Today I thought I would write about how I use Scrivener to make the job of being an indie author a bit easier.
I have actually changed my process a lot recently and I am sure I will continue to do so, but I wanted to share what’s working for me currently in case it helps anyone out there save some time and make all of this a bit easier.
So I used to have various different apps and programs to do this and while I still use them, for now I have moved the bulk of my writing (with certain exceptions), social media planning, and marketing to Scrivener.
Many many writers use Scrivener and for good reason. If you’re not sure what the benefit is or why its superior to using Word - in one sentence - basically Scrivener enables you to break up long-form writing, whether a novel, or non-fiction book, or dissertation, into separate documents or sections without actually having to create several different documents or sections - it is basically contained in the same larger document, but you can work on whichever smaller piece you want at a time. It’s easy to jump from one chapter or scene to another, to just create placeholder scenes and come back to them whenever.
Now the way I use Scrivener is probably quite different to others. For my most recent book on study skills, I wrote the first draft on paper (it just happened to be easier for me to do that) and then typed it straight into Scrivener - separating each tip or section. The first draft was a hot mess, which I suppose most first drafts are, and I didn’t really have a proper structure or have the work divided into chapters or whatever. I just wrote down everything that came to me (I used mind-maps and lists equally) and decided to worry about the structure later.
And that’s where Scrivener really helped me - in figuring out the structure. I used the label function, to tag each section and color code them, so that I could tell at a glance what the different types of topics were, and then moved the pieces around (which Scrivener makes really easy) into a loose structure. I then kept tweaking it, combining certain topics and breaking apart others. When I was happy with the structure, I moved each chapter to a separate Word document, for editing.
And here is where I differ from many other authors - I prefer Word for editing. I think its a hangover from academic research, where I was used to track changes, because that makes collaboration with others easier. Now its so ingrained I can’t work without it, at least for the moment. I like to see all the different changes I have made, and when one document has too many changes, I simply save it as a new clean document and start again. I am a huge editor - I revise a piece to death. By the time I am done, I hate it, but it is definitely cleaner, more polished and more readable than my first or even fifth draft. So I do all of this in Word.
I have also recently switched over to Scrivener for several other types of writing. For instance, I am writing this blog post in Scrivener - in a separate project I have for my blog. I keep ideas and half-finished drafts in there, and when I need to write a post I go in, pick something that appeals, and take off. Unlike with writing books, I edit my post in Scrivener itself and then move to my blog when I am ready.
This is a new addition to my process. I read about how bloggers loved Scrivener, but I never understood why. I kept my ideas for blog posts in Evernote and wrote my posts in a Word document. I didn’t even realize how inefficient it was till I switched.
I do have to admit though - I haven’t written any fiction in Scrivener. Firstly, I haven’t published any fiction yet - I have some half-finished short stories and beginnings of novels, but only one full novel, which I wrote during Nanowrimo. The reason I didn’t write that novel in Scrivener was that firstly, at the time I still wasn’t so familiar and comfortable with it, and secondly, I was not really sure I would be able to write it at all, and wanted to avoid getting bogged down in fiddling with features and simply write. Don’t get me wrong, you can write pretty easily in Scrivener too, and now that I am used to it I would probably prefer to create first drafts in it, but I have in the past also been guilty of spending tons of time adding labels, and changing colors and fiddling with the words I have written instead of writing more. So for Nanowrimo I just used the most basic methods I could think of. In fact, at the time, my laptop at the time was giving me a lot of trouble, so I wrote the majority of the book on my iPad with an attached keyboard that I hated using a plain text app, but it did the job, which is all that matters.
2. Social Media
While Scrivener is great for writing, its even better for the other tasks surrounding writing. I read somewhere, I think on a guest post, of an author using Scrivener for planning their social media and marketing and I thought it was such a good idea, I decided to give it a go.
I am pretty inconsistent and terrible at keeping up with my social media, but I am getting slightly better at it. I used to mostly post curated content, especially on Twitter and my Facebook page, sharing articles and content that I found useful and interesting. But I decided to expand my sharing to include sharing my own blog posts, quotes from my books and interviews, and also quotes from the interviews I do on my blog with other authors.
All of this was getting a bit more complex and I have found it much easier to manage since I changed my workflow.
In Scrivener I have a separate social media project, in which I have separate folders for different platforms. My main platform for sharing posts and things is Twitter, because I tend to share less on Facebook, or more personal updates, or news about interviews and book sales, but not as often as on Twitter.
I have a separate document for each type of update, and also documents which are for drafting updates and ones where I store things I want to send out. If you’re using a service like Meet Edgar (which lets you create categories and seed it with 1000 pieces of content) then you don’t need this level of separation. But even then, you might want to have the updates ready in the different categories, so that it is easier to load on to your social media management tool. I mostly use Buffer, and I use the documents in Scrivener to create, and hold the updates, and then just add in to Buffer from there.
Why Scrivener is invaluable to me is that I have separate documents where I basically stash the raw material for my tweets and updates, that I can come back to and create later. That includes quotes from author interviews (others and my own), quotes from my books (some short for tweeting and others longer that I may want to use for images on Pinterest / Instagram), and links to my blog posts.
You can adapt the exact method (even making it simpler or more complicated) depending on your personal preferences and the type of social media updates you need to post, but basically having it all in one project makes it easy and saves a ton of time. In fact, lately I have been pretty busy with my current project and neglecting my social media a bit, so I mostly use my pre-saved updates to quickly send a few posts out without spending a lot of time on it.
3. Book Marketing
Managing book promotions is hard enough without having to deal with all the little fiddly bits. Before I moved some of my book marketing stuff to Scrivener, I mostly worked with Evernote, and still do. It’s also pretty great, especially knowing I won’t lose anything I need, and can access it on all my devices. But the main problem I found was jumping back and forth among notes, and often the thing I needed - that bio I wrote a few months ago, or that copy of my book synopsis which would be perfect for this site, is hidden somewhere at the bottom of some notebook. Sure you can search, but its a pain, because it adds precious minutes to a task that already takes far too long in my opinion.
I still haven’t migrated everything to Scrivener, but already its saving me tons of time and hassle. I usually find many sites that I want to check out for book promotions, but when it comes to actually scheduling one, I invariably forget everything and start to panic because I have left everything too late. Recently, I basically compiled all my favorite sites, grouping them separately by ones for free and bargain promotion, and even separating out ones for other countries.
I also keep a separate document, within one folder for easy access, for all my prior promotions, so I can re-use the same information when needed. For me the best reason to use Scrivener for this aspect of indie publishing is the ability to keep all the information related to book marketing in one easy-to-access place, saving time when I need to either pull info together quickly for an interview or for a promotion.
I also have separate folders within the same project for ongoing interviews, templates of emails that I send out frequently (such as review requests to bloggers) and other miscellaneous marketing projects. This is completely customizable to your specific needs obviously, and the options are literally endless.
I hope this post serves as a jumping off point for you to start using Scrivener not just for writing, but for managing all sorts of projects related to your indie publishing business. I would love to hear your comments on how you are using Scrivener, especially all the things that I haven’t thought of.