Is there a book in your blog? Convert WordPress to Scrivener

I found this great post from Liz Strauss with a great idea: Look through the archives of your blog and see if there is a book in there. She suggests that if you have 200 posts, there’s probably a book. I have over 400 – maybe even two! But seriously, it’s a good idea.

I’ve just started using Scrivener, and that would be an awesome tool to pull this together. It has great features for managing chunks of text, including a corkboard for arranging them. But how to get the posts into Scrivener?

It was an interesting problem to solve and I figured it out. It brought the posts in just the way I wanted them: Separate files, with images intact.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Use the wp2epub plugin to get the posts out as an .htm file. This is a subtle feature, but the htm file comes in the .zip file that is created with the epub file.
  2. Edit the htm file to replace the <h1 class=”main”> tag at the start of each post with the same tag but with ### on its own line in front of it.
  3. Import the .htm file into Scrivener. It will come in as a web archive, and images should be intact.
  4. Use Documents->Convert->Web Archive to Text to convert the file to text within Scrivener.
  5. Export the newly created text file as RFTD, rich text in Apple’s format.
  6. Import the newly exported file, but use the Import and Split function, entering ### as the split string.
  7. You now have your posts in Scrivener, each as a separate file with images intact.

A new cutting board

Like a lot of kitchens, we have a pull out cutting board underneath one of our counters. Our house is a 1960’s ranch, with a kitchen that is mostly original, as you can see from the counter top. Certainly the cutting board was. It was unusable as anything but a shelf when we moved in. It was made out of fir plywood, and the outer plys were all chopped away. It was nasty.

So I made a new one. I had large chunk of maple left over from another project, and after resawing it into planks I glued them up and breadboarded the ends. I finished it with mineral oil, and it’s a huge improvement over what we had. It’s smooth, and clean, and I can actually put food on it. At first I hesitated, since we have a poly cutting board that would fit, but there’s ample evidence that a wood board is no less sanitary, and possibly more sanitary than a plastic one.


I was in the process of making a dress up island to hold the girls’ dress up clothes, but realized I’d gotten pretty rusty in the shop so I decided to do the cutting board to refresh my skills. I’m glad I did. The board was a bit of a comedy of clumsiness but it absorbed a few mistakes easily. It would have really stunk to have ruined the other project.

I always underestimate how much of fine woodworking is a skill that has to be kept in practice. I also always underestimate how cathartic it is to make something useful.

The value of the persistant reminder

They say a visual reminder of a goal will help you acheive it. My experience is that placards with my desired weight taped here and there in my house have done nothing to reduce my weight, but perhaps the visual reminder needs to be more actionable.

We all have things we want to get done but resist our efforts. These are usually (hopefully) things that we should do but can live without doing. They sit there, wanting to be done, but undone. Sometimes it’s that the item isn’t really actionable – like a number taped to my mirror – but often times it’s all too actionable, there’s just some barrier. The strongest barrier is that the price to be paid for not doing it is simply not very high.

As I adopted David Allen’s Getting Things Done system for my personal life, I’ve found the value of the persistent reminder in dealing with these items. Even the most intractable item will eventually be conquered, if I just have a persistent reminder of it. Rather than if, it becomes a matter of when.

For example, I need to fix the oil cooler on my wife’s minivan. The van is famous for leaking oil at the oil cooler, and while it’s not a serious leak it’s enough to spot the driveway and it needs to be fixed but it’s the kind of thing one can live with fairly easily. It’s been on my todo list for ages.

Today it finally succumbed as I was going through my projects, got to that one, and asked myself “Am I really going to write this one on another next action list? Or, should I just get off my ass and do it?”

So a few dollars later and I have my new oil cooler seal.

This isn’t the first such item I’ve been able to deal with this way, and it took me a while to realize that it is really just a matter of there being a persistent reminder. David’s system certainly provides it, but it could be done in other ways. Regardless, if I see that item every day it will become an imperative to do it.

Getting Things Done – My Approach

There are so many ways people have implemented David Allen’s Getting Things Done I avoided blogging about mine for ages. Then I realized, after three years of using it, that it’s pretty effective. It’s also pretty simple and that’s part of the appeal. Last but not least, it’s paper and pen based, which makes it portable and immune to the peculiarities of IT departments.

The system is simple and has the following elements:

  1. A list of all projects started. A project is, as written in GTD, anything that takes more than one step. I keep a handwritten list, each project in a numbered list.
  2. A stack of active projects, in a folder marked Projects. One sheet of paper for each project. Number in the upper right hand corner, title in the upper left hand corner. The sheet is a simple log of next actions, and sometimes a few additional thoughts. The lowest item is always what needs to be done next in simple, visible terms.
  3. A next action list. This also holds everything else that I need to do that is not a project. Date in the upper right hand corner, and a list of items. Sometimes I fold the sheet in half, and use the four pages for contexts (i.e. Home, Work, etc.) often I don’t. This list may get folded up and carried in a pocket, or it might sit in the Projects folder. This sheet also serves as a sort of inbox – a good place to jot new things to be processed. Because any new next action list involves copying items from the old one, the new items will be processed.
  4. Another folder labeled ‘Inactive’. This is where old next action lists, and full or finished, project sheets go. This can probably stay in the desk.
  5. Another folder is labeled ‘Someday/Maybe’
  6. A stack of blank paper for making new projects, or new project sheets for older ones.

The workflow is also pretty simple:

  1. Add projects to the project list.
  2. For each project, write a project sheet. At the top it sometimes helps to write a clear statement of the expected outcome. Write the next thing you need to do for that project.
  3. Add that next action to the next action list.
  4. When you’re done, start working on the next action list and all the other stuff life brings to our doors.
  5. At least once a week, or when the next action list has accumulated a fair number of check marks, review the project sheets.
  6. For each sheet update the status – what’s happened or been accomplished. Change the next action if necessary. If nothing was done, simply go to the next project.
  7. Record each next action on the next action list as you look at each project.
  8. If nothing has been done on a project in a long time, I ask myself if if this is really an active project or not. Many ideas get turned into projects, that then turn out to be either not as useful as thought or they simple become irrelevant. If it happens that a month or so goes by with no action I will usually make an entry that says something like “Hibernating until I have more ideas.” Sometimes a project will go directly to Someday/Maybe.

I’ve tried a variety of software on my desktop computer, my laptop, my iPhone, and web based. All had some neat features and some of those feature could have been addicting but for one thing. While I would rather do this stuff in software, in every one of these systems I found myself updating them after the fact instead of using them in the process of planning work. They were good record keeping systems, but they didn’t add anything to the process except work. This pretty much destroys the value of the Getting Things Done system, which is derived from the planning that comes out of the project review process.
I also tried a number of different combinations of paper, but in the end simple blank sheets and file folders work the best.

Planning to write a book? Attend our workshop!

Last December Kira Henschel invited me to present on blogging at her publishing workshop. Kira runs HenschelHAUS Publishing, and offers workshops to help people get moving on their book ideas. She asked me to speak on blogging and social media from a how-to perspective.

It was a lot of fun, and quite successful too — one of the attendees has already finished her book and begun the process of marketing it. Jill Baake’s got an I Love Me Mom blog, and I Love Me Mom available at Amazon.

Writing a book is surely a difficult thing to do, but marketing seems to be the hidden valley of challenges for many authors. I know I always thought that being author went something like:

  1. Write really great book.
  2. Sign deal with grateful publisher.
  3. Wait for phone calls announcing each successive step up the best seller list.
  4. Enjoy being rich.

Seriously, I think most folks believe that the writing is the hard part. Actually, it’s editing the book into its most productive form and then marketing it effectively.

What’s also interesting is that while it used to be there weren’t too many publishers that was the only way to get a book in print aside from paying to have the book printed directly. Between changes in printing technologies, publishing technologies, and all the rest of the technologies there are now a lot of new options and many hybrids.

Kira’s invited me again for her next workshop on July 23rd. If you’ve got a book in you that needs to get out, this is a great way to develop a plan to make it happen. From Brainchild to Bestseller: An Insider’s Guide to Birthing and Publishing Your Book will untangle the mess for you, and leave you with a clear path to follow to your book.

I’m not your spam filter, LLBean

I’m running into this more and more, and I’ve decided to start walking away. I’m talking about captchas, those little boxes of nearly impossible to read text that they want you to enter to make sure you’re not a robot.

I will put up with it on registration pages for free online services, but if it’s a corporation asking me to enter a contest via an email invitation, forget it. Don’t ask me to be you’re spam filter.

I’m looking at you LLBean.

Can the Kindle be family friendly?

So now we have two Kindles – the K3 I bought, and the K2 my father passed down to my daughters when he just upgraded. Junie B. Jones and The Magic Tree House are available, so my older daughter is happy, but my 4 year old is also enjoying playing (if not exactly reading yet) and my wife seems like she’d like one too.

While the thrill will probably wear off for my daughters, I know where this is going long term, and there’s going to be problems.

Eventually my daughters will want their own accounts, even if my wife and I can share one. Right now everything is on one account, but when and how do we switch? When the switch happens, the girls will lose a lot of content, no? It seems silly, not to mention complicated, to get separate accounts for the girls but it might be easier now than later.

Has anyone else gone through this already?