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.

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 Freelance Writing 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**


* 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


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.