Federico Viticci's Writer Workflow

April 02, 2012 by Gabe | [mmd] |

Editor's Note: MacStories.net is one of the best Apple related news sites around. I also think it is one of the most credible sources for interesting and reliable Apple information and app reviews. I fully credit Federico Viticci with the MacStories rise to prominence. From what I can tell, it's his darling and he pours an amazing amount of care into his work. His stories are well written, thoroughly thoughtful and heavily referenced. It's one of the few feeds I check throughout the day.

It's an impressive feat by a relatively new editor and I thank Federico Viticci for staying true to an ideal that I trust. I also thank him for generously participating in my Writer Workflow series.

If you like, please provide a brief bio

My name is Federico Viticci, and I'm the Editor-in-Chief of MacStories.net. I am 23, and I live in a small town in Italy called Viterbo. I started MacStories in April 2009.

Why did you start MacStories.net

There's the real reason (I had been fired from my previous job, and writing was something I had always wanted to do) and the reason I gave myself as things started going well, which is to provide a different, more in-depth mix of Apple news, analysis, and software reviews.

How do you capture your ideas and research an article for your sites?

Typically, I'm one that likes to tinker with his workflow and always try new things, but in fact I think I've settled with a system that works for me for quite some time now. I mainly capture ideas in Evernote, using the iOS or Mac app, or by forwarding short bits of text to my Evernote email address using Captio (which is universal, unlike Note 2 Self, which is iPhone only). On the Mac, I had our writer Don build a series of scripts to automate the process of getting links and web text into Evernote for Mac using Keyboard Maestro. When I'm not using my Mac -- most of the time these days -- I like to write in Evernote for iPad, though I recognize the app is not perfect and could use a lot of text related improvements. The real difference, however, that I made in my writing habits recently is that I try to use Evernote for "research" articles like longer software reviews and things like this, while keeping the more "standard" posts or editorials in Dropbox. I think this kind of division makes me write better in that these articles require different, separate workflows, and thus different apps. When it comes to Dropbox, my editor of choice is Writing Kit, though I have been playing with a lot of iOS text editors. I prefer Writing Kit because it's got better research tools -- it's not the same kind of "research" that goes into Evernote-based articles, but it still helps me when I want to get links into an editorial piece of fact-check information. Sometimes I wish Evernote supported Markdown.

How do you find inspiration and how do you keep track of your ideas?

Inspiration usually hits me randomly, though I have been observing a strange pattern in ideas forming very well when I take a shower (guess I'm a follower of Paul Graham's theory that we have a "top idea" in our mind, mine being writing) or when I make coffee. Other times, I just see someone else on the Internet writing down his honest opinion and I'm prompted to respond and offer my take on the subject. Or, something I've been liking a lot lately, I like to look at a particular issue, and find viable solutions without just keep arguing "it's an issue, and we can't do anything about it". To keep track of ideas, I treat these ideas as separate items from my OmniFocus todo list, so I use Dropkick for them (and again, I have been playing around with Todo.txt and TaskAgent for this, but I keep coming back to Dropkick for some reason).

Can you provide an overview of your writing process?

I let an article simmer for several days, sometimes even weeks, but I don't write drafts. I build up what I want to say (and the best ways to convey it) in my mind until "I'm happy with my thoughts" and I'm ready to turn them into words. When "I don't feel" an article, I just don't write it because I know it won't turn out any good. I know some people swear by their drafts and they even produce dozens of those letting their friends and coworkers read them -- I only have one version of the article that is available in text. That version is the same my coworkers and girlfriend help me proofread. Also, all my articles are usually done in one session, though both the Sparrow and 2011 MacBook Air review took two days of writing.

How long have you been doing it this way?

Since forever. In high school, I would spend 30 minutes thinking, then I began writing. I was a fast writer -- now I'm a bit slower because I'm not used to pens anymore. But I remember my Italian teacher thought it was a weird process -- I think there's no necessarily "right" process when it comes to writing. Just make sure you'll eventually write something, and write it the way you want, and you'll be fine.

What enhancements have you made?

If by "enhancement" you mean "tinkering", then I guess a lot. But seriously I am happy with my workflow now, and like I said I can't wait for Evernote to gain more writer-oriented features and support for better text editing. I guess an enhancement may have been learning Markdown -- or better, learning how to use it consistently.

Do you have a specific work environment or setup for researching and composing an article?

I can't write in public places because I feel like everyone's staring at me. I do read a lot in public places though. I write at home, at my desk or on the couch or at the kitchen table, as long as TV is turned off and there's some good music in the background. These days I'm into the latest Kasabian and M83.

Does your workflow change based on the type of post?

Yes. It's mainly about the difference between news, breaking news, and all the other articles I'm working on. For the editorials and reviews, I keep my own schedule as long as it also works with any possible embargo I may be under, so sometimes I do have a deadline to meet. With the news, however, I need to be fast and accurate when reporting them, because let's face it, no one enjoys the stupid rumor blogs unless you're high. In that case it's quite entertaining.

What parts of your workflow are you looking to change or improve?

There are so many apps and services I wish existed, but I can't build myself because I don't have the skills and knowledge. For starters, more powerful Evernote iOS apps would definitely improve my workflow. Figure out a better way to clip items from Safari, or supercharge the built-in browser with more research tools. Maybe just acquire Writing Kit, leave it as it is, but add some Evernote features to it. I don't know, might be cool. Also, because Twitter is more than a social network in my workflow, I would love to see Tapbots consider a web view that you can dismiss, while keeping the webpage you're checking open in the background. Or maybe, as Cody joked on Twitter, Tapbots should just make their own Browserbot. But aside from things I wish existed (and that no one will likely ever make), I would like to improve my workflow by remembering to use Greplin more (sometimes I fire up a Google search query through Alfred out of sheer habit, while I should just remember I love Greplin so much) and getting to use attributes for every link and image I embed in my articles.

What parts of your workflow are you least willing to change?

My Twitter client and Evernote. There is no way I'm switching from Tweetbot on iOS; I'm too committed to Evernote at this point to even consider moving these 6643 notes to another environment. It helps that the company seems to really be in it for the long haul.

Anything else you would like to share about your workflow?

I like to write at night, or before dinner. I can't listen to podcasts while writing, but I do enjoy some quality tunes. I don't have hundreds of keyboard shortcuts memorized, just the ones from Keyboard Maestro. I am quite fast at touch-typing on the iPad. I like to keep a glass of Coke next to me while I'm writing a software review, but iced tea in the summer. I hate coming up with titles, and I like the sound of the word "whilst". Overall, I look forward to writing from my iPad even more in the future.