Tag Archives: Scrivener

Review: Scrivener for Dummies, by Gwen Hernandez

Scrivener for Dummies, by Gwen HernandezScrivener for Dummies, by Gwen Hernandez (John Wiley and Sons, 2012)

This is probably the only reference book I have ever read cover-to-cover. It’s definitely the only one that’s ever caused me to cheer.

I’m posting a photo of my own copy, complete with page markers, instead of the standard cover shot, to show how many important things I want to be able to easily find. (The index will take me to the proper page, but will I find the specific line that I need?)

Most users would follow the expected method of looking up their immediate question in the index and reading only the relevant sections. I did that a bit when I first bought the book, but didn’t find it as helpful as I’d hoped even though that’s what it’s designed for. I think I wasn’t very good at defining my need well enough to search for the solution.

Scrivener is considered by many writers to be the best thing since the word processor. Now, after using the program for a few years, having worked through the tutorial, learned from some excellent free webinars and one of Gwen Hernandez’ paid courses, I decided to read Scrivener for Dummies to pick up some advanced knowledge – and to refresh myself on some of the basics I’d missed along the way.

Honestly, the cheering? That was for the discoveries about some of the program’s features. But I found the author’s explanations very easy to understand. She’s funny, too, which definitely helps anyone reading very far.

This is an approachable resource, intelligently laid out and with clear examples and screen-shots. Each section is self-contained, pointing to other sections where needed, for the person who dips in for a specific answer instead of reading straight through.

The book covers both the Mac and Windows versions, and while Scrivener has made some changes since 2012, enough of the material is the same. If you find something in the book that you want to do but your version of Scrivener handles it differently, if you can’t figure it out by poking around in the program, either the Literature and Latte forum or a Google search will find you the answer.

Gwen Hernandez is a romantic suspense novelist and Scrivener teacher, offering interactive online courses. I found her Compile course very helpful, and she was patient to answer our many questions. For more about the author, visit gwenhernandez.com. For more about her Scrivener classes, visit scrivenerclasses.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]



Idea to Book

Ever wondered how a few scattered ideas turn into a novel? It’s a question I hear every so often, and I suspect the answer is different for every writer. Perhaps even for each book.

Without Proof is my third novel, and I’m still learning what works best for me, in terms of discovering the story. Seeds of this one showed up a long time ago, in a little coil-bound red notepad that I can’t find today. They percolated while I worked on other things, and when it was time to start writing, it looked like this:

Apparently graph paper is the best for my creative process.

Apparently graph paper is the best for my creative process.

For keeping the plot events in order, I played a bit with a great program called Aeon Timeline, but it turns out I need to see a calendar grid. That looked like this:

Sticky notes were so easy to move around!

Sticky notes were so easy to move around!

The writing happened in Scrivener, which is one of my best writing friends. [If you’re doing NaNoWriMo in November and you meet your goal, I think you’ll get discount codes for Scrivener, Aeon Timeline and others. If not, Scrivener gives you a month’s free trial, which should be long enough to convince you.]

I don’t work well with a word count deadline, so I committed to a few hours a day, Monday to Friday, seat in chair, fingers on keyboard, writing. I learned to stop in mid-scene for easier re-start the next day. I’d skim the previous day’s work and make minor tweaks, but instead of editing, I kept following the story.

Until I found my rhythm, the first 100 words were the hardest. Every day. For weeks. There had been such a long period of editing and marketing after writing the early drafts of Secrets and Lies that I was way out of practice. I suspect this will simply be part of the cycle.

The calendar chart helped. One character wanted to do something early, and the chart reinforced my argument that he had to wait. When another character wanted to speed things up, I saw that it could work, so he went ahead.

After finishing the draft, there were revisions, more revisions, and yet more revisions. Professional editing. More editing. More revisions. Early reader comments. More revisions.

Cover and layout design, and the publishing process. [I’m an indie author, so I did this part with the help of Scrivener (ebooks) and CreateSpace (print).]

At the end of the process:

Box of books.

So pleased with the finished product!

The official print launch will be Saturday, Nov. 7, 2pm at Regal Road Baptist Church in Dartmouth, NS. If you’re near enough to know where that is, you’re invited! Otherwise, check out the Without Proof page if you’re looking for preorder links. (Psst… the paperback is already available online through Amazon.)

Do you write short stories or novels? Scroll down to leave a comment telling us about your creative process.

Writing Tools I Use

Why did I abandon mechanical pencils for pens? pen and notes

When I first started writing, I had a thing for mechanical pencils (only the .5mm ones… I was a purist). And I learned to print very small, to cram all the words I could onto a bit of scrap paper.

Perhaps you’ve figured out why I don’t do that anymore… something about trying to see those faint pencil-scratchings while using both hands to type what I’ve written.

Miniscule pen-scratchings, however, are still visible, progressive lenses notwithstanding.

These days, even my first draft is usually done at the keyboard, but devotional notes often come during my morning quiet time with God, and sometimes I write reviews or other blog posts in waiting rooms and such.

On to today’s post: Writing tools. Not resources, because that’s a different post altogether.

Fiction tools, to be specific, because I need more of those.

  • Pen and paper. I don’t leave home without it 🙂
  • Computer, printer, internet, email, Google etc. And backup. Flash drives, dvds, Dropbox for off-site storage.
  • How to Find Your Story and Character Creation for the Plot-First Novelist, both from Jeff Gerke. These are interactive worksheets, so I call them tools instead of resources. I bought them together in the Writer’s Foundation Bundle. What I like about these is they walk me through the discovery process and help me think deeper than I might otherwise go.
  • Microsoft OneNote. Those closest to me have heard me rave about the features of this amazing product. I have a OneNote “binder” for online writing and one for each of my novels including the works-in-progress.
  • Scrivener. I’m new to this tool, using it as I revise Secrets and Lies, but as soon as I saw the first video tutorial I was a fan. (Find Scrivener here)
  • Microsoft Excel. I confess I forgot this one until I read NJ Lindquist’s post on writing tools. I don’t use Excel a lot, but as well as keeping track of writing expenses and income for Revenue Canada, I keep a master list of character names in an Excel file. I can sort by first name, last name and by story. That saves me from having too many names beginning with the same letter. Doesn’t help with the more subtle similarities… part of my revisions to Secrets and Lies will be the re-naming of a few individuals. At present there are characters named Hill, Stairs, LaMontagne (the mountain) and Cliff. Wonder what my subconscious was up to with all that!
  • binder and highlighted textHighlighters, pens and binder. Margie Lawson’s online course, Empowering Character Emotions, taught me the basics of her EDITS system, so when it’s final-draft time I print the manuscript and colour-code it to see what still needs work.
  • A program called Klok (I use the free version) that lets me track my time. It helps keep me accountable to actually work, and it lets me see where I’m putting my time. (Find Klok here)

pry bar
These are the tools I use. If you’re a writer, what about you?

Bonus tool: my absolute favourite non-writerly tool, which I am now honour-bound to include in a novel (and I think I know where… she rubs her hands and cackles with glee) → → →

Reader or writer, if you’re interested in writerly tools, click the blog hop image and you’ll find other posts on the same topic.

Blog hop for writers