Work flow questions

I’ve been gone for almost 2 years. I wrote about that in the topic “Why write anyways?” I have a new question to ask and I promise I won’t disappear for 2 years again.

What do your writing work flows look like? I’m particularly interested in how you writers do your thing. What does your schedule look like, etc? What software helps you get this done? Anything you want to share will be relevant.

I’ve been working on my “work flow” a lot over the past few weeks. Trying to figure out something that works for me. I have not been successful, but I have figured out a few things.

So far my work flow looks like this.

  1. I capture tasks/todo in The Hit List. I use it because I purchased the recent MacHeist bundle and it seems to work well. I can’t bring myself to buy OmniFocus when I already own a tool that does a similar thing and might very well work for me.
  2. I write using Scrivener.

I feel like I’m missing something. The gap seems to appear when I have a “task” that says something like “generate ideas for new story”. Where does it make the most sense to capture information like this? For some reason I can’t seem to stick this kind of thing in Scrivener because of it’s specific “single-project” ideology. Does that make sense?

So I guess the real question is, where do you put everything that is not specifically related to your current writing project?

Please respond if it so moves you to share :smiley:

I have a separate Scrivener Project entitled “General Writing,” and everything goes in there, in various folders and documents to give it some semblance of organization–"Tidbits, “Ideas for new books,” “Thematic,” “Family,” “Writing hints,” yadda yadda. Bits get transferred out as I need them. I am so in love with Scriv that I am in the process of channeling my entire life into it. For instance, I carry around a little portable voice recorder, since taking notes while driving has become a bit problematic. So this morning I decided to create a new Scriv Project entitled “Recorder Notes.” Because I often just ramble with no particular direction on subject in mind. And relevant notes will get moved aorund to other projects as need be.

Very interesting. Years ago I wrote travel pieces for magazines and papers, and I had to use tape recorders, both for interviews and to dictate notes while driving or hiking. At home, I created an “index” of the notes, using the digital counter on the transcriber machine.

007 walk on Aspen trail
036 waterfalls at junction
047 couple from Boston

That index gave me a swift view of the tape contents. In a database, I could locate any material I wanted to hear again or transcribe. If I ever go back to a recorder, I’d use a digital one and store the contents on a hard drive, but I’d still need an index, perhaps using the Transcriva software. See

Today, I collect everything digital in a DT Pro database: text files, PDF files, images, links, and anything else that seems useful. I organize the material into folders, usually one called General or People and all the others according to either Time or Place, the constant X-Y coordinates of my projects. Yes, I can do this in a Scrivener’s Research folder, and sometimes I do. It depends upon the size of a project, the diversity of its contents, and the number of records that I need to consult. For a novel or nonfiction book, I use DTP. For a review, article, or screenplay, I use Scrivener.

If you haven’t used DTP, it’s hard to explain why it’s so good as a place for research material. The contents load and search instantly, I can create “replicants” of an item and put them in different places (edit one, and the other updates), when I search, the AI software suggests many other possible items to consult; so I’m always finding unexpected results. If I’m planning to write a series of books or studies on a common subject, DTP is home base. And it exports easily to Scrivener in RTF files, etc.

Scrivener excels in outlining. drafting, and comparing two different states of work, be that a timeline or character profile or synopsis of action, with an ongoing draft. It’s not a word processor, but rather a word and idea arranger, which is far more useful in the early and middle stages of writing. And it produces good, clean RTF files for easy export. (I don’t use footnotes, so advantage to me)

In the late stages, when I’m sharing work with others, I compile and export the text to a word processor, which is designed to add headers, page count, and clean up matters like line spacing, fonts, and other appearance issues. I once used Word, but only through Office 2004. It had a Navigation Pane that would show me the chapters in a long file, if I had styled them as Heading 1. When Office 2008 came out, I was appalled at what a resource hog Word had become.

I switched to Pages 07 and then 09, which I like for the moment, mainly because it now has outlining, styles, a good search display, clear word and page count, and the ability to export to DOC or PDF, which so far is all my editors have requested. We used Track Comments, and Pages had no trouble reading those from Word files. But I’m not wed to Pages, and Keith has criticized it enough that I’ve decided to try out NWP on my next long project.

If I’m writing a screenplay, I tend to use DevonNote for gathering material, Scrivener for the draft, and Final Draft 8 for the cleaned-up version. The industry standard is still .fdx files, and FD 8 has several useful tools that help to give a script some professional finish.

I too am a fan of DevonThink, especially now the developers appear to have decided that Version 2 will be the ultimate info-dump, exhibiting all the datastore features known to Man and grinding all its rivals into the dust. I just hope it doesn’t become bloated. I don’t think it will.

Overall, I start with a dedicated outliner. On my current project I’m using TAO. It’s unnecessarily complex to learn and use, and crashes occasionally. But its feature-set is more powerful than its rival OmniOutliner Pro’s. Now that Scrivener imports OPML, it’s easy to move outlines into Scrivener from TAO.

I use MacJournal as a snippet bin, keeping it open alongside Scrivener, and DevonThink for collecting everything else, dragging a subset of documents from DT into Scrivener’s research folder when needed. I draft and re-draft in Scrivener and on this project I plan to polish and to final-edit the work in Word.

Beta 6 of DevonThink has delivered a note-taker feature, which the developers hint may in future have an independent existence so that it can remain open when the main application is closed. If so, it may take over the snippet-collection role from MacJournal.

I also use A4 pads, Moleskine notebooks, pens and pencils at numerous points. I’m a very good customer of Faber-Castell, in particular their Grip 2001 pencils, erasers and canister-sharpeners. Cheap, effective, highly portable and easily replenished technology…


Thanks for the responses so far.

I’ve been dabbling in the DT Pro 2.0 beta for a couple of days. I have a feeling it could be useful, but I have quite figured out how.

I was thinking about using Curio for a few things, so I downloaded it for trial. I opened it today and it turns out I’ve got 3 days left on the trial. I’m going to try and extend the trial because I actually spent some time in the app this morning and it’s very cool. The price is a hinderance, but it might not be bad if it saves me from buying more apps.

I’ve been trying to work in The Hit Lists for all my task/project management stuff. It seemed alright at first, but I’m becoming more and more frustrated with it. I’m afraid it might not work for me. I’ve only been using it for a week or so. Before that I used OmniFocus for about a week. I think I’m going back to OF.

There’s my update for now.

Anyone else want to chime in?

My workflow is different, depending on the type of document I’m working on.

With magazine reviews, I usually start right in Scrivener, collecting all research snippets in it. I grow some reviews from the actual researches, gradually distilling them into the actual text. Everything remains in Scrivener, until the final touchup with Nisus Writer Pro.

With technical writings, I need a more careful planning. First, deadlines are broken down into single tokens in Circus Ponies NoteBook (used as a GTD organizer), and visually represented in Merlin (a GANTT planner). Then I start with an outline in either Nisus Writer or NoteBook. Finally, I start the actual writing in FrameMaker (if working on a manual) or Nisus (for reports and product requirements).

Screenwriting, due to my non professional status, is more free-form. Deadlines are decided when the director has some free time. Then a dense exchange of ill-formatted Word and RTF documents follow. Samples are made in Scrivener on my side, and Final Draft or Word form his (since he refuses to use Celtx, we cannot use a common platform).

Novels: I’ve never completed my own novel. But the many incomplete I’ve written start with collecting everything can be useful (now in Scrivener’s Research folder), and then going on as I can, when I can. I keep both a general archive (in NoteBook, in the Finder, and as paper snippets), and the local one in Scrivener.

I would love to be able to plan this latter ‘job’, as I do with the others.


I have one Scrivener project named after my pen name.

In the Drafts Folder I have multiple folders, each on it’s own writing project. In compile draft I just mark the one I want to include.

In the Research Folder have folders for each ones of my writing projects (almost each one, I have one for three that are set in the same “world”).

Then I have my Journal Folder in the Research folder, where I write every day. I write 250 words of the current story I’m working on, then copy it to the drafts folder of the same. I also write personal stuff or notes as well, but they don’t count toward my 250 word a day quota.

That’s my basic set up. I don’t really have a set time or anything I work, just as long as I get my quotas done.

Don’t know if that helps but that’s how I do it.