It’s the end of the year and the start of a new one, so I’m looking over how I’ve been doing things and thinking about changing it all. In case it helps anyone else, here is how I setup my writing to write about 1,500-2,500 words every weekday of this past year. That is probably not accurate, but the average was around 900, with some highs in the 3,000s.
The Hardware I use to Write
My main computer is a 2018 Macbook Air. I use the actual keyboard on it and it broke while still under warranty. Getting it replaced, even with no Apple store in town, was a breeze. I shipped it in their pre-labeled box on a Tuesday and had my computer back on Thursday.
I do use my phone in a pinch to edit articles, take down notes, bring up things I’ve written during conversations, and for sharing. That isn’t a big deal, but it is worth noting because when you talk to somebody about something, you want to send it to them right at that moment. That’s when they are the most interested, and you’re more likely to remember to share it.
The only exception to that would be if a delayed follow-up would be more beneficial. In that case, set yourself a reminder (again on you phone, right?) to write them later while you are still with them. That way you at least won’t forget because of your reminder.
Part of what I write every week are sermons that I teach at Westminster Church. I use an iPad to read from my notes while I speak. Other than that, I rarely use the iPad. It’s more of a computer for my kids and their schoolwork.
The Software I use for My Writing
Ok, so I jump all over the place but I’ve been pretty consistent this past year. You’ll see I use a bouquet of programs because I need them for the ease and function that they each provide.
Scrivener for the Daily Bible Reading
Every weekday I write the Daily Bible Reading for One Life Church. It’s volunteer and awesome because when you have a few hundred people waiting to see what you did during your Bible reading time in the morning, you get to it! Because the articles are published on the website, via the app, and sent via email subscriptions, I stick with text only 95% of the time. Occasionally I put in a related YouTube video, but I make sure embed it responsive when I do.
Most readers are reading on their phones, so links work best if they go to Bible.com. A link like Luke 1:14 https://my.bible.com/bible/59/LUK.1.14 will go to that verse on a desktop, but it will open right in their Bible app if they have it installed on their phone. That Bible is kind of buggy on the desktop, but great on mobile, so I stick with it.
I write it all in Markdown in Scrivener, and then preview the piece in Marked 2. I use the *Notes* panel in Scrivener to keep the Bible verses in view that I’m writing about, and also the date that the reading is published. I usually post the reading to social media, so the *Notes* panel may also hold whatever I post to social about the reading.
Scrivener syncs with an external folder which is on my Google drive, so anything I write in there is backed up as a .txt file. That means I can use Google Drive to search for past readings, edit them on my phone (the text file, not the post) or call them up again for a sermon sometime later.
When I am away from Scrivener, like when I forget to do the Daily Bible Reading and I do it at lunch on my work PC, I write it in StackEdit. Again, it is in Markdown, and I can just copy the Markdown preview and paste it on the website for publishing. The best thing there is that I can sync with Google Drive, so that when I’m back at Scrivener, it will sync up and fall right into place in the Scrivener file.
Backing Up Writing in Scrivener
The way I structure everything in Scrivener in a file structure on my Google drive that I got from some early 2000s graphics editing program. I can’t remember what it was. I have a folder called writing and then in there is a folder for every year, 2019, 2018, etc. I separate each year into quarters so they are called 2019Q4, 2018Q2, etc. This way if I know *roughly* when I wrote something, I can search for the folder in Google Drive and see everything I wrote last Spring, for example.
All of those folders are in Google drive on every computer I use, so they are synced and backed up as well as in the Google cloud. Since I write in all text files, they are also editable and readable almost anywhere.
That’s the problem with Bear, Ulysses, MacJounal, and so many other writing programs. If they save your file in a proprietary file format, you are only going to be able to read those things if you have that same program or drill down into a bunch of secret folders. When my wife is a widow or my kids are looking to find what their dad wrote so many years ago (if they bother) they aren’t going to want to deal with a .jrnl file.
But I Write My Sermons in Bear
Yep, all of my sermons are in Markdown in Bear. The number one reason is because of the seamless sync it uses and the easy to read screen on the iPad. Here’s how it works:
- I write my sermon in a panic (in Bear) on Sunday morning.
- I jump up and tell everyone I’m ready to go.
- I find the iPad that has been used for school and video games all week.
- I open Bear, see that my sermon is already there (it’s magic!).
- I put it into DND and airplane mode, and we run out the door to church.
I couldn’t find that kind of easy syncing and offline support from Google docs, Microsoft Word, Ulysses, Evernote, or Stackedit. I make that whole list because those are what I tried. Bear won and it’s worth the $15 a year to remain the winner.
Part of my Sunday afternoon processing is to post the recording of my sermon to Soundcloud and then I export the sermon from Bear into Scrivener for Archival. I then update my sermon planning on Trello, but that’s more of a calendar checklist than a writing tool.
Writing for Work in Many Tools
I write blog posts focusing on Veterans Disability at Woods and Woods VA Disability Lawyers. For that I need tools that can share posts, be a work in progress, receive posts from others for editing, and hold a lot of notes for research. I’m also bouncing between my MacBook Air as I’m out of the office working remotely, and a PC sitting at my desk.
Microsoft Word is the Best Office Writing Tool
If you are in an office that already has Office365, you should get used to Word and the cloud version of Word. It fixes a ton of typos and grammar as you write and looks good. I don’t listen to complaints that it’s bloated and offers too much. That’s just silly. You’re probably already paying for it, so use what you want and ignore the rest.
Another benefit to Word is that it’s universal and easy to use. The .docx filetype isn’t going anywhere, so you’ll be able to open files way into the future. I share links to the OneDrive version of the files when it’s time for a review so that we don’t bog down our network with a thousand versions and attachments. If you learn how to use the cloud version, you can edit Word docs anywhere and contribute to them at the same time. I know that Google Docs says they can do that, but don’t try. Edit Google Docs with Google Docs and edit Word docs with Word. Just pay close attention to where you save your files. If you have something saved to One Drive and you try to work offline, you might not be able to find your documents!
Google Drive is the Second Best Office Writing Tool
If you aren’t managing logins at your company or you are working with a bunch of people from different places, you can collaborate on Google Docs. Since gmail accounts are almost ubiquitous, you can usually share a Google Doc with somebody via their email. That is the best selling point for Google Docs. If you are actually printing it or you care about style, stick with Word.
The other reason why I use Google docs for some writing is that tools like the SEMRush writing tool, Annielytics site Audit, and other useful add-ons are written for Google Docs and don’t work so well in Word. I guess Google is making it easier than Microsoft to write such add-ons, so that makes me use Google Docs also.
When I can, I use StackEdit to write with text files synced to Google Drive, because the Google Doc file format is proprietary and you can only open it in Google Docs. Word .docx files aren’t like that and neither are .txt files.
Writing in WordPress
When it comes to the final draft, sharing, editing, and reviewing all happen best in the WordPress editor. Multiple sign-ons keep the site secure and PublishPress makes it easy to see what is going live when. We also use PublishPress to move and reschedule posts easily. We really only use the calendar, but that is a great way to see what posts are going out when and what the deadlines are.
Grammarly runs on all of our browsers so WordPress has grammar and spelling check without a plugin to slow down the site.
Pick the Combination of Writing Tools that Works for You
I’ve just given the rundown here of all of the tools I use in case it inspires you to build your workflow. Write your own blog post about what you use and what’s wrong with my setup. I’ll tell you the one drawback that I have that I hope to improve in the coming year is organized archival. I wish I had all of my writings about Ephesians in one concise package or a good offline backup of all of my Veterans blog posts. That’s what I’m going to try when I create that 2020Q1 folder and start a new year of writing.