you’d plan to share Jay. For example, I don’t mind you including a short excerpt. But if you plan to republish the whole post or outline all of the tips (essentially taking the full essence of the post), I’d have a bigger problem with that. If there’s a tip or two here you’d like to quote though, go for it. :)

  10. Russell Berg July 8, 2014 Reply

    Nice to see some other use cases for people using this wonderful tool. I too use Scrivener for blogging and for fiction writing. I did a post outlining how I use it at http://seeingberg.com/journal/2013/4/14/scrivener

    • Author
      Jennifer Mattern July 8, 2014 Reply

      I’ll be sure to check that out today Russell. I’m always interested to see how others are using it. I’m still in the process of moving fiction and nonfiction manuscripts over to it, and am playing with and customizing some existing templates. While my template focus has been more on freelance writers (like the recent white paper and case study templates I released here), I’m planning a few down the road for fiction as well. Specifically, I plan to start with a short story template and later share my mystery template when I finish tweaking it. You can find all current ones (and later any others I add) on the Resources page if you’re interested. I’m still pretty new to Scrivener, but I love it so far. :)

  11. Rosie Reast August 8, 2014 Reply

    I lov scrivener for writing my novel. I’d never even thought about using it for blogging. Brilliant idea especially as I have a blog serial that ties in with the main novel. Using scrivener would make things so much easier.
    Can’t wait to try it out.
    Rosie Reast recently posted…“Lamps are going out all over Europe”My Profile

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