How to use Scrivener for a series of articles?

Hello experienced Scrivener users,

I just got myself a voluntary (non-paying, of course) job as a journalist/editor for a web magazine (kinda). I can pick my own subjects (within some very wide limits, of course). The idea is that I write on those subjects I am interested in, and possibly do so several times per subject.

Now, I see 2 options for how to organise this:

  1. Have one Scrivener project per subject, with each article being one top-level folder. Pro: I can use the research part as a common “library” for a subject.

  2. Have one Scrivener project per article. This is easier to understand, but the research would have to be shared.

Note that the research part of Scrivener will in all likelihood be a mirror of a much larger information dump (DEVONthink), so it is not absolutely necessary, just convenient, to have all relevant research for a subject in one project.

What is your opinion?

Thanks in advance and kind regards,

Until my recent retirement, I wrote a column for a bi-monthly glossy for 17 years; since 2006, it’s all been in Scrivener. You’ll find it far easier to keep them all in one project; littering your hard drive with case-by-case projects defeats the purpose of Scrivener. All 17 years of my columns, together with all their research (moved in from Word, PDFs, and other things accumulated over the years), are all together in one big project called Columns 1995-2012.

I work inside the Research folder (to defeat the Draft folder prohibition against non-text contents; my research often includes maps and photos). There’s a Folder for each year, and subfolders for each column within the year. All the writing for a given column takes place within its folder. When I’m ready to transmit to production, it’s a simple matter of exporting the final draft to Word.

There are separate folders for Column Ideas, Future Research–a lot of research–and Archives. It’s very flexible and customizable, and with everything in one place you’re not forever wondering what you said about such and such 10 years ago, and what you mean to say about so and so next July.

Hi Ahab,

thanks a lot indeed! This is all the encouragement I need to put everything into one big project, obviously called “Flaschenpost”.

Much obliged

Let me make the case for the opposite position. I’ve written weekly columns for a couple of publications for almost 20 years in one case, more than seven in another, and I also write less regularly for a number of others. I used to keep all my columns in a single project, with each year getting its own project. But I quickly decided to use the Finder as my research and story organizer.

Why? When I run a Spotlight search, it finds (or at least used to find, back when I made the switch) info more readily in docs stored in the Finder rather than in a Scrivener project. Second, I eliminated one layer of organization by reverting to the Finder for storage. And third, using the Finder makes it easier to work in different apps along with Scrivener. Depending on the story/column, I use different writing apps (and sometimes use the same research info for different stories written in different apps) – most often IaWriter, but also Pages and sometimes even TextEdit.

I keep my research in TextEdit rtf or txt docs that are accessible to any app (except for Pages… don’t get me started). When I need to use those docs for a column, I either open them on one side of the screen, next to the doc I’m writing (in Writer or Pages or whatever), or (for longer stories) import the ones I need into a Scrivener project, write the story in Scrivener, then export the finished story or column to rtf.

I’m not saying that it wouldn’t be advantageous to other writers to keep everything in a single project, but for me, the Finder works better. However, I’m always open to improving my workflow, so I’d love to hear how the Scrivener-as-repository method is working for anyone, and why it works better (or worse) than my own preference for single projects for individual stories.

I’m getting a late entry here, but the topic is of interest to me as I start writing more periodical work.

Currently, I use a single project for periodicals and another for one-off pieces (casuals). The reason is I that the periodicals tend to have more stringent requirements and specific editorial calendars. Casuals are generally things I either write as stubs to shop around, or requested entries that are somewhat more flexible.

The higher requirements on periodicals means I want to maintain longer organization and use templates. I use the corkboard view to easily see publication and draft status, along with topics and keywords so I don’t repeat something or hit a given topic too frequently within a given time frame. I don’t tend to use the research features with this as I create a stub for each upcoming topic (new text from template, a short synopsis and submission notes), and keep my notes at the document level, which is searchable.

Casuals are all in the same project because they’re very sporadic. This is more of a dumping ground, but it allows me to scavenge pieces from other articles to start something new, or to jot down some tangent ideas without having to come up with a document name.

Update to my previous post: I’ve reconsidered my workflow to fit changing circumstances. I now sometimes use the same information to write as many as three or four different short pieces for different publications. That’s led me to keep more of my source material for those stories in a single Scrivener project (usually for the month of the events I’m covering), in the Research section of the Binder. Then I write the various short pieces and export them to TextEdit files that I then post to the web or send to an editor. That doesn’t mean using a single Scriv project for everything; it means a lot of small Scrivener projects that I delete once I’ve exported the last pieces to be written from the source info.
I guess I’ve realized that Scrivener – at least as I’ve customized it – is just so comfortable and easy to work in that it makes me want to use it whenever possible, i.e. whenever it would be no slower or less efficient than just writing a text file. So I now use it in any piece that requires any organizational capacity (more than, say, a short listing that doesn’t require more than one section) or even a few source documents. It feels like working at my desk in my study – like home.