Writing: Scrivener as a complete Blogging System

About a month after I used Scrivener to finally finish a novel I started years ago, I got the idea of trying to use it as not only a staging area for posts here on my blog, but also as an infrastructure and archive of it as well. My system is admittedly quite basic, but I thought I would share it as it’s become critical and amazingly helpful since I’ve set it up. I figured the more basic it is now, the easier it would be for you all to adopt; modifying it to fit your needs.

Here goes…

Each Project is a Year

Project Year

Start a new project in Scrivener (File > New Project or shift-command-N on the Mac), choose a project template (whatever you are used to), and change the title to the year you are writing in. I originally thought I would call it “Posts” but, for me anyways, it quickly became too unwieldy and chaotic. I wanted this system to be simple yet powerful, not muddied with years of content.

Each Month is a Folder

Folder Month

I chose to break my posts into months but it would be just as easy to make each folder a site topic or category. I personally like months because I can generally remember about when chronologically I wrote a post. Also, if I search my blog and find it, it makes the post that much easier to find in my Scrivener project.

This is also a great opportunity to shift to corkboard view and add notes to each month so that you can either see what you wrote about at a glance, or maybe attach a note about a life event that occurred that effected your writing at the time. It’s up to you (obviously). Sometimes I don’t add anything, but I am glad I have the option when I do.

Believe it or not, this is the core structure of my blog writing system in Scrivener – a project is a year, a month is a folder.  Once this is set up, open the month you are currently in and create a new document.

Each Document is a Post

Document Posts

Here’s where your writing comes in. You can keep it simple and write the entirety of your post, save it, and then copy and paste the text into your blog of choice. Or you also have the opportunity to leverage Scrivener to its fullest! A lot of folks use Scrivener for short and long form writing and they should, there’s nothing out there that is better for that. But one of Scrivener’s secret weapons is its ability to export MultiMarkDown into clean and precise html. Which is perfect for a blog’s built-in text editor.

If you are familiar with markdown syntax, it’s a huge shortcut for exporting your writing easily into perfectly formatted html code (what your browser reads and translates into a web page). If you are interested in learning it, you can find everything you need to know right here. The learning curve is far from steep and it could save you a ton of time going forward.

*UPDATE* 09/27/13 – If you are interested in getting Scrivener setup to export MMD markup, I posted a companion piece to this post walking your through how to do so.  You’ll find it right here.

Markdown Export

Of course if you are not into learning that kind of stuff, that’s cool too. You don’t have to. A lot of blogging platforms handle copy and pasting text from word processors into their WYSIWYG editors quite well now, parsing your pasted text into HTML the best that it can. Still, the clean code that Markdown generates eliminates a lot of guess-work (and potential html clean up when a blog editor translates your text incorrectly) and I am immensely grateful that the kind folks at Literature and Latte had the foresight to see a need for it from their customers.

Ok, enough about my love of markdown! There are other tools you can leverage that cater very nicely to blogging. Many of these I am sure you are already familiar with, but I figured I’d hit them anyways.

Word Targets

Word Target

When I blog I like to set a word count target. Generally in Scrivener this is a goal for you to strive for, but with blogging it’s particularly great to know when you should start wrapping things up or stop completely and jump into edit mode. I like to think of it as the warning track on a baseball field giving you a heads up before your run head-long into a wall, or in the case of blogging, becoming too verbose.

Synopsis and Document Notes

Synopsis Notes

I often like to use the coveted right column in Scrivener to add notes, reference external links/topics, or even other posts that this post is linked to on my blog… just about anything else that is useful to you the author, but not necessary for your readership.

It’s a little extra work for you, but helpful at-a-glance down the road.

Corkboard View For Your Posts

corkboard view

This is something that, once you use it, you are always giving yourself a high-five in the future for doing so. I can’t tell you how many times this view in Scrivener has saved me from digging into pages and pages of text to find that one post that I wrote about topic “X”.

On each card, I add the date it was posted and a very brief synopsis. Make it part of your workflow, you will not regret it.

ProTip – if you do utilize Scrivener’s right column and fill out the synopsis field, the cork board view uses that text as the content displayed on the card.

Meta-Data

metadata

I may be getting a little too much “in the weeds” on this one but, I thought I’d throw it out there nonetheless. As you add more and more posts, you may want to consider assigning meta-data or “tags” to the content you produce. This will help organize your content a lot more efficiently and make it all infinitely more searchable in the future.

Start with broad topics and then hone in from there.

Many of you won’t need this, but Scrivener does such a bang-up job of its implementation of it, I thought I’d mention it.

What You End Up With

As with my long-form writing, Scrivener provides me with an one-stop-shop writing platform for my blog. If it could actually export to my blog (WordPress), that would be amazing! But don’t let that tiny quibble keep you from trying this idea out. With a little bit of groundwork applied up front, you get all of your writing organized and searchable, post by post, month by month, year by year.

One last perk? Exporting a project and getting an entire year’s worth of posts in pdf or epub format. Flipping through a retrospective of the last 365 days of your creative life is surprisingly satisfying to view on a tablet or even printed out if you want to feel the literal weight of your work.

Sort of like a yearbook for your blog! Only without the awkward interactions of asking for classmates to sign it. ;)

95 thoughts on “Writing: Scrivener as a complete Blogging System”

  1. This is awesome. I’ve used Scrivener extensively to help organize both my client and personal blogging projects but totally overlooked the MultiMarkdown element. This well really help me streamline. I love that you’ve broken it down to show how you organize it.

    1. Thanks Michelle,

      I totally overlooked it too initially. Now that I know it’s there, I use it constantly. It’s so helpful to have one program that does so much, so well!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Tad

    1. Thanks Leo!

      Yeah, that’s why I kept the structure really basic. It’s easier to apply to your new (or existing) workflows. Tweak it any way you like! I’d be interested in what you end up with!

      Take care and thanks for stopping by,

      Tad

  2. Pingback: Tools | Pearltrees
  3. I switched to a MAC over 2 years ago, in part because I could get Scrivener (no pc version at the time). Since then I have been searching for details for how to use it for blogging. Thanks so much for posting. I now have a clear path to restart my blog.
    Maripat

  4. I tried using Scrivener to corral my blog posts a couple of years ago, but it got too messy. At that stage, I wasn’t using Markdown, as I am now.

    Thaddeus, your year per project and then folders for months system is pure genius. So simple! It eliminates the messiness, and tags make it easier to create collections of topics. And Scrivener converts Markdown to HTML.

    I love the thought of being able to compile a month or two’s worth of posts as PDF too.

    Thanks for the great ideas. I’ll definitely be using them. As I said, genius. :-)

    1. Thanks Angela!

      Yeah, I started out pretty complex myself and quickly scaled back. With a basic structure, it’s just easier to gather it all together and stay organized. Markdown support was what pushed it over the top for me though. I use it almost everyday.

      Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by!

      Tad

  5. Great post!

    Depending on whether or not you have a self-hosted WordPress, you may be able to import from markdown into WordPress. There are, however, other blogging platforms, like Jekyll ( http://jekyllrb.com/ ) that are built to use markdown files natively.

    Another option might be to ask the Scrivener developers for a new feature to post to WordPress and/or other blogs. With Mars Edit and ByWord doing as well as they do, I’m sure this feature would make an excellent selling point for their Scrivener!

    1. Thanks Dylan!

      Yeah there are a good amount of apps out there that can export directly into WordPress that support Markdown and they work great. My main aim of this was to find the best way to incorporate Scrivener into that workflow since it’s my most preferred text editor. But your are right, it’s awesome how many good alternatives are out there to choose from.

      I’d love if Scrivener had native hooks into WP and the other blogging platforms out there! We can always hope! :)

      Thanks for coming by and for the recommendations!

      Best,

      Tad

  6. This is great! I’m getting ready to start my blog and already use Scrivener. Talk about wonderful timing. Thanks to you, I can begin my process in a logical way without having to backtrack. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Thanks, Thaddeus. I’ve been using Scrivener to write blogs recently. My system is far less robust and organized than yours. I’m going to adopt your methods.

    1. Thanks Sharon!

      You should absolutely give Scrivener a try (they have a generous free trial). It’ll change the way you write. I can almost guarantee it ! ;)

      Have fun!

      Tad

  8. Nice post. Btw for those not eager to learn the ways of MultiMarkdown, Scrivener has a “Copy as HTML” option, which picks up your formatted text in Scriv and drops it down as HTML-coded text wherever you like. I find this faster than compiling etc, but that’s because my blogging platform lets me paste HTML into a box.

    1. Absolutely. Dropbox, Google Drive, etc… all are options and very smart places to back up your Scrivener projects. It should also be noted that Scrivener can back up your project as well. Thanks for the additional and important tip Anne! :)

  9. Funny, I’m coming from the opposite end. I use Markdown in text files, and then use git to manage the revisions and deployment. I think I’ll use Scrivener to manage the Markdown and export, but still use git to manage the revisions of html and deployment to my blog.

    I’ve detailed my process here at http://flagrantsystemerror.com/git-sync-ec2.html. It’s for a technical audience, but other links within that article detail how to use git in a simpler fashion.

    1. Thanks for the comment/link Jay! Yeah, this came more from the stand point of wrangling content regardless of the platform your web site was built on. But it’s always interesting (for me anyways) to see how other people are rolling their own sites and the systems they for getting their content online for us all to see! A lot of folks I know have taken the same or similar route you are taking nowadays for versioning. Thanks again for sharing!

      Cheers,

      Tad

  10. Great post! I use Scrivener for Linux. Love it. I think it’s based on the Windows version. I actually started a LibreOffice spreadsheet to manage my writing projects before realising I should have used Scrivener. *Face palm* I have a sheet each for my novels, short stories, articles for an organisation I volunteer for, blog posts, etc. Each sheet has columns for Title, location, link to .doc file (for older ones) or Scrivener project for the newer projects. I’m sure a similar system could be applied with Scrivener folders. I’ll have to have a shot at porting them all over, I think. I find the Scrivener’s meta data support really handy.

  11. I love the idea of using Scrivener and MultiMarkDown for writing my posts. Do you know if it’s possible to embed images so that they are displayed within the Scrivener draft? That would be really great.

    1. Hi Alexandra,

      Sorry for replying so late. Was out of town for a good bit and just got back. In reference to your question, because Scrivener is just a text editor and doesn’t have an actual MMD preview pane there is no real way to see you MMD-coded images inline in your Scrivener document. Maybe they will add one in the future?

      You can of course drag and drop images into you scrivener document (as always), but that won’t translate into the MMD after you export it.

      I agree, that would be quite nice!

      Thanks for stopping by!

      Tad

      1. Thanks for getting back to me Tad. Until the Scrivener people implement that sort of functionality I think I will just create a folder outside of Scrivener that wild hold my images and then just reference them using MMD.

        I also love the tip concerning the word targets. Have set it up it right away :-)

        1. Agreed! For me, word counts are SO good for time management. If I have ample time to write, I find it’s way better to set a word limit than say… a timer app for when to stop. It’s kind of a nice in-between stop gap for healthy breaks from the the computer screen.

          Thanks again for stopping Alexandra. Hope the rest of your day goes well!

          1. Check out Marked.app as a markdown previewer that works with Scrivener. I just purchased Scrivener, but getting the preview to work was fairly simple. The markdown paths to the images need to have full paths (either local or online) to work in both scrivener and Marked.app

  12. Great post. I also use Scrivener for blogging. One questions – how do you preview your Markdown in Scrivener?
    I’ve tried using Marked by Brett Terpstra, but it shows me everything in the Drafts folder, not just the document I’m working on. Was curious if you have any suggestions.

    thanks!

    1. Hey there, excellent question. Honestly? I am a web developer for my day job so reading markdown and knowing/trusting what it will display is part of my job. But when I need to get a live preview, I use WP’s preview option, or a text editor like Mou (Mac only) that has a live preview pane as you type/export.

  13. I probably came to this post a little late, but it’s about the only one I’ve found that solved this problem for me. Truthfully, I tried to set my stuff up in Scrivener and got very frustrated with it (Windows version) because it kept taking so long to save when I got through. Then, I found an article that said to turn off the save-every-second thing and it works fine. When I saw that Livewriter would probably be going away, I started rethinking how to save my blog posts. This was a very pragmatic article that helped me quite a bit. Thanks!

    1. Thanks for the kind words and for stopping by! I am glad you found my approach useful!

      Thanks also for bringing up the fix for Scrivener on Windows, I couldn’t imagine using it at all if it ran slowly. I always marvel at how fast it runs on the Mac. I’d be curious to hear how it runs on Linux.

      Cheers!

      Tad

    1. Hey Joanna,

      You’re quite welcome! Good luck with your discoveries while diving into Scrivener! As I’ve mentioned several times already, to this day I keep finding new and useful stuff in this glorious app. I am pretty sure you will too!

      Thanks for stopping by and I am glad you found my post useful!

      Best,

      Tad

  14. I’m glad I’m not the only using Scrivener as my blogging platform. I use a similar system to organise posts, except mine are grouped into categories. Thanks for the tip on MulttiMarkdown, I shall be investigating it in the next few days. But what I do at the moment is use a template that has some HTML coding already in place (such as tags on so on), so all I need to do is fill in the text between the tags. Then I cut and past into WordPress using the Text option.

    1. Hey thanks for stopping by and sharing your Scrivener/blogging workflow!

      I like Markdown mostly because I like the dynamic nature of it. I can write whatever I want in whatever structure fits the piece and then export it to clean html without a fear of (my) eventual sloppy coding.

      If your blog posts follow a certain and consistent structure from post to post, the use of a template is definitely a wise time-saver.

      Again, thanks for sharing this with everyone!

      Cheers!

      Tad

    1. Hey Miles! Just this week I wrote a companion piece to this post that documents setting Scrivener up to export MMD and my process for getting the exported code into my posts. Click here if you missed it in the ” *UPDATE* ” above.

      Spoiler: In most cases I just copy and paste the exported code into the editor in WordPress. But there are some markdown tools you can install that allow you to highlight md code, translate it to html on the fly and place it on your clipboard. Pretty handy stuff! I love and get a lot of mileage out of Brett Terpstra’s “Markdown Service Tools” but it’s Mac only, so it can’t help everyone unfortunately.

  15. I am about half-way through the software-assembly-and-testing phase of my latest blogging iteration. I am an old hand at WP, but am tired of the overkill of it. I also have been using .scriv for several years now for long-form essay-writing as well as on one of my blogs.. all the data is created in .scriv and then copied over to WP and formatted… http://www.snippe.ca … my ‘journal’ of my experiences with *the big C*

    I am in the process of creating a new blog using Pico, a flat-file CMS (no database) which is markdown-enabled. In other words… no html ever (it does the conversion when serving.) I’m actually quite excited about this, as I can ‘serve’ a live version right on my computer, and then synch to the online version via FTP at my convenience. A totally portable blog, allowing off-line creation and a ready-made backup.

    The one frustration I have not yet (easily) overcome is being able to ‘live preview’ my markdown inputs. There is an app called “mark”, but it requires MOSX 10.7, and I am on 6. Ideal, otherwise, as it even hooks into .scriv. There is also ‘FountainPen’, but that isn’t exactly an elegant workflow. If I come across some other way and I remember, I will report back.

    Anyhow… interesting how many bloggers are craving a return to simplicity. Bodes well, I think.

    1. Hey John!

      Thanks for stopping by! Yeah I readily enjoy the new options of afforded to folks nowadays as far as flat file blogging is concerned. If you comb through the back posts you’d see I used a Scriptogr.am site at one point, which utilizes and .md files and Dropbox quite nicely. I only left it because there was a pretty catastrophic outage and I got irritated back into using WP, but I often miss it’s simplicity and function. I’ve also fooled around with Jekkyl but found the set up to overly complicated. That’s awesome that you took it upon yourself to create a new CMS from scratch. Definitely come back and comment when it’s done. I’d love to check it out!

      On the editor front, I use a variety Mac options out there. Marked, Mou and iA Writer, I kind of collect them. Mou’s my favorite though so far when I am writing outside of Scrivener. I wrote post about it here months ago.

      Oh and have you checked out Ghost recently? It’s an interesting new entry in the md blog field. They used Mou as the impetus for the UI/UX push of their WYSIWYG.

      Anyways, I completely agree, this interest in Markdown is an encouraging shift.

      Best,

      Tad

      1. You might want to take a test run on FountainPen… sort of a mini-scriv that does MD. Quite nice, actually, but I won’t be leaving scriv behind for it.

        Ghost? Yes, I d/l’ed and tried real hard to install it. No joy. I’ll probably wait for v 1.0 before I try again (if at all.) Rumors of it’s impending arrival is what got me on this track, tho ;)

  16. I found your site after searching for someone who uses Scrivener to organize their blog posts and various things. I’m wondering if it’d be worth creating a basic “Blogging” Scrivener template to share? I have been toying with the idea but I’m no where near as experienced with Scrivener capabilities as you (or others) seem to be. I may look into it. Anyway. Just wanted to say thanks for the post. It helped me organize my project so that it made a bit more sense.

    1. Hey Jade,

      This is a great idea! I have dabbled in custom Scrivener templates (though, admittedly not all that much) and if I use this structure again next year, I think I will give it a go and create new one to share with everyone. Maybe we can crowdsource it and make it better/more universal!

      Thanks for stopping by AND for the idea,

      Tad

        1. Hey John,

          I believe she’s referring to document templates, in which you set up a structure for document in Scrivener and save that structure so that it can be reused in the future.

          Here’s a to a video tutorial on how to do it from L&L’s own site. It’s pretty handy if you come up with a structure that you like.

    1. You’re welcome Corinne and thanks for the kind words (and stopping by)! I’ve really found the organization methods found in Scrivener as a whole, have made my content (blogging, writing, etc…) that much more streamlined, searchable and useful at a glance.

      I am glad you found it useful too!

      Best,

      Tad

  17. This is a fantastic use for Scrivener. I’ve just finished writing my thesis in it and treating it as a project helped tremendously. I think that by breaking down posts into months is a very useful way to help keep on track. Now that I’m done, I am definitely going to use Scrivener in this way to give shape to my work.

  18. Tad, thanks so much for this post. Like many other people who have commented, I found you post by searching for how to set up Scrivener for blogging. I had been bumbling around trying to set it up and was not happy with my attempts. I so appreciate the detail you posted about your set up. Very helpful.

    Did you ever develop a template as you mentioned above? I did not see a link to it in reading the comments.

    Your system is additionally helpful to me because I need to go through and edit/update a lot of my old posts. Using your dating method and the status tags I can keep track of my progress.

    1. Hi Emerson!

      I haven’t created the template yet, but I certainly plan to. This winter has been quite the busy time for me so I haven’t had the time. But life’s settling down finally so, I will see if I can sneak that in, in the next week or two.

      I’m so glad you found my system helpful! It’s definitely changed the way I blog and keep track of my posts.

      Take care and thanks again for stopping by,

      Tad

      1. Thanks Tad. I look forward to it.

        I hope you will include formatting/structure in the template for the inclusion of Footnotes in a blog post for citations and notes. I have been footnoting my posts for years because I have always felt it was important to acknowledge my sources. It is fun that it is finally becoming more common and even thought of as a hallmark of a good blog nowadays.

        Have you found any easy/good way to import your old blog posts into Scrivener? I have spent much of today trying to come up with a solution that would automate the process but have not found one. Copying and Pasting does has its advantages but it is going to be a slow row to hoe with how many posts I have.

        Gratefully,
        Em

  19. Thanks for a great idea. I saw your post a while back and just remembered it this morning – I love seeing the creative ways people are using it, I love getting ideas to make my life and work easier.

    1. Hey Karen,

      I am so glad you got some inspiration from my post and thanks for the kind words! Feel free to send it along if you think it’d help others!

      Have a great day!

      Tad

  20. Much gratitude for this post! Saved me hours of figuring stuff out! I am one of those creatives with a complete blank in my ‘organizational’ drawers…

    1. You are very welcome Tajci! I’m glad my post helped you out! :) Hopefully this setup will help wrangle some of those organizational issues. I know it did for me.

      Best,

      Tad

  21. Thaddeus, I wanted to take a few moments to thank you for this very helpful blog. You write clearly and succinctly! Just yesterday I posted my first blog posting on my new site. I decided to use Scrivener to see how it would work. It did not go as I thought it would. For one I exported as plain text… which is counter productive! So the article here helped a lot and it is saved in Evernote! God bless you. By the way if you get a chance please stop by my place at http://www.simplysoariing.net or visit me @simply_soaring on Twitter. Do you do Twitter?

    1. Thanks for the kind words and I am so glad my post helped you out!

      I am on Twitter, you should be able to find my account to the right or down below (if you are currently on a mobile device). Take care and thanks for stopping by! ~ Tad

  22. Hi again Thaddeus!
    I’m following your advice about making years the project and using months for organization, etc. It’s great. Quick question- how do you incorporate photos, or do you? Do you catalogue them under Research or some other way? I’d be interested to know your system! Thanks!

    1. Hey Courtney,

      I typically don’t incorporate photos, but only because it wouldn’t work quite well with the Markdown that I use (being that it needs to link to a file on a server, not something local on your computer). But you can incorporate photos if you’d like to have a visual reference in Scrivener and for that you are completely right, the research section is perfect for that.

      Hope this helps,

      Tad

Leave a Reply