Using scrivener as a blogging tool

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog. Time has just flown by and I can’t even believe that it’s almost october! I do have enough ideas to blog on but finding the time has been difficult. Today we had an ad hoc coffee hour with the Cisco Champions and the conversation was about which tool you use to write as well. Reason for this was of course also that I’ve started to author a CiscoPress book on Intent-based networking.

I’ve started using Scrivener (from Literature and Latte) to write my blogs in and also my book. It is a cross-platform tool and it works perfectly on my Mac. And although it requires a copy-past of the blog towards my blog site, it also allows me to save a copy of all the blogs I write in one place in case the server goes down. 

Written for writing

Of course, every text editor is designed for writing. But Scrivener is really different. The whole interface is setup to allow you to write and organise text. And they’ve done a great job at it. The key element in the user interface is called Text, and it is literally a block or white space in whic you will write your text. In the sidebar on the left you can name your block of text and then can organize it into folders, texts, sections of texts, etcetera

If you want to move text around, you can just drag & drop that block of text to a different folder or another place. It makes the creative process of outlining your blog, book or recipies so much easier

Status & Labels

Each text block or folder can have its own status and label. There are some default values but you can easily change them. Then if you enable the option “Use label color in -> Binder” then the color of that label is shown in your folder structure. I’ve used the labels and colors to create a quick overview in my book to see the progress of the book. At the beginning of writing a chapter, I set the label to “TODO” and once a block of text is finished, I move it to label “First draft”. The color is changed and I can see how much progress I’ve made during the time that I’m writing. It gives satisfaction that during the day more and more sections become green.

No headings

It might sound strange, but there are no (direct) headings in Scrivener. So how then is your book or blog organised? Well, the folder structure itself is your structure and if you add a special text block called contents, then on that page the table of contents will be generated based on the folder structure and the section type that you’ve labeled. Based on those settings the proper styling, page breaks, table of content generation is made during compile time. So no need to worry about layouting and keeping the same style.. That is done by Scrivener in the compile process. You can really focus on the writing itself.

Features

There are quite a lof of other features like word count, but also project progress statistics and other things that can help. If I for example click on a folder (chapter) I can use the grid-view to organize, but the page-view mode to proofread the full chapter and see where something might need some adoption. And oh, there is also a full-screen-remove-attention-triggers mode that allows you to just focus on the writing. I haven’t used it much myself, but I do see the value for some occassions.

My blog project

I’ve based my blog project inside Scrivener on a template that I found on the Internet. It is an adoption that works for me and I’d like to share it with you. 

In my work method I basically have three folders

Ideas

As soon as I have an idea for a blog post, I quickly create a text block inside this folder, give it a title and a brief description on what the blog post should contain

Drafts

Once I start writing a new blog post, I create the blog post itself as a folder inside drafts. Why as a folder? That is easy. If the blog post is long, I can move the sections of a blog easily back and forth if it needs to. Remember that each text block is in essence a section, so if I need to reorder it, this is just made easy.

Archive

This is where I keep my finished blog posts. I’ve organised my archive folder with a hierarchy of year – month – blogpost. So under archive there’s a folder 2018 with subfolders for each month that I published a blog post and then the blog post itself is under that month. This post for example is now found under 2018 -> September -> Using scrivener as a blog post.

With this folder structure I am very flexible in writing my blogs and managing it in a proper state. I can drag-and-drop images into my sections easily for the screen material inside the blog as well.

Attention points

Although I am very enthousiastic about Scrivener, there are also some drawbacks or things that I haven’t figured out yet. One of them is cross-referencing them. As there is no direct concept of parts, chapters and headings, it is kinda difficult to reference in your text to another text. Perhaps I can link to that with a number or a link, but I haven’t figured it out yet. Another item of attention is the compile process. Once you have your book, movie script or manuscript finished, you can compile the project. And at that stage all the pieces come together, in there you can you match your section types with specific layout styles and create an export to epub, MS Word, HTML, PDF and some other formats. The compile itself is easy, but there is a lot that you can tune, adopt and change over there. And figuring that out with heading numbering, referencing, etc is a bit challenging and I do need some time to dig more into it. But as my book progresses, I will most definitly learn more on it.

In summary, I’ve started using Scrivener for all sorts of processes that require writing. I really like the easiness of restructuring your document and that only at compile-time certain values are generated and set. I’m using plain-old copy-paste for my blog posts, but it really is easy to put in diagrams and move the blog from draft to my published archive. For me, it is a great tool to be used for anything that you need to write something down, whether it is a blog, a book or a report. And there’s probably a reviewing mode and possibly collaboration with other scrivener users, but that is worth some research, try-and-error and possibly a new blog post..

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