Now that I’ve written a few posts about Scrintal (and used Scrintal to help create those posts), I thought it might be a good time to cover my own workflow so far. This flow mostly applies to writing shorter articles rather than for long-form, academic writing. Some thoughts about using Scrintal for creative writing have been covered in this article.
If you haven’t yet tried Scrintal for writing, then perhaps start with some of the ideas given here, and then evolve your workflow until you find something that works for you.
If you are working on a blog or some other structured series of work, then it is likely that you will start with an overall plan of what you intend to do. A board is ideal for this. Start with a central card that describes your overall plan or project, and then add linked cards for themes/topics or whatever makes sense for you. Finally, create cards that each cover an idea for a single piece of writing. As you review this, you can rearrange cards or use colour to group items or make them stand out.
Before you can write something, you will need to decide what it is that you will write about. To do this, you will need to capture some ideas and then curate them.
The secret here is to first become a collector and then become a discarder. Don’t be fussy with your ideas. Put anything down and review it later. Mostly, your ideas (or at least my ideas) will be garbage. That’s OK. Throw them out. Ideation is a numbers game: if you have enough, some will be good. But if you don’t get them down, then you will forget almost all of them - including those that could have been your best ones.
Jot down your ideas, either as they occur to you (one per card), or you might prefer to sit down and brainstorm a few at a time. Whatever works for you.
Your opinion of your ideas might grow or diminish over time. Therefore it’s good to review them a few times to decide whether they are looking better or sounding worse. I like to use colours here in Scrintal, but you may prefer to use clusters of cards (one cluster for good ideas, one for questionable ones etc.). Or you could use a Scrintal table with columns for each category of idea.
If you are not prepared to throw out your potentially lousy ideas, just remove them from your desk/board, and they will stay in your archive. You may find them down the track and see them with a fresh perspective. Adding tags, like #idea, #good, #garbage? will enable you to browse them in your archive from time to time and see whether any begin to resonate with you.
As I revisit each idea, I open the card and jot down a couple of bullet points, which might represent a heading or just a thought. This helps me to decide whether the idea is evolving or is going nowhere.
Once you know what it is that you are going to write about, you will likely use outside resources to help you. This might take the form of videos, other articles or images. You can put links to these (or upload files directly) into individual cards. You might use tags to categorise them for later. I use #source for something I’ve used and the media type, e.g. #video. I also add a tag for the project I’ve used it in.
I also like to keep some cards for side notes, remarks or other material that I can’t fit anywhere else.
Drafting and editing
Perhaps make a new board in Scrintal to work on your new article. Use a tag for all the cards you use for the article so you can find them all in the archive in future.
Tip: If you find all the cards related to your article in the archive by using a tag, you can then click select all and then drag them all to your desk or a new board.
Once I’ve decided on an idea and have a few bullet points, I start to write a few sentences with some thoughts. I put these in linked cards around the idea card, so I can drag them around to see how they fit together. I rearrange them to look for some structure. I might put those which seem most relevant close to the parent card and move others further away (or remove them altogether).
I don’t think yet about whether these snippets are going to end up in my article or where they might fit in. This is an extension of the collect and discard technique mentioned above. Whatever happens, I will have some text to put into a draft. This is infinitely better than starting with a blank page and then experiencing the horrors of writer’s block.
As I start to incorporate the snippets into my draft, I move the text into the main card and delete the card with the snippet in it. This allows me to consolidate the text into the first draft. Don’t be discouraged if your rough draft looks like nonsense at this stage. Remember you can’t edit what hasn’t been written, and you now have a draft rather than a blank page. In this respect, you are already a winner.
Around this point, I inevitably realise that the text doesn’t flow and that not even I can follow what is going on or see why the parts are in the order they are. This is not the time to stop, and in fact, it is perfectly normal. Reordering your cards and rephrasing your text snippets will almost certainly start to bring order out of the chaos, and a form will emerge which starts to work.
If I’m unsure whether something should remain in a draft, it’s easy to remove it and put it back into a linked card. This removes the nagging fear that you are throwing out something which might have been important: it’s gone but still available.
At present, I prefer to do my final edit in another tool (Ulysses). An important point here, especially if you are new to writing, is that your editing should have an endpoint. Once it looks good, then it’s time to use it. It will never be perfect: publish it!
Writing doesn’t sit in isolation. It is instructive to look over your previous work and see how you put it together and what you were thinking at the time. This is another advantage; having a “deconstructed” view of your work in a tool like Scrintal. It can inspire new material, and you may well be able to use parts of it (or the resources that you used) in later pieces.
As we have seen, Scrintal can help with the whole lifecycle of writing an article, from planning, idea management, editing and review.
Using cards helps to keep your article components atomic and self-contained, which makes for easier reading and comprehension. This is also handy when rearranging them to see how they can form into a cohesive story (even non-fiction should tell a story of some kind).
Links show your structure and allow connections to references and other relevant material - as well as a way to visualise relationships.
For me, at least, the writing process is evolutionary; the structure emerges after some experimentation. The visual aspect of Scrintal complements the editing and linking features very well for this purpose.
Ece Kural (Scrintal CEO) said in a recent video that the three pillars of Scrintal are “thinking, writing and sharing”. For me so far, I have done most of my thinking and some of my writing in Scrintal. I think it is likely that I will be doing more of both over time as the product evolves. Many writers also collaborate with others as they create work, and this aspect will be explored in a later article.