There was this 1000 words article that I previously wrote on my older workflow, and I have to admit, except for a couple of slight changes everything else remained the same. It was written with excitement but lacked clarity, and I am pretty certain that I wasn’t able to provide a clear image of how that workflow actually worked. This time around I hopes to give a clear picture of the structure and vision I have about it today.
The four writing phases
- Idea capturing and retrieving – Drafts App and Dropbox
- Cooking and working on the idea – Notesy and nvALT
- Processing queue – Byword
- Publishing – Poster and Mars Edit
Idea Capturing and retrieving – Drafts app and Dropbox
I am an Evernote fan, but I actually don’t touch Evernote for writing. All my writing is done within Dropbox in simple text files. Some powerful text files ninjas turned me onto Markdown and ever since, it has become my default way of writing. If you don’t know what Markdown is, I strongly encourage you to read more about it before continuing with this article.
Ideas need to have entry points. Places where the information will get captured and remain, altogether with other information. Don’t stress too much about organizing that information, make sure that you have a neat way to access it via search. For that purpose, I am using Notesy (on iOS) and nvALT (on OS X). Both of these apps have good search functionality and actually, they are accessing the very same Database within the same Dropbox folder. I have more than 300 files in there. I don’t bother de-cluttering them, they are just there, small files, easily searchable, readily available. Every one of them has tidbits of information that might one day turn into an awesome article such as this one.
Cooking and working on the idea – Notesy and nvALT
Now if I want to work, but I don’t know what particularly I want to work on, I will start with the keyword. Most of my articles are properly named, with a consistent convention. If it was an article for Alpha Efficiency, it would have an appropriate tag. If it was written with Mailing list subscribers in mind, it would have another tag. Thanks to Text Expander, I quickly add dates, so I also know when is that specific article is written. Text Expander also handles all of my tags quickly and easily.
So I get in there, do a quick search, and work on the idea for a while. If I specifically like something that I am working on, I keep on working on it. When I feel that the article is “ready” I can move on to the next phase…
Processing queue – Byword for iOS and OS X
When the idea is mature enough in order to become an article, I usually move it from Dropbox to iCloud. This change is strictly psychological, as I don’t have more than 4–5 articles queued in Byword. Byword lets me easily access the most powerful cross-platform Markdown tool. This strength lets me finish the article in a clean non-intrusive environment, where I can worry about spell checking, grammar, links, and style.
Byword is perfect for this phase of the work because right before I publish I need to have a clear image in my head how the article is going to look. Preview is clean and converts HTML perfectly. Which is essential for my next step.
Publishing – Poster and Mars Edit
There are two apps that help me publish. Poster and Mars Edit. Poster is perfect blogging solution if you have WordPress, as it has full markdown support, and lets you do your work either from your iPad or even iPhone.
Poster will let me just “strip” the article straight out of Dropbox, but I might also opt out for copying the article from Byword to it. At this point, I know that my work is going to look exactly as I intended. I also know that prior to this phase, all the spell checking and working was properly done, so I can focus on the publishing and distribution by social media from this point onward.
Why is this setup so complicated?
There wasn’t a single solution that would let me do everything I wanted, so I had to make up my own mix. But the best thing about this setup is that it’s not exclusively app dependent. I can do all of these without any application I before mentioned here, what-so-ever. The only tool that is indispensable here is the text file. All others are assistive tools that make up my worldview on writing. Consider the files as the meat, and Dropbox is a cloud solution that makes that meat available to this “butcher of words”. Even if you stole all my devices, and I made a backup of my text files, I could easily reconstruct the whole workflow with other tools and even on other platforms. That is the power of .txt files.
Everything else mentioned here is created in order to remove friction. And so far I haven’t found any better single tool for the job, otherwise, I would be writing about it, and not 6 + other apps. Hope that makes sense. Each and every one of these has a unique empowering feature that the other doesn’t have. So even though I am a minimalist in every regard (and most of these tools are minimalistic writing tools), I still consider them working better together than by themselves. Drafts for capturing, Notesy and nvALT for searching, Byword for markdown preview and editing and finally Poster for publishing.
Thanks to Dropbox all of these apps are accessing a single database, and don’t create any additional friction what-so-ever.
Why I evolved this writing workflow?
I had no idea what markdown was. But I knew that I wasn’t happy with my writing ecosystem as it was. Especially for Blogging. Whenever I wrote an article and wanted to publish it, there was a formatting problem. I would always get messed up codes. This would create a lot of friction. That much friction, that the thought of publishing would lead me to infinite procrastination.
So I had all this stuff written, across various different apps, and eventually, I had no idea what I had written. It got messed up with other notes. I didn’t have any idea if it was for the blog, or for my book, or simply notes in my journal? And then I decided it was time for something as flexible as text.
I evolved this workflow in order to hyperproduce quality content and remove as much friction from my writing as possible. And I believe I have been successful! My procrastination ended, I am consistently writing and I am following up on old projects.
Taking ownership of your reader’s experience
I take great pride in how my words come into existence and how they get served to you, my reader. I want to take complete responsibility for your reading experience and remove as much friction as possible. I want to know exactly how you see the content, and how you interact with it to the point where I know where your eye is going to land next. Digital writing is a form of art, and by having these tools I can guarantee that the end result, will match how I want the reader to feel and interact with my writing.
This way I am certain I am delivering the premium product, value added and properly presented idea, that is easily consumed and engaged.
What is your next step?
Perhaps you aren’t a blogger or you just don’t need all of the things mentioned here. My workflow is specific, as I have an iPhone, iPad and a Mac. Perhaps you are only using a Mac? Or perhaps you’re only on iPad? Either way, make sure you use what’s the best from this setup for you. It’s in no way mandatory, it might not be the best, but it is something that works for me, for 6 months and counting. And as time passes by, I can only feel improvement to it.
What is your writing workflow setup? How are you taking advantage of mobile devices for writing? Are you writing on your smartphone perhaps? Your opinions are welcome in the comments.