Scrivener to WordPress, Fast

Blog fridge magnets

by C.K. MacLeod

Do you blog efficiently? I try to. Here’s how I get a blog post from idea to published, as quickly as possible.

I use

  • Scrivener
  • Markdown
  • Hemingway app
  • WordPress
  1. Collect ideas in advance. Whenever I have an idea for a post, I create a new file inside of a Scrivener project. If I know something about the topic, I might sketch out a few notes in a Scrivener file, or on a Scrivener note card. Note: Scrivener is brilliant for blog management. You can store all of your posts in one project "file."
  2. Draft the blog post in a Scrivener file. Do a quick point-form outline and then write quickly, using the Pomodoro technique. Format in markdown. If you have several posts on the go at once, use labels in Scrivener to communicate the status of a draft.
  3. Take a snapshot of your post using Scrivener’s Snapshots feature. This is a great way to store several versions of your draft, in the event you want to go back to an earlier version.
  4. Revise your writing using the Hemingway app. Copy the post into Hemingway’s Edit view and make corrections in Scrivener. Take another snapshot in Scrivener. I label this version Hemingway.
  5. Prevent formatting problems with HTML. Copy the post (written in markdown) from Scrivener into Daring Fireball’s Markdown Dingus. Follow the steps in this post and paste the resulting HTML code into the Text tab in the WordPress editor. Insert any hyperlinks and pictures.
  6. Preview the post using the Preview button in WordPress. Remove any extra spaces between paragraphs by clicking on WordPress editor's Text tab and deleting nonbreaking spaces. These are indicated by the code &nbsp.
  7. Copy and paste the post (HTML version) and store it in Scrivener. You never know when you might need a web-ready back-up copy.
  8. Add keywords, select categories, and hit publish.

What tips do you have for streamlining your blogging process?

Image by Christian Schnettelker

The Easiest Way to Format Your Writing

Markdown

by C.K. MacLeod

Writers are encouraged to write a first draft without editing or formatting. And with good reason. Formatting and editing can often get in the way of getting your thoughts down. But at some point, you’ll want to format your writing so that it’s easier for your reader to navigate. That is, in fact, the point of formatting: you format for clarity. For reading ease.

What to Format

Sure, you can use the tool bar or the ribbon in your favourite Word processor to add

  • boldface
  • bulleted and numbered lists
  • headings
  • hyperlinks
  • images
  • italics

You can even use your word processor’s styles feature to format most of the items in the list above. But if your writing is headed for a digital environment, such as a blog or website, there’s a more reliable and efficient way to format: writing in markdown.

Markdown, Made Easy

Markdown is a way in to creating HTML—the language of the Web and other digital environments and you don’t need to be techy to figure it out. It doesn’t take long to learn, especially if you use Daring Fireball’s Markdown Dingus. The Dingus is a free online tool that supplies you with a cheat sheet for the markdown “syntax,” in the margin, and it then converts your markdown to HTML. Just follow the steps in the image below.

Markdown Dingus

Once you have your HTML text, you can pop it into your blog’s text editor. In WordPress, put it in the Text tab.

Markdown in Scrivener

You don’t have to write in the Dingus. I write in Scrivener instead (Scrivener is great for organizing blog posts). I’ve created my own markdown margin cheat sheet using the Project Notes area in Scrivener.

Markdown cheatsheet Scrivener

If you use Scrivener for Mac, you can export a file to the Multimarkdown (.html) format, which is similar to Markdown. No need to use the Fireball Dingus. This approach doesn’t work seamlessly for PC users, though.

Markdown Anywhere

Once you’re familiar with markdown, and you don’t have to rely on a cheat sheet, you can write in markdown in any word processor or text editor. I’d recommend trying the Hemingway app because it also doubles as an amazing proofreading tool.

Markdown is simple to learn, and saves you from having to fuss too much with formatting while you’re trying to get things down. Learning it will also prevent the wacky formatting that can occur in digital environments.

Image by Downloadsource.es

A Tool for Distraction-Free Writing

QuickPad ProBy C.K. MacLeod

I rediscovered my QuickPad Pro in a recent office cleaning frenzy. It was squirreled away in a cupboard with an old VHS video recorder.

QuickPad Pro is an intelligent keyboard, designed for simple writing tasks. Circa Y2K, journalists reportedly hauled them overseas when lugging a 10 lb laptop was inconvenient, or finding a power source was impossible.

My QuickPad Pro weighs in at 2 lbs 2 oz. While the problem of heavy laptops has been addressed with today's ultrabooks (my 2014 ultrabook weighs in at 2 lbs, 15 oz), you'd be hard pressed to find an ultrabook that will run for 100 hours before it needs a recharge. It was this single fact that kept my QuickPad Pro out of the giveaway box.

Pros and Cons of Old Tech

If you have an intelligent keyboard in your cupboard, don’t recycle it yet. There may be possible new uses for your old tech. Consider these pros and cons:

Pros

  • lightweight and durable
  • starts up quickly (one-button start)
  • distraction-free (no Internet connection)
  • an excellent first-draft tool because you can only write in plain text, which means you'll get into the habit of focusing on writing and leaving editing and formatting for later
  • runs for 100 hours on three AA batteries
  • doesn't require the use of a mouse (goodbye RSI?)
  • responds to some keyboard shortcuts, which helps with navigation
  • people who own intelligent keyboards love them and still use them; there's even a Facebook group for the one I own
  • online support for the QuickPad Pro is excellent
  • some authors (James Scott Bell, George R. R. Martin and Bryan Cohen are three examples) are producing reams of writing using old tech
  • unlikely to be stolen in a smash-and-grab, and it won’t be coveted by your kid

Cons

  • the screen has a bit of glare, and it isn't backlit, but this isn't a deal-breaker
  • the screens on some intelligent keyboards, such as the Alphasmart, are quite small
  • the angle of the screen is a bit awkward, unless you stack a few books under the screen end of the device or sit up straight while writing (probably not a bad idea)
  • over time, the keyboard can become a bit sticky
  • transferring files to your computer (where you'll edit and format them) can be tricky if your computer cannot recognize your intelligent keyboard
  • intelligent keyboards are no longer being made, so if you want one, you'll need to keep an eye on Ebay

Tip: Before you write your next novel on an intelligent keyboard, first check to see if you can transfer files to your computer. If you can't, search for a forum that can offer tips.

New uses for Old Tech

My QuickPad has become another tool in my my RSI blasting arsenal. It's helped me to create distraction-free writing sessions, and I'm also experimenting with writing in markdown on my Quickpad. Who knows what can happen when old and new tech worlds collide?

Do you use old tech for writing?

Markdown for Bloggers

 

Coding is the new literacy

by C.K. MacLeod

Writing in markdown is an efficient way to write blog posts. In fact, it will forever change the way you blog.

So, what is markdown? It's a coding language like HTML, only much, much simpler, and you don't have to be tech savvy to learn it. It takes about 10 minutes to learn, if that.

Why I Use Markdown

Here's why I use markdown:

  • Markdown is easy to learn.
  • I don't have to fuss with the formatting features of a word processor when I write, which means I won't introduce wonky formatting into my writing when it comes time to publish a post.
  • I can copy and paste my writing to and from Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, a text editor, Blogger, WordPress, etc. and the formatting codes will travel with it.
  • Markdown can convert to HTML, so if you've never been able to figure out how to write in HTML, you may not need to (see below).
  • It makes my blog writing and publishing process more efficient.

What does it look like?

Here's what markdown looks like in action:

Text written in markdown is on the left; the formatted version is on the right

The text in the left pane is written in markdown. It kind of looks like plain text, right? That's because it is. It's pretty much what your writing would like if you only used your keyboard and didn't click on any of the fancy formatting buttons in your word processor.

The text on the the right is what the published product will look like. Pretty, right? This particular markdown editor took the codes from the text on the left and converted it to formatted text. Do you see the codes? No? Read on...

Commonly Used Markdown Codes

Here are the markdown codes I use the most in my writing (I've left this list in plain text so that you can copy and paste it into Scrivener. if you like):

Headings
#Heading 1
##Heading 2
###Heading 3

*italic*

**boldface**

Horizontal rule
---

Links
[Tech Tools for Writers](hyperlink) - no space between square brackets and parentheses

Images
![alt text: description of image for people with visual impairments](image link)

Block quote/pull quote
>first line of paragraph

Ordered list
1. first list item
2. second list item
3. thirdlist item

Unordered list
- list item
- list item
- list item
Can also use * instead of -

Soft break (poetry)
Line is followed by two spaces
First line [space, space]
Second line [space, space]

Other
em dash: Alt+ 0151
en dash: Alt + 0150
hyphen -

Go back to the image above. Do you see the markdown codes now? Allow me to highlight some of them for you:

Markdown sample
The markdown syntax in this sample is highlighted in yellow.

If you don't find what you're looking for on my markdown list, check out this markdown cheat sheet. Print it and stick it next to your computer.

Or, if you write your blog posts in Scrivener like I do, you can copy and paste my list of markdown codes into the Project Notes menu in Scrivener's Inspector, where it'll always be available when you need it.

Markdown in Scrivener's Project Notes
Markdown in Scrivener's Project Notes

Try This

If you'd like to learn markdown, but you're not convinced that it's easy, try this guided, step-by-step interactive tutorial. I dare you to say it's hard after trying this tutorial.

If you'd like to see markdown transform to polished text right before your eyes, try John Combe's* free markdown editor. Use my markdown "cheat sheet" above and write something in the left pane. Watch your markdown text turn to beautifully formatted text.

In my next post, I'll explain how I use markdown for blogging on WordPress, and I'll share my writing and publishing process with you.

*I learned about the John Combe markdown editor from Joseph Michael in his Learn Scrivener Fast course.

Image by Michael Pollak