Best practices question regarding writing articles


I’ve recently purchased Scrivener and am very new to using it. While I have been reading the manual as needed and watching various videos available about how to use the application, I do have a somewhat “best practices” or holistic question to ask of the braintrust here…

I will be writing several of articles and would like to use Scrivener to do so. While all of the articles will have a particular common thread (the software they are about) the topics will be quite different from one article to the next (because the software is multifaceted and complex.) Given that, would it be best to write each article in its own Scrivener file, or should I write all articles in one Scrivener file each as a new text (or within a unique folder)?

And perhaps for the bonus round… Would “Collections” play any part in doing this? As much as I’ve read about what Collections are, I must admit I still don’t quite understand what they do.

Many thank in advance,

Welcome to Scrivener and the forum, Neil.

The basic answer to your question: it really all depends on what you want to do. Strictly speaking, Scrivener has no concept of “files”: projects contain folders which contain documents (although in reality at a technical level, a Scrivener project may contain dozens, even hundreds of files).

If you’re writing related articles, you should probably group all those articles in one project, a document for each, at least at the beginning. Not only will this enable you to keep all your related articles together so that you can easily refer back to them; you can also keep any research material, unused writing and notes in the Binder so that you can easily look at those too whilst you write (or take them with you if you transfer the project to another computer).

Later, when you have more experience of the software, you could start splitting your articles across several documents, each within a single folder within your project, if the articles are long and you think that you might want to restructure them at any point. Some Scrivener users even use the software to break their writing down paragraph by paragraph, allotting as little as one paragraph to one document, to enable them to restructure their writing easily if they wish.

I’m not sure how Collections would help much with this. A collection is effectively a saved search providing a different view of the documents in the Binder according to some criterion; in a novel involving a character called Bill, a collection could bring together all the documents or scenes where Bill has the point-of-view, for example. For your purposes, all your documents or articles are likely to be relatively independent of each other (unless, as I say above, you break down your articles to the paragraph level.) I suppose that you could use Collections to find all your articles that cover, say, the software’s user interface, but that’s all.

But there are various views about exactly what the best workflow for articles is. Journalists use Scrivener and several are members of this forum. If you carry out a search, you’ll find what they have written here.

I have a Scrivener Project called Other Writing (to distinguish it from various books, which are each in their own Projects).

This is subdivided into more Folders (as subfolders of Research, not Draft, so that I can use images if I feel like it) named by venue–name of magazine or newspaper, dust-jacket blurbs, forewords, introductions, WIPs, ideas for future articles, whatever.

I find it convenient to have everything in one place; it’s infinitely flexible, and the collapsibility of the folder structure means I have everything outside Books immediately available. Everything non-bookish I’ve written since I began using Scrivener in 2006 is in there (21.7mb), but it’s never become weighty or cumbersome.

I use one project file per client per year for articles: ClientName2016.scriv

Book-length projects get their own project file: BigIndustryOverview.scriv

I cover the same topics frequently, so I keep most of my research in DevonThink Pro databases, not in Scrivener. That way I don’t have to remember when I last used a particular source. Since my main database is over 3 million words, not having it tied to any particular project keeps things running smoothly, too.

In the particular case of a series of articles on a particular piece of software, I would probably use a single project. If they were written as a book, they’d go in one project, right? So think of the articles as like a serialized book, covering all aspects of the software over time.

As others have pointed out, it’s pretty easy to split things out into a second project if the first one becomes unwieldy down the line.


Hugh, Thank you for the welcome and the very good thoughts. Your description of initially grouping all articles within one Scrivener project file sounds like it will work for me to start, as I will likely be cross-referencing the same research material and saving unused writing and notes for other articles. It’s also likely that I will need to break each (sometimes fairly technical) article into “sections” that I can re-order as needed to explain the concepts and execution in the software. I will experiment with this as you describe.

I can see that I may not need Collections that much yet, but I will keep their purpose and functionality in mind for the future.

I will certainly look around more within the forums for advice from journalists… It’s very good to know they are well represented here.

Ahab, Thank you for the description of your folder set up… I can see this being very useful for what I need to accomplish.

Katherine, Very good point about considering the articles as a serialized book - They certainly could be! And who knows, they may end up being that eventually. Devonthink Pro looks like quite the powerhouse. For the last couple of years I have used Evernote extensively, but I will keep Devonthink in mind.

Thank you everyone for sharing your knowledge and experience. I’m very much looking forward to getting into Scrivener!


(After further searches on the forum I have come across the Zen of Scrivener section. I’m not sure how I missed it before posting this thread, but if a moderator deems this thread better suited to live there, please do move it over there. Thanks!)

Yes, you’re right. Moved. – Katherine

These are all great suggestions, Neil – Scrivener’s user community is the best! Scrivener has so many options that it can be a little overwhelming to sort them all, but facing the possibility of paralysis, I finally decided to just plunge in and try a plausible method and if I encountered friction, to then try another. You’ll ultimately find the way that suits you best, but I’ll give you mine as another option: the Finder.

I’m a journalist who sometimes uses the same material for different projects and publications. I also prefer to keep my Scrivener projects separate – not using it as a giant database like DevonThink, because not all my writing happens in Scrivener. But instead of Devon (which I used a long time ago), I just use the Finder as my info repository (reference articles, press releases et al), and import the relevant documents as needed into various Scrivener projects. The Finder docs are organized via the usual methods – folders, tags – but usually even a Spotlight search will find what I need. It was the improvements in Spotlight that ultimately pushed me to using the Finder, which doesn’t keep my info in a silo.

I did use Scrivener as my sole info repository for my last book, and would recommend that practice for a big single project.

You might also consider using keywords in Scrivener to tag documents that are relevant to multiple articles. Please let us know what you ultimately decide, because many of us continue to evolve in how we use Scrivener. Good luck!