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Evernote + Scrivener to write a book?

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Posted by Vincek
Oct 13, 2011 at 06:17 PM


This post is a followup to another post from a few days ago http://www.outlinersoftware.com/topics/viewt/3256/0/a-theory-of-outliner-software-market-development

I would appreciate tapping the wisdom of this group in reacting to the patchwork solution I am zeroing in on to write my book.  Will my proposed solution work smoothly?  am I missing anything?

Here is what I am seeing as a solution:

* Capture research information in multiple notes using Evernote.  Evernote has ability to capture text, graphics, pdf, etc.  There will be hundreds of notes that will be the research to support my book.

* Export individual Evernote notes to .html files.  Evernote has the ability to export multiple individual notes as indivual html files.  Evernote provides the capability of selecting specific notes for export.

* Import these .html files to Scrivener for Windows.  In playing around with Scrivener so far, I tried importing 3 .html files simultaneously as a test.  This was a test, so I am assuming Scrivener would not hiccup in being able import hundreds of html notes originating from Evernote. 

* Use Scrivener to 1) filter and organize the notes, 2) as needed use the research to create an outline and write text for the book.  fyi, Scrivener for Windows has been in beta for about a year, but is scheduled for a v 1.0 release on October 31.

Can you help me spot any problems before I spend many hours learning the software and reading the 200 page user manual for Scrivener?

* Will this solution work? am I missing anything?
* can you spot any problems that I am not anticipating
* Can you suggest other options?

Much appreciated,

Vince Kuraitis


Posted by Franz Grieser
Oct 13, 2011 at 07:17 PM



I use Scrivener and Evernote both on the Mac and on my Windows machines. I haven’t imported hundreds of HTML files at once into Scrivener, I usually do it in bunches of 5 to 10 or so files which has worked flawlessly so far.

I often copy and paste notes from Evernote, from OneNote (which I used to collect notes and web pages until I started using Evernote more and more), from web pages or from Word/OpenOffice files to my research folder in Scrivener.

Sometimes there are problems when importing RTF files on the Mac as the German umlauts (???) may get lost. This does not happen when I copy and paste though.



Posted by Hugh
Oct 13, 2011 at 07:29 PM


Here are one and a half suggestions.

A half suggestion: my experience is with Scrivener for the Mac, which has a very useful tutorial that takes an hour or so to absorb. After that, the manual, which, as you say, is quite hefty, becomes simply a reference work. If the 1.0 release of Scrivener for Windows has a similar tutorial, I’d focus my efforts on that. Read only the bits of the manual that you need to, as you use the application.

A full suggestion, if I’m correct in thinking that you’re writing a non-fiction book? (The same principles could apply to a novel if it has a factual basis, but obviously to a much lesser extent.) An article by the historian and author Steven Berlin Johnson laid out the following procedure for outlining then writing a non-fiction book, using the Mac software DevonThink. You could just as easily use the method with Evernote and Scrivener.

1. Put together your outline however you like to do this. (Like all plans and outlines, you make it to change it, but it’s still very useful to have.)

2. Lay out this outline, complete with chapters, and, if required, shorter sections, in Scrivener’s Draft folder (Scrivener is ideal for writing and manipulating short chunky sections).

3. Replicate the outline into Scrivener’s Research folder.

4. Pull across the key pieces of your research into the chapters and sections in the Research folder, in the order in which your outline requires.

5. Type up your manuscript in the Draft folder, using the twin-pane feature in the Scrivener Editor to keep your research outline and its documents alongside.

I hope this helps.

A couple of other thoughts: a very large load of research documents will slow Scrivener down, so you’re right to keep your main research “library” in something like Evernote, just bringing across the key pieces to Scrivener. And, I’ve never tried importing large numbers of research papers into Scrivener in one go. No reason to think it won’t take them. But I’d experiment first.




Posted by Dr Andus
Oct 13, 2011 at 07:58 PM


Depending on the amount of data you collect, you may find another software useful in the middle for analysing the raw data, process them and only use the outcome of the analysis in Scrivener. I suppose UltraRecall could do such a job or for heavy duty research there is NVivo. There might be simpler alternatives as well.


Posted by Alexander Deliyannis
Oct 13, 2011 at 09:37 PM


Vince, I have very little experience with Scrivener, but it clearly fits the bill of a writing oriented program that I suggested could complement Evernote (in the other thread). It sounds like an excellent match. Thereon, writing is a very personal thing, so you should play around with Scrivener to make sure you feel comfortable using it.

Another half suggestion from my part as well: once you start putting material into your software setup, stick with that setup until you finish the book.

I would also second Hugh’s proposed workflow. In my MBA dissertation—equivalent to a relatively small book- I replicated the thematic structure in Surfulater which I used for research and in Brainstorm which I used for writing (given the choices now available I would not suggest this combination, though Surfulater is at least as capable in clipping from the web as Evernote, and much more capable in organising). This proved a very useful approach; as Hugh pointed out, the outline is made to be changed, but the advantage is that one is improving the concepts whether researching or writing—a kind of double feedback loop as I imagine JBfrom would call it…


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