GWD: Getting Writing Done

Over the years I’ve tried many methods and tools to help me do things better. Most recently I’ve been concentrating on ‘Getting Things Done’ (GTD), which I’ve found to be very beneficial in managing my time (and, well, getting things done). I use the Pomodoro technique to time box my activities during the working day and use tools such as Evernote and Flipboard to manage my thoughts and information streams.

Where I’ve not yet found a suitable solution is when it comes to writing. And here I mean medium-to-large, structured documents, be they blog posts, reports or whatever. Up until now I have been using mind maps to help organise my thoughts but I find that I tend to become trapped in the structure I originally lay these thoughts down in. I’ve been looking for something more specific to the writing process and have discovered Scrivener.

I initially gravitated towards Scrivener because of its separation of content and format, the benefit being that you can concentrate on the words and structure of the document without unnecessary formatting getting in the way. It also has a full screen mode whereby you can completely immerse yourself in the job at hand without distraction, though this, along with pretty much everything else, is completely customisable.

I’m very impressed with the User Manual that comes with the application – I’ve nearly read it end-to-end and will have to go back and re-read some of it, but it’s easy to locate specific information, and so works well as a reference.

The range of formatting available is also comprehensive; it comes with a number of templates for screenplays, scripts, and a host of other formats; and can output in HTML, RTF, for input into other writing / publishing applications, and also ebook and mobi formats for iPad/Kindle etc. And, obviously, you can modify existing templates or create your own.

As of now, I don’t have a lot of experience with it, so I may be singing it’s praises a little too early, but I’ve started a couple of projects with it and I am finding it a lot better than previous methods I’ve used. I’ve installed the Index Card app on my iPad and have been synchronising my writing across to it when I’m away from my laptop computer – great for train journeys – and this is working well for me.

Scrivener is a Mac-only application (beta versions for windows/linux here), so it’s not going to be the solution for everyone, but I’m hopeful that it’s the solution for me.

Update – 17th August 2011

There’s a follow-up post here with the results of my first end-to-end use of scrivener.

Ady