How I Use Scrivener & Excel to Manage My Blog Challenge

Scrivener

Like a lot of other writers, I have used the outstanding writing program Scrivener from Literature & Latte for a few years now. If you haven’t heard of it, I encourage you to check it out. You can find lots of information, including video tutorials, about it online. If you decide to take the plunge and purchase it—the price is very reasonable compared to other comparable programs—I recommend the book Scrivener for Dummies by Gwen Hernandez.

Although I cannot give a full-tilt tutorial in Scrivener here, I can describe a couple of its features that particularly make it great for blogging:

  1. The basic unit of the program is the document, which can contain a virtually unlimited amount of text, from a short note to a whole book chapter. The program also allows you to create folders and subfolders in which to store selected documents. This ability to structure information allows me to collect separate bits of information that I will eventually combine into a single blog post.
  2. The program has a default research folder into which you can save material to consult later. The feature I use most often here is the ability to save a web page as a PDF file, although you can also save other types of files (such as Word files, text files, or even images) here too. And you can create subfolders underneath the main research section to group related materials together.

Other people have also recognized Scrivener’s power as a blogging tool:

I started using Scrivener to manage my three blogs in the summer of 2014. I began by adapting Jennifer Mattern’s Free Scrivener Template for Managing Multiple Blogs at All Indie Writers. Her directions made it easy to download and import the template into Scrivener. I was then able to look at her structure and see what I wanted to change to make the template fit the way I work.

Jennifer includes two blogs structured by date and a third structured by categories. I chose to arrange all three of my blogs by date because I’m a Virgo and like to track things in a logical, linear way. It was easy to delete the main folder for the category blog, then copy and paste one of the dated blog folders, with subfolders, to replace it for my third blog.

Jennifer also includes more than one year for each blog, but I decided to start a new multiblog project folder each year because the amount of material I was collecting, including research materials (I’m a big fan of Scrivener’s print function called “save PDF to Scrivener”), became unwieldy. Once again, changing the folder structure to accommodate this preference was easy.

I tweaked Jennifer’s template in other minor ways significantly. When I finally got things just the way I wanted them, I used Scrivener’s “save as template” feature in the file menu to save my set-up as a project template. (A project is Scrivener’s top level of organization. If you are working on two novels, each novel would be a project, a separate Scrivener file.) I can now use the revised template to start a new multiblog project each year.

If you start looking at what other people have to say about Scrivener, you’ll see that the most common knock against it is that it has a steep learning curve. I agree that’s true, but it’s true because the program has so many powerful features. I’ve always been a believer that we learn what we need to know when we need to know it, and you only need to know a few basic things to get started with Scrivener. You can learn everything necessary to manage the procedures I’ve discussed here in a short time. Like anything else, the most important thing is to start working with Scrivener instead of just reading about it. The folks at Literature & Latte let you download a trial version before requiring your credit card number.

So far I’ve used only basic functions within Scrivener, but now that I’m blogging much more, I need to learn how to use Scrivener’s status and labeling functions to keep track of which posts are completed and published and which ones I’m still working on.

Excel

Scrivener makes it easy to manage my blog posts, but for my Blog Post a Day in 2015 challenge I needed Excel to track data about the posts, such as how many words I wrote each month and how many posts appeared on which blog. I set up a worksheet with the following columns:

  • A: Date
  • B: Blog #1
  • C: Blog #2
  • D: Blog #3
  • E: Post title
  • F: Number of words

When I document my post published each day here, I put a 1 in the column of the blog where the post appears. (Occasionally I publish the same post on more than one blog, but I only include it once in my total word count.) Having a column for each blog allows me to see easily how I need to distribute future posts and to calculate how many posts appeared on each blog at the end of the month.

At the end of each month I calculate the number of posts published on each blog and the total number of words I wrote that month.

At the end of February, after I had calculated my February totals, I realized that I also wanted to be able to compare the statistics across months. I set up a second sheet with the following columns:

  • A: Month
  • B: Total words written
  • C: Number of posts
  • D: Average post length
  • E: Number of words in shortest post
  • F: Number of words in longest post

At the end of the year, I hope this second sheet will allow me to see the patterns in my writing.

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