Last year I spent more than 475 hours on the copywriting parts of projects. (Thanks to Freckle for the insights and pretty colors.)
I could have done more because of Scrivener, but instead of more copywriting, Scrivener helped me develop a “unified system of everything” for content creation, which turned into The Content Dreamhouse. (Lovingly designed and illustrated by Sarah Bray.)
I wish I had a proof point for exactly how much more productive Scrivener makes me, but I can’t bring myself to abstain from Scrivener long enough to test it.
After 5 years of using Scrivener, the difference has been so great that having proof isn’t worth going back to Word.
It would be like spending another week in high school so I could tell you exactly how much better life is after high school.
If you have a business, and you create content, then Scrivener will make you feel like you just grew an extra, parallel brain.
It’s like if one day you awoke to find yourself lying in bed with two left brains and two right brains, and they were working together in a kind of double-brain double-dutch to produce twice as much as usual. This is possible thanks to Scrivener’s double-pane feature and the way it lets you quickly create files within files within files, then drag them around. (Too technical? Just download it and start playing with it. You’ll see.)
This is so much better than Word it’s ridiculous.
Here’s why I recommend Scrivener to anyone who needs to write anything:
1. It keeps all your thoughts so you can search them later, find the patterns, and unite them to create a new body of work.
This feature came in handy last year when I couldn’t bring myself to write a blog post, but was writing up a storm about my own processes. I took iPhone snapshots of all my journal entries and uploaded them to Scrivener, then began to look for patterns. (One of the outcomes of seeing these patterns? This.)
Evernote keeps your searchable thoughts too, but Scrivener lets you create files, sub-files, and sub-sub-files. If one section would work better somewhere else, I just drag it up.
2. It keeps all your research materials in one place—including PDFs, Word docs, emails, and PowerPoint.
The biggest misconception about writing is you need to just sit down and start doing it. From scratch.
I guess, if you want it to take forever, and it’s a fantasy novel.
But if you’re writing content or copy, you’ll have lots of research and notes. You won’t need to eat lunch at your desk every day if your research is in one place, copy-and-paste-able.
I only sit down and start writing on a blank page once I’ve read through all of my research materials in Scrivener.
Most of the time, though, I’m reading through Scrivener and typing up notes and thoughts in the margins.
I’m never truly alone with my thoughts on a blank page. I’m always having a conversation with either my research material or with my clients.
By the way, I use the “Research” folder in Scrivener as my main writing folder because I don’t like to keep Research and Drafts apart, and only Research keeps your PDFs and Word docs.
3. It lets you create templates for projects.
I have my own systems and frameworks for client intake, messaging, case studies, testimonials, websites, bios, launches, etc.
One Scrivener file holds them all.
4. It lets you brainstorm 15+ variations on a single headline or concept, then scan, consolidate, and pick a winner.
You know how sometimes your brain checks out and you don’t know what to say? Scrivener to the rescue! Just keep typing without filling up one document with your rambles. Hit Command + N to create a new file for every thought or idea. It’s easy to break up complex posts and ideas into their parts, and to name each document and subdocument so you can see at a glance how they fit together.
If you don’t have an idea, then give that file a title with the question it needs to answer. You can come back to it later.
5. Scrivener makes editing faster, gentler, and less ruthless.
Scrivener comes with a built-in slush pile. A slush pile is where ideas go when they aren’t essential for moving along your story (or your buyer’s decision). There’s always a chance you’ll use these parts elsewhere. Put them in the slush pile to avoid awkward goodbyes.
To display your slush pile, click on “Inspector” in the top-right corner of Scrivener. Use “Document notes” in the lower right pane as your slush pile.
6. Scrivener lets you collaborate, kind of.
You can export files as Word docs, so you don’t need everyone on your team to use Scrivener. But this is a good place to keep master topics and templates, and to store working drafts.
You can collaborate with Scrivener by keeping it in your team’s Dropbox folder. Just be sure not to check it out at the same time. Dropbox usually warns you when the file is already open elsewhere.
Once the draft is complete, you’ll want to put it into Google Docs so people can give feedback and make comments and edits.
If tracking every single change is important for you, then you may want to switch to Word at this point. What you give up in collaboration you gain in control over which changes to accept and which to reject. It depends on how many people are reviewing it and how much you trust their edits.
Do you have Scrivener? Did I miss your favorite feature? Please do share in the comments.
‘WHAT’S THIS? A DREAMHOUSE, YOU SAY?’
I’m a writer, so of course I tend to think about writing a lot.
But what if you’re dyslexic and you’d rather talk it out? What if you feel more inspired photographing stuff as it happens? Or rapping along to someone else’s beats? Or telling everyone else what to do?
What if you have a whole team of people, each with an approach that only works for them?
Or what if, like me, you change in fundamental ways from one day to the next, finding it impossible to stick to the plan, yet craving structure?
For many of us, creating content is like being in 7th grade all over again and having to write a report on Egypt IN YOUR OWN WORDS.
I’d rather live in a Dreamhouse.