Are you like me and writing your family history one story at a time as your research discovers it?
I’ve watched my collection of “little stories” grow significantly over the years. Now, it’s a matter of getting all of those stories collected and organized so they can be used to create family history projects to share with my family. This is where writing platforms like Scrivener [Win & Mac – $45] and Ulysses [Mac – $45 & iOS – $20] make my life a lot easier.
Why are they so handy?
First of all, they allow me to collect, arrange and rearrange my stories to suit my needs. I can organize by surname, location, historical periods or whatever method I need for the moment. When that need changes, so does the arrangement – quickly and easily. All I have to do is select a sheet (Cherokee Roses selected in the example above) and drag it to its new location.
If I just need a select few stories for a special project – to commemorate a special anniversary, for example – I can quickly select the stories I want and export them to whatever format I need to complete the project.
A number of my little stories still need work. I use tags to identify the status of each story and my writing platform’s search function will quickly present those stories when I ask for them. In this example, tags show where pictures and reviews are needed. I can also include notes in the attachments panel of a story describing what work still needs to be done.
Both platforms offer options to select, style and export selected stories in a number of formats and styles. If I want to blog a story, I just export it to HTML and paste it into my post editor. I can quickly select several stories and export them to a PDF file to share via email. I can even create ebooks that are ready to publish. If I want a little more design in my project, I can also export to the .DOCX format then open the manuscript in Word or Pages to kick up the design side.
Although not an organizational element, there is one other feature found on both platforms that make them even more useful for family historians. Both support Markdown. That means I am also future-proofing my stories so they won’t get lost in the dustbin of old technology.
Although both Scrivener and Ulysses are very similar, there are some significant differences. For example, Scrivener makes it easy to include research notes and other reference material within a project so I have all that information within easy reach while I write. I can include notes and research in Ulysses, but it takes a bit more effort. Conversely, Ulysses is only available for Mac desktops but it has an impressive mobile app which can be used alone or synched with the desktop version. The mobile app has all the features of the Mac version. Scrivener users can sync content to cloud storage and use third party editors for a mobile solution, however you won’t have access to your organizational and research tools.
It will take a bit of time and effort to adjust from a word-processing mindset to a writing platform, but you’ll quickly find their organizational elements and writing support makes it well worth it. And, watching those little stories grow into impressive family history collections is truly a delight.