Woot. We are on USAToday for our boxed collection: Simply The Best ~ International Digital Award Winners

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Eight Reasons Why I Love Scrivener by Gwen Hernandez

I am so pleased to bring you Gwen Hernandez and her love affair with Scrivener. Her CLASS information is at the bottom of the post. DO. NOT. MISS. OUT.

I was in a committed relationship with Microsoft Word for fifteen years. Together, we composed business letters, term papers, memos, technical manuals, and even a graduate thesis. The thesis took the shine off our romance, but it was my foray into fiction that killed the affair.
That’s because I met a younger, sexier, writing program called Scrivener that understood my needs in a way Word never could.
Here are eight reasons I threw Word over for a newer model.

1. Scrivener remembers your spot. Every time you open a project in Scrivener, it takes you right to where you left off. Maybe not such a big deal when writing the first draft—especially if you write in order—but when you’re in the midst of revisions, it’s a lifesaver.
2. Your structure is easy to see. Scrivener lets you write in chunks—such as scenes or chapters—called documents. The Binder, where you view all of the files in your project, gives you an at-a-glance overview of your entire manuscript and thus the structure of your work.
Change your mind about the order of scenes or chapters? It’s a cinch to move them around and play with a different story flow.

3. Color-coding. In Scrivener, you can color code your documents by whatever piece of data you want to track. For example, in the drafting phase I tag my fiction scenes by point-of-view (POV) character, using blue for the hero and pink for the heroine (original, right?). Instantly, I can see the POV of a scene and check my overall balance.
In the revision phase—and for nonfiction—I use the Label field to keep track of the status of each section (e.g. Not Started, WIP, To Editor, Author Review, Complete).
4. Saving epiphanies is easy. Got an idea for a future scene, but you’re not ready for it yet? Create a new document, write out your idea, then ignore it until you figure out where it goes. You can also add notes right into the text you’re working on. When you can’t think of the perfect line of dialogue, or you need to do some additional research, simply insert an annotation or comment and get back to writing. Annotations are also a handy way to mark sections that would make good excerpts, either for front matter or in your advertising. 

5. Auto-save protects your hard work. If you’ve ever faced the Blue Screen of Death, or lost power after writing 3,000 words without saving, you’ll appreciate that Scrivener saves your project every time there’s more than two seconds of inactivity. So while you’re pondering your next sentence, Scrivener is committing your words to memory.

6. Scrivener is like Hermione Granger’s bottomless handbag. You can import research documents, web pages/links, and photos right into your project, so even when you take your laptop on the road, you have everything you need. You can also import any writing you already started in another program.

Plus, you can keep outlines, notes on ideas for changes and future scenes, and character and setting information all within the project. No more scouring your hard drive or that pile of sticky notes on your desk for a crucial piece of information.

7. Working without distractions. Scrivener’s full screen composition mode blocks out all distractions, making it easier to focus on your writing. Change the background color or image to suit your mood.

8. Exporting to e-books is a snap. Scrivener is your one-stop publishing program. When your masterpiece is done, you can compile (export) it to an EPUB or MOBI (Amazon) file for easy self-publishing, or for perusing on your e-reader. You can also export to DOC/DOCX, RTF, TXT, PDF, HTML, direct-to-printer, and other formats, including Final Draft (screenplay software).

The beauty is that you can write in any format/font/color you want and then compile it into something completely different without affecting your original work. Produce a PDF, then turn around and create an EPUB. Totally different formats with a few clicks. Print chapter or scene titles in one version, leave them out in another. It can even auto-number your chapters or sections.

Getting the output right the first time can take a bit of trial and error as you learn how it works, but once you have it set up the way you want, you can save the settings for future use.

My process for an EPUB?
1. Import the cover art into the project (anywhere outside of the Manuscript/Draft folder).
2. Go to File—>Compile.
3. From the Format As dropdown menu at the top, choose E-book.
4. On the Contents pane I choose which front/back matter items to include (because I use different links depending on the retailer) and uncheck my Part folders (since those are just for my own organization while writing).
5. Click the Cover tab and select my cover image (this is for inclusion inside the book only, so it doesn’t need to be as high quality as what you upload to the retailer).
6. On the Formatting tab, I deselect the Title checkbox for the folders so my chapter names don’t print. Chapter auto-numbering is on by default.
7. Check the Footnotes & Comments tab make sure comments aren’t being included in the final output (if I had any comments in my project).
8. Select the Meta-Data tab and enter my book’s basic metadata.
9. Click Compile. Scrivener will produce an EPUB. That’s it!
A MOBI is basically the same, but you have to download Amazon’s Kindlegen converter software, and tell Scrivener where you put, it before you create a MOBI for the first time.

But there’s so much more. I could wax poetic about my fabulous writing partner all day. The ability to set word count goals and track your progress. The Corkboard where you can view each document as an index card (perfect for storyboarders). Advanced searches that help you find anything, anywhere in your project. Snapshots for saving old versions of scenes…

That’s just a small list of what makes Scrivener—available for Mac and Windows—too hot to resist. So, if you’re tired of your stodgy, inflexible word processor, hook up with a program that puts your needs as a writer first.

There’s no commitment with Scrivener’s free trial, but you just might find your happy ever after.  Hit me with your questions.

Gwen is teaching her incredible classes soon. 
I can say that because I've taken them.
Info below:
Class info:
- Scrivener I: The Basics and Beyond, Feb 23-March 11, 2015
– Scrivener II: Intermediate and Advanced Concepts, March 30-April 15, 2015
– Scrivener Master Course: Compile, May 11-19, 2015
All are offered in a forum environment and can be done at your own pace. For more information, visi

Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener For Dummies, Productivity Tools for Writers, and Blind Fury (romantic suspense), and teacher of popular online Scrivener courses for Mac and Windows. She lives near Boston with her Air Force husband, two teenage boys, and a lazy golden retriever. Learn more about her books or classes and get free Scrivener tips at

                                               Buy Scrivener for Dummies



  1. Thanks for hosting me today, Leslie Ann! I'll check back in periodically to see if there are any questions about Scrivener or my classes, or whatever. :-)

  2. Gwen, I'm so happy you're here today.

    I have several questions (natch) so I'll post them one by one and see what happens.


  3. Question One,
    Making a template.

    By the time I realize I need my own template for novel writing, I've already populated it with chapters etc. What is the best way to create a template with all my created character charts etc?


  4. Question 2,
    You can write Scripts in Scrivener! How do you compile/export them to say InkTip that requires a PDF file (as most anyone in Hollywood does)?


  5. I love Scrivener, but I know I'm only using a fraction of its functions. (I watched the tutorial and jumped right in ;-p)

    I'd already gotten well into several projects on Word before I started using Scrivener. Now that I'm in the revision stage I keep looking longingly at Scrivener, knowing it could help...;-p
    Is there an easy-ish way to get WIPs in Word transformed into a Scrivener project?

    Also do your workshops use examples from Scrivener for Windows? not just from Mac? (b/c they are different)

    Deb Mc

  6. LA: Regarding templates... If you already have a project that contains everything you want in a template, you can do a File-->Save As to create a copy (the original will safely close). I'd name the new one something like Delete Me so you know it's not important later on.

    Take out all of the manuscript-specific things like chapters and scenes, etc. And don't forget to empty the Trash! Then, once you have it all set up as if ready for a new manuscript, go to File-->Save As Template. Once you save the template it'll show up when you go to File-->New Project. :-)

  7. LA: Question 2... You should just be able to choose PDF from the Compile For drop-down menu at the bottom of the Compile window.

    I haven't used Scrivener for scripts, but I'd recommend choosing either the "Script or Screenplay" preset from the Format As drop-down menu at the top of the Compile window, or the "Original" preset. The last will leave all of your formatting exactly as it is in the Editor.

  8. Deb Mc: Thanks for stopping by! Yes, Scrivener is awesome for revisions. Just being able to keep track of where each scene or chapter is in the process is golden.

    You can import a Word document by selecting your Draft/Manuscript folder and going to File-->Import. If you've already divided up your manuscript in Word using # for scene breaks, you can use File-->Import and Split instead and it will split at the # marks (you may want to add them at the end of chapter breaks to for this to work completely). If you can't use the auto-split feature, you can manually split the imported document by clicking at the end of the scene/chapter and going to Documents-->Split-->At Selection. Just continue that until it's all divided up.

    I teach both a Mac and Windows version of each course in separate forums. So the Windows course is all Windows all the time. ;-)

  9. Hashtag for scene breaks, aha! I thought I'd seen or heard of that somewhere. I'm going to do that as I go through my WIP, b/c I'm dividing it into scenes anyway. And then import into Scrivener.

    Separate forums,yay! (No offense to Mac, but...) ;-p I'm going to try Intermediate.
    Thanks, Gwen!
    Deb Mc.

  10. Great, Deb! I look forward to seeing you in class. If you haven't already, you might check the course descriptions on the web site before you sign up. The Intro class goes pretty in depth, so make sure you're getting the topics you really want. :-)

  11. Deb and all,
    I've taken the intro course, and Gwen literally walks you through every step so you can work the program on that level. She has handouts and homework. You learn hands on, if you choose to do the homework, how to use the program, and SHE ANSWERS QUESTIONS. Otherwise the handouts alone will help you when you decide to get Scrivener.

    I'm looking at the advanced classes now to see which one I want..I might just take both.

  12. Gwen, I'll try your template idea this afternoon. I've brought in or enhanced some of the built in templates in Novel like the character building template. And I have others I've imported.


  13. YES, use the script template to keep that all important formatting. And since it will compile to PDF you're set.

    This is a great way to start learning the formatting for a script. Nothing shows Newbie like an incorrectly formatted script!!


  14. Another THING I LOVE about Scrivener and the main reason I tossed over Word is because of how you can store ALL your material right there. Research ... right there. No more going to Evernote or OneNote. And I love those programs, but don't need them for Scrivener.

    Character images etc. RIGHT THERE!!


  15. Yes, I love having all my research and notes at hand too. Especially when I travel. I love Evernote and use it extensively, but not for book-specific stuff. For documents or web pages I don't want to store within my project, but don't want to lose track of, I'm a huge fan of References. :-)

  16. Love Scrivener. Have written 4 books on it. I know I'm not using it to capacity. Many of my friends have taken your course and raved about it. I signed up for your class (basic or intro) two years ago (Feb '13) and started it, but life interrupted and I never went back to it. I have all the class emails, but didn't go through all the videos (through WizIQ). I need to do that yet. Just starting a new book. It would be a good time to do that, so thanks for the reminder!

  17. Hi, Sunni! When you're ready to watch videos, let me know. I switched from WizIQ to a forum (which is so much easier to navigate), so the videos aren't accessible anymore. But I can give you links to some more recent class screencasts on YouTube.

    Good luck with the new book! :-)

  18. Hi Gwen. I ordered Scrivener for Dummies - which just arrived- and I've signed up for your classes! I'm SO looking forward to learning heaps!

  19. Thanks, Tessa! "See" you in class. :-)

  20. I love Scrivener! It's the perfect playground for my ADD brain. And your classes are fantastic! I'm checking my calendar now and am thinking of taking a refresher course. Scrivener has so many features, I know I'm not using it to its fullest potential.

    Thanks for hosting Gwen, Leslie! The post you have is more a mini-workshop rather than a blog post!

  21. Hi Gwen:

    I think it would be easier to list what Scrivener will not do for a writer that what it can do. Going from Word to Scrivener is like going from your car dash board to the instrument panel in a 747. I once counted over 150 options on menus to do one thing!

    I’ve been to all three of your classes and I love Scrivener. I like the fact that I can be working of ten books at the same time and go easily from one to the other to acquire resources and ideas. And the new books open where I left them when I closed the book. This is amazing.

    Caveat: you cannot judge Scrivener in a month. Until that 3 part screen becomes second nature to you, it will look like the program is way too complicated to ever understand.

    However, once you star using the program on a real project,(and you need those features) the three screens start to look like old friends. Also, any screen can be hidden when you do want to look at it and don’t need the information it offers.

    Scrivener also keeps getting better. Importing web pages that are full of artwork has greatly improved in the last year on the PC. Best of all, for all its power, Scrivener is so inexpensive that it allows the user to spend money that would have gone to buy the software on classes to learn how to fully utilize its almost unlimited features.

    Scrivener is the one software progam that benefits the most from having classes taught to explain its power.

    I give your Scrivener classes and your book, which I have both in paperback and on my Kindle, my highest recommendation.

    When comes class IV? : )


  22. Great points, Vince! Thank you for your kind words. :-) I'm glad the classes were helpful. What would you like to see in an additional course?