Tag Archives: Scrivener

Writing Workflow

Many of us blog to capture the “little stories” our research discovers. As the collection of little stories grows, they can then be repurposed into any number of family history projects. It’s not that difficult to copy/paste text from a blog post into a writing platform where they can be viewed as part of the bigger family history “picture”. It’s not difficult, but it can be tedious.

publishing pane in Byword for iOS

The publishing feature in Byword for iOS

Fortunately there are a number of writing platforms that support publishing to blogs. This allows you to write once and publish to any number of formats whenever you wish. Unfortunately, most of them are Mac/iOS apps.

My favorite workflow uses Byword (Mac – $11.99, iOS – $5.99) to write the article and publish it to my blog. The original article is saved in a Dropbox folder. That Dropbox folder is “attached” to my Ulysses [Mac – $44.99, iPad – $20] apps as an external folder so I have instant access to it whenever I want it.

Ulysses External Folders

Ulysses for Mac showing a blog post saved in an external Dropbox folder.

For Scrivener users (Windows and Mac), Byword makes a very nice mobile platform for Scrivener projects. Scrivener supports Markdown so when you sync to an external cloud drive like Dropbox, you can easily edit them on the road – and publish them to your blog – with Byword.

It’s amazing how quickly our collections of little stories grows. By developing workflows that also copy your posts into a writing platform not only makes it easier to organize and repurpose those stories into any number of family history projects, they also provide a backup of your posts  just in case something terrible happens to your blog.

Building Family History

I’ve been blogging for over ten years and one of the results is that I have a nice little collection of family stories. I had been copy/pasting them into a Scrivener project and taking advantage of its easy reorganization features to use those stories for small family history projects. Recently I’ve been using Byword [Mac – $11.99, iOS – $2.99 plus $2.99 per platform to add publishing capabilities] as my blog editor. I can post from Byword to just about any blog platform and work from just about anywhere.

Writing Workflow

Writing workflow . . . Scrivener to Byword to blog.

Since both Byword and Scrivener support Markdown, it recently dawned on me that I should put Scrivener into the center of my blogging workflow. Once I thought about it, the advantages became quite obvious:

  • I can pull research notes and ephemera into Scrivener where they would be easy to reference while I’m writing.
  • I can write in Markdown. I like this for several reasons. First, it allows me to add basic formatting, hyperlinks and even images to my text without taking my fingers off the keyboard. That may sound a little strange these days, but for an old touch-typist like me it means I don’t break my typing rhythm – or train of thought – just to add a link or some formatting. As any old WordStar typist (a popular word-processing app from the ’80s and ’90s) knows, it makes a difference.
  • Because Scrivener syncs with Byword, I can work on my stories just about anywhere and then publish to any of my blogs with just a few keystrokes using Byword’s publishing feature. Even if I begin a story on Byword, as long as I save it into the appropriate project folder in Dropbox, it will be synched back to Scrivener the next time I open the app.
  • The stories in my Scrivener project continue to grow and at any time I can reorganize my story collection and export selected stories for publishing projects.

Thanks to Scrivener and Byword, I can spend my time researching and writing stories and let my tools handle the posting, organizing and saving chores. The result is a family history collection that continues to grow. Now, when inspiration or family events suggest a publishing project, I have those stories in Scrivener just waiting to be selected, exported and published to meet that project’s goal.

Scrivener Classes

Gwen Hernandez is a romance novelist. She is also a Scrivener expert and the author of Scrivener for Dummies. She just announced some upcoming online classes:

  • Scrivener I: The Basics and Beyond (Mac & Windows), September 8-24
  • Scrivener II: Intermediate and Advanced Concepts (Mac & Windows), October 14-30
  • Scrivener Master Course: Compile (Mac & Windows), December 8-17

The first two classes will cost $25 each with the compile class costing $20. Registration is open now for the first two courses. You’ll find details at Gwen’s Scrivener Training page.

Scrivener for Geneablogging?

Have you considered Scrivener as a blogging tool? For geneabloggers, it becomes not only a workplace for blogging but a local archive for your growing collection of articles which can then be easily repurposed into any number of other publications.

Scrivener workspace

Here you see my Family Stories project in Scrivener opened to a story in the Published folder under the Drafts section. Look down the Binder (sidebar on left) and you see I have set up this project with sections for Graphics, Research and Notes. I’ve been pulling in the family stories I’ve already published on my blog into the Published folder and I’m just beginning to flesh out some new stories in the Draft section so I don’t yet have much in the Research section. I expect that to grow significantly as I work on new stories.

You’ll notice that this story includes images – two actually. You’ll see how Scrivener handles that in a moment.

Scrivener compile panel

Once your story is ready to publish to your blog, click the Compile button in the top toolbar. A panel similar to this one appears. The only thing I want to publish is the one story so that is the only thing checked in the Include column. Since this is going to my blog, I want to compile it in HTML format so I selected Web Page (.html) in the Compile For: drop-down menu. Now all I need to do is click the Compile button.

Finder screen showing files

As you can see, Scrivener has converted the story text to an HTML file and exported my two images into an images folder.

What happens next depends on the blog platform you are using. I’m using WordPress so the first thing I’m going to do is upload my images into the Media section of my blog. Once that’s done, I open the HTML file in a text editor that will support HTML. I’m using Text Wrangler [Mac – free] in this example.

Text editor screen

Scrivener has compiled my article into a complete HTML page, but I only need the “body” so I’ve only selected the story text. Next I copy it and paste it into my post editor screen – using the Text panel, not the Visual panel (a WordPress feature). Then I saved a draft and previewed the post. The imported HTML code doesn’t adjust the links to the images I’ve uploaded to my blog so I need to fix that manually.

Once that’s done and everything checks out, I publish as normal.

If all you want to do is create a post, this Scrivener workflow probably isn’t for you. However, I’ve found the writing effort is much more pleasant in Scrivener – especially with my research and notes within easy reach. And, since I’m also using those blog posts to build other kinds of family history publications, it’s nice to have them all within easy reach. Instead of just selecting one article to publish to my blog, I can just as easily select several to compile into an anniversary booklet or some other family project.

I have this project synching to a Dropbox folder so I can easily write and edit stories on my iPad too using my choice of apps like Byword [iOS – $4.99].

Right now my Family Stories project is organized into working items and published items. As the collection grows, I will reorganize the Binder – both stories and research sections – to make it easier to keep track of what I’ve done and what I want to do. Scrivener makes it easy to reorganize things and gives me a great view of what’s done and what still needs work. The few extra steps it takes to publish an article from Scrivener are more than compensated with all the other advantages Scrivener provides.


A Scrivener/Evernote Collaboration

PDF to ScrivenerI’m in the research stage for an update to my Researcher’s Digital Toolbox book and have been putting Evernote to work to help me capture interesting tidbits I find here and there. I especially appreciate Evernote’s simplified article capture which just gives me the article content minus all the surrounding site design, ads, etc. But, while it makes good sense to capture and organize those notes in Evernote, I’ll want to have many of them in my Scrivener workspace for easy reference as I work on the manuscript.

I discovered that if I have a project open in Scrivener, I can use Evernote’s print note command and choose the PDF option (in my Mac’s print options panel) which then opens a panel of service options  – including PDF to Scrivener. I select that option and that note is dumped right into the Research section of my open Scrivener project.

Love it!

Little Stories

Frohe Ostern

Frohe Ostern – Happy Easter – 1989

Yesterday, while sorting through some of The Family Archive, I stumbled onto this little jewel from our time in Germany. I worked for Boston University’s Overseas Programs which was headquartered at Hammonds Barracks – about halfway between Mannheim and Heidelberg. It’s a decorated egg shell created by the husband one of my co-workers. He made one for each of us in that office. Twenty-five years later, it’s still intact and a treasured memory of those days.

Our family histories are full of little stories. How are you capturing yours?

Blogging is the perfect platform for these little stories. They are easy to create. In my case, many are generated by a bit of ephemera like this egg, a photo or a newspaper clipping. The research needed to fill out the story often doesn’t take long either. Pull together words, photos, maps and anything else you want to use to tell the story and pretty soon you’re done.

The blog – and its readers – don’t mind that you aren’t building your history in perfect chronological order. And, before you know it, those little stories start piling up.

That’s where Scrivener comes in. It dawned on me a while back that while the blog was a great platform to share these little stories, it was a bit tedious to pull a collection of them together for other projects. Scrivener, however, is the perfect tool for this! I have created several Scrivener projects and each of my little stories – along with its associated research – gets added to the appropriate project. And, as that associated research grows, I find I’m often starting a little story in Scrivener then copying it to the blog.

Once in Scrivener, stories can be arranged and rearranged in any number of ways. Use Scrivener’s Compiler to quickly create a story collection to export as a PDF or an ebook you can share with family members. Yes, a photo-heavy manuscript will require additional formatting and layout efforts in other apps, but Scrivener still has much to offer family historians building their history one little story at a time.

Serialize your family history

One of the reasons there are so many geneabloggers is that we have discovered it as the perfect platform for creating and presenting our family history one story at a time. Instead of waiting until I have all my research completed, when I have gathered enough on a person or event, I’ll write that story and publish it on my blog. Should I later find additional information, the article gets updated. I’m always surprised at how quickly those stories start adding up. And, those articles are easily accessible for repurposing into any number of other projects.

My two favorite authoring tools are the Scrivener app and the PressBooks platform. I have family history projects set up on both. When I finish a family history post on Moultrie Journal (my personal blog) that fits with one of these projects, I’ll copy it to both platforms. Although Scrivener is a fabulous authoring workspace, it’s also quite private. PressBooks is online and designed for collaboration. When I publish a section of the project at PressBooks, I can invite family – and anyone else I want – to come, read and comment on it. I get lots of good feedback and I’ll often import those remarks into my research notes on the Scrivener project.

While both platforms will export the finished book to any number of formats, Scrivener gives me more control over the formatting details of the export than PressBooks does.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that my family isn’t as fanatical about family history as I am. Oh, I don’t mean they aren’t interested, but they are busy and many aren’t that tech-savy. So, I need a delivery system that puts these stories in front of them with as little effort on their part as possible.

Fortunately for me, just about everyone in the family has some kind of tablet – most of them iPads. I’ve been working to install the free Documents app from Readdle on their iThings. It is an amazing app that lets them view just about any kind of file – from Office documents to PDFs to photos and even videos. It can annotate and/or edit many kinds of files and connects to just about every cloud storage system to provide a very handy file management system. Thanks to this app I can send documents and PDF files to my family as I create them and they can easily open and enjoy them on their iPads. This serialized storytelling suits us all.

A family history is a living, breathing creature that is constantly changing and always amazing. I enjoy capturing whatever story my research presents me and then incorporating it into the growing patchwork that is my ancestry. Thanks to today’s digital authoring and publishing tools, I can also share those stories in many creative ways.


Taking Scrivener to the Porch

Porch at Cross Creek

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings “office” at Cross Creek.

Last week we paid a visit to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ home at Cross Creek. She wrote her Pulitzer prize-winning novel, The Yearling, and most of her other stories from this table on her porch. Although I’ll never have anything close to her writing talent, I do have a delightful porch and it’s been an enjoyable place to work the last couple of weeks. And, thanks to Scrivener’s Sync with External Folder feature, I can work on my current manuscript on the porch using my iPad. Here’s how.

Although Scrivener provides synching with Simplenote and Index Card for iOS, I’ve found the Byword app [Mac – $9.99 & iOS – $2.99] an easy-to-use editor that “plays” well with Scrivener. Byword offers Dropbox support so I use the Sync with External Folder function to work between the two apps. While Byword is my editor choice, that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to use this feature. Any editor that works with plain or rich text formats should work using this feature.

The initial external folder setup is done via Scrivener. With the project open, I choose the Sync with External Folder command from the File menu. The Sync pane appears.

Scrivener Sync

Here I identify the Dropbox folder I want to use for this book project along with document formatting options. Notice that I’ve chosen to have Scrivener take a snapshot of my project before each sync operation and to sync automatically when a Scrivener project is opened and closed.

The first sync will put all my Draft items in the Dropbox folder I specified. Blank text items in Scrivener become blank documents in the folder. Unfortunately, the pseudo folder/file structure created in Scrivener does not sync with the files. The files are displayed in whatever sorting structure I have set up in my file manager. However, if I had chosen to use the Prefix file names with numbers option, the added number would give me a better sense of the project structure.

By setting the auto option, Scrivener will check the external folder for updated files each time I open the project and synch with the external folder when I close it. I can also do a manual sync at any time using the File > Sync with External Folder Now command.

When setting up Byword to connect to Dropbox, the default location is Dropbox/Apps/Byword. If you want to sync your Scrivener files to a different Dropbox folder, you’ll need to update the Byword settings so you can access them.

I’ve found that if I add a new document in Byword it will sync to my Scrivener project – at the bottom of the current Draft structure. If I delete a document file from the external folder, it will be replaced with the last Scrivener version of that document the next time I sync. To permanently remove an item, I have to remove it from the Scrivener project.

I’m still looking forward to the iPad app for Scrivener so I take all my project files – research, notes and draft – to the porch. Until that time arrives, I’ll take advantage of Scrivener’s sync options and my Byword app to work wherever I am.


Adding Checklists to a Scrivener Project

Building on the idea to include writing and editing support within my Scrivener project, I’ve found a very nice proofreading guide thanks to Indiana University. By saving it as a web archive file, I was able to easily incorporate it into the Style Guide section of my project. For more information on web archive files – and how to use them in Scrivener – see Setting Up a Scrivener Project.


Other sources for proofreading and editing checklists include: