Writing And Publishing Using Scrivener With Gwen Hernandez

Discovering Scrivener really did change my writing life. It helped me to organize my writing by scenes and also enables me to publish in Kindle & ePub formats easily. Today I talk to Gwen Hernandez, author of Scrivener for Dummies and we have a love-in about Scrivener!

Watch the video below or here on YouTube. You can also download the audio or read the show notes below.

Audio for Interview (right click to download) => ScrivenerGwenHernandez.mp3

Gwen Hernandez is the author of Scrivener for Dummies and she also runs classes teaching people how to use Scrivener. She is also an award winning romantic novelist.

  • Gwen got the opportunity to write Scrivener For Dummies because Wiley asked for recommendations on Twitter. We also talk about how the popularity of Scrivener spreads by word of mouth, like any great product.
  • Scrivener is writing software, but it is much easier for writers than using a word processing software like MS Word. The core of Scrivener is the different documents that you can reorder easily, especially if you don’t write in order
  • Scrivener can be used for any type of book project, or even any writing project as Gwen uses it for blog posts as well. She explains about keeping research notes, versions, templates and the ability to use end notes and other important aspects for non-fiction writers.
  • Gwen explains the epiphany of the Binder, which helps you see the entire project laid out, in scenes, parts of chapters – however you want to organize it. However, you can still be a ‘pantser’ as well as a plotter but it will help you organize.
  • scrivenerUsing the label field for color coding your scenes. You can edit the label field to be anything you like e.g. point of view, and then you can easily check the balance of the scenes. You can also use the Composition mode, which blanks everything else out so you can create (this is where I spend a lot of my writing time!) We also mention Project Targets which is great for individual writing sessions and whole projects. It keeps you motivated!
  • For series writers, it’s a matter of preference whether you use one mega-project or one project per book (which I do). You can open up 2 projects and drag material across though so it’s easy to do either. You could even have a project for the series background material, the series Bible.
  • On the magic of the Compile function, which will create Kindle .mobi files as well as ePub and Word/PDF or other formats. You can recreate the file every time you edit or change the order of the scenes. It’s fantastic for re-editing back-matter when you release a new book and you need to change all the old files. It can truly make you an independent ebook publisher!
  • You can work collaboratively on the same project by using Dropbox to sync to. You can’t work on the same file at the same time, but all you need to do is coordinate who has the file open.
  • You can use snapshots to save versions of your file, so you never lose anything. Definitely a great thing to do before you make changes from an edit.

scrivener for dummiesYou can try a free trial of Scrivener here (and it’s only $45 anyway – available for Mac and Windows – yes, I am an affiliate!)

You can buy Scrivener for Dummies here on Amazon

You can find Gwen at her site GwenHernandez.com and on twitter @gwen_hernandez

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  1. says

    Looks like a fantastic program. Thanks so much for the recommendation and explaining the features in a straightforward manner. Wish I’d had it when I started my current draft. I’m going to get it to complete the novel anyway!

    • says

      Hi AK, if you want to self-publish, it’s worth putting the book into Scrivener when you’re done in order to output as a mobi or ePub file, and then next time, just write it in there :) Seriously, it will change your writing life!

    • says

      I rough outline by scenes using a document with one-line per potential scene, then you can move them around. You can also use Corkboard view. Gwen will have some more insights but she’ll be popping in after Thanksgiving!

    • says

      Tim: There are several ways to outline in Scrivener. You can just use the Binder and create a document for each scene or section, or you can use the Corkboard or Outliner to do the same thing. The corkboard shows the documents as index cards, and you can add a synopsis. The Outliner is laid out in rows, but works similarly.

      I tend to just create a separate document outside the Manuscript/Draft folder and jot down my outline, then reference it when I forget where the story is supposed to go next. 😉 And I’m sure there are even more ways to do it. Good luck!

  2. says

    Great topic and very timely – thank you! Just before I clicked over to your site I was looking at Scrivener and wondering if it would be more trouble to learn than it was worth. It looks great and I’m going to give it a go. Thanks Joanna.

  3. says

    Hi, Joanna and Gwen.

    Just a short note to add my favorite thing about Scrivener. After I had formatted my manuscript into .mobi and .epub I was able to test it in ‘Kindle Previewer’ and ‘Adobe Digital Editions’ respectively and make changes before it went out (For instance, my original cover did not look nice in black and white inside the old Kindle so I was able to change it and re-format my .mobi file in a flash).

    Then, once my book was up on Amazon someone noticed the incorrect use of the word, stationery, and I was able to remove book, adjust and put book back on Amazon in minutes without having to wait for a format tech person to do it for me. Total control . . . That’s what I am talking about.

    One thing I was never able to work out, though, was how to include a Prologue. Will buy Gwen’s book anyway.

    • says

      It is awesome being able to change things so fast, also useful when you have a new book out and you want to adjust the other versions to include links to the new one!
      I included a Prologue just by adding a new document and calling it Prologue – nothing flash :)

        • says

          Karen: Scrivener is awesome for maintaining control of your work. Compile takes some time to master, and I’m still finding new options.

          If you’re using the Windows version, the best way to fix that is to not use chapter auto-numbering. That’s covered in my book, or for a quick look, you can go to the Compile post on my Scrivener Tips page: http://gwenhernandez.com/2011/01/04/tech-tuesday-compile-in-scrivener-2-x/.

          The Mac also offers a bit more elegant solution if you want to keep auto-numbering turned on. You can select the Prologue document to not be included by going into the Title Adjustments tab of the Compile window. Choose the drop-down menu next to “Do Not Add Title Prefix or Suffix To Documents” and choose your Prologue. That will prevent it from adding the auto-number to that item. More on that in the book too. :-) Good luck!

    • says

      The details depends which version of Scrivener you’re on, but you can do this even in the Windows version 1.2.5. When you go to compile, the expanded options show things like contents, separators, formatting, transformations etc. and you need to go the formatting section or tab (depending which version of scrivener you use). Once there you can edit how each level and/or its descendents are formatted. e.g. click “Level 1+” and the ‘Modify’ and then click “Section Layout” and you can change how all levels from the root and below are handled.
      So, what I’ve done, is removed the Prefix from Level 1+, and added (cut and pasted in fact) a prefix to Level 2+ instead. The code for the prefix needs to be “Chapter ” (without the quote marks). This means every level 2 file in the binder is a chapter. I keep chapters inside folders representing parts and anything before part 1 in the root level therefore doesn’t get a chapter number – so that can be quotations and the prologue. You can also set Level 1 folders to have prefixes so your parts have names.

  4. says

    Good post! I’m seriously considering using Scrivener for my next novel, so this interview is very insightful and timely indeed. Thanks for sharing, Joanna, and cheers to Gwen for the useful advice!


    • says

      Ryan: Glad you found it helpful! I’d suggest giving the free trial a chance. If you change your mind, you can always export (or even just copy and paste) what you’ve written into Word. I’m guessing you won’t want to. 😉

  5. Erika Maki says

    This is a great post Joanna. I have been looking at all your posts about Scrivener, and I’ve finally convinced my parents to buy it for me as an early Christmas present. I’m going to buy all the related books about Scrivener, too, and “Scrivener for Dummies” is one of them. Thank you Ms. Hernandez for your brief overview of Scrivener. This is definitely going to be a Scrivener-themed Christmas for me. I recently began brainstorming ideas for a novel about a year and three months ago. I haven’t touched the folder for the novel in quite a while, due to school commitments, but because of Scrivener, I can finally continue with my brainstorming and hopefully begin writing it this Christmas. I first found out about Scrivener through your 2012 Nanowrimo posts Joanna, and I’ve been hooked on this program ever since. I can’t stop obsessing about it. Finally, once I’m incrediby comfortable with Scrivener, I’m looking forward to entering Nanowrimo in November 2013. Thank you so much Joana and Gwen. You’ve definitely made a Canadian teen’s Christmas. :)

    • says

      Lovely to hear from you Erika, and I hope you find Scrivener is the best tool for you. I wish I had continued writing in my teens – please write that novel and keep writing – don’t get crushed by “real life” as you get older (as I did!) I only started writing again at 30-ish after years of thinking I wasn’t creative. Hold onto that creativity!

    • says

      Amanda: It should be fine, though I imagine you’d want to do most of your writing in full screen mode to make the most of the small screen. Probably the best way to decide is to check out the free trial of Scrivener once you get your netbook and see if the screen has enough real estate for it.

  6. says


    I’d like to learn a lot more about your writing process, because it amazes me how you can just write different scenes in your book and connect them all, ensuring that they flow together well.

    My mind can’t fathom writing in a non linear fashion. I think I would find it hard to write a scene without having wrote all the scenes leading up to it first. I would probably have to do an enormous amount of planning first to try writing like that, but in previous comments you’ve stated that you don’t do tons of planning.

    You must be very talented.

    Thanks for the great Scrivener tips Gwen. I know the program really well, but you helped me think of some new ways to use it.

    • says

      Gary: I’m glad you found the tips helpful. I have problems writing out of order too, but sometimes I think of a snippet–or occasionally a whole scene–that I’m not ready for yet. Then I create a new document and get it down before I forget. Later, I use split screen or Scrivenings mode (viewing multiple documents in the Editor) to make sure the transition and flow between scenes works.

      Good luck!

    • says

      Hi Gary, everyone has a different writing style. I am totally hooked on setting and location – so I often have scene ideas based on places, and then I fit a story idea into it. I always know the beginning and the end, and then I write the middle, often focusing on one character arc. I do a lot of knitting together later though, and a lot of rewrites – so I’m not sure this is the most effective writing style!
      Lots of people write like you – Lee Child [Jack Reacher books] writes in a linear fashion, without knowing the end – as does Tess Gerritsen (crime books). So you’re in good company!

  7. says

    Thank you for another helpful article. After I read it, I picked up Scrivener for Dummies–huge help with converting my manuscript in Word over to an ePub PDF. Love this book for breaking it all down and sharing the finer nuances of Scrivener that aren’t so readily apparent.

  8. Erika Maki says

    Scrivener is so awesome! I have organized my imported files from Microsoft Word into the Binder, created synopses for all my Unused Scenes (scenes that are still in the brainstorming phase), I have tracked basic elements of my scenes by working with the with the Label and Status fields, have a good idea of which Support Panes I want to make use during my project and of how I want to use them, and I am FINALLY ready to continue to develop this project further by actually writing with this new program, since I have just begin reading the part of the book (“Scrivener for Dummies”), concerned with writing (what the main purpose of this program is for. I’m so excited! Have I gotten you eager to hear more? If so, writers of all ages and experience levels have to try one of the newest (and what I consider to be one of the best) writing management tools out there right now called SCRIVENER. My days with Microsoft Word are over! Thanks Literature and Latte! Your company is filled with creative geniuses. And Gwen, if you’re out there, once again, thank you for writing the extremely helpful For Dummies book for this fantastic program. You rock!

  9. says

    Hi Joanna and Gwen,

    For anyone who is still wondering if they should get Scrivener, I put together a ScreenFlow video demo for my writers group — who were reluctant to spend money on, and then learn a whole new program — showing why I love using it. It is not a tutorial, just an overview. I hope you don’t think I am spamming you, I just want to make writers lives easier. http://t.co/5kYvXflr

  10. Jacqui says

    I have been trying to compare iWorks Pages with Scrivener on google and so far have not really had anything to take me over the line. Scrivener does look impressive, but Pages is also great to work with. I am just trying to decide to either have both or stick with Pages. Hope someone can help, thanks!

  11. says

    Well, this is a lot of euphoria about a program which seems to do lots of important things. I am wondering how it handles tables, graphics, quite a few heading styles, wrap around, etc. Until recently, I’d’ve happily abandoned trad word processors, but I’m having a surprisingly nice relationship with Word 2011 for Mac. So does sophisticated formatting copy reliably into Scrivener?



    • says

      James: If you have a lot of tables, graphics, and sophisticated formatting, you might prefer to stick with Word. It can handle those things, but the learning curve is much higher.

      Of course, you could use Scrivener for the writing, organization, etc, and then export to Word for final formatting. Thanks!

  12. says

    Love my Scrivener–absolutely love it. No coincidence that my writing improved tremendously once I started using it. From the easy formatting (watch the tutorials!) to the painless compiling/updating, it’s amazing it’s only $45. I feel like I barely dig into the real meat of the program and it’s already worth every penny.

    Thanks for posting, Joanna. Gwen–going to order the book now so that I can become a Scrivener ace!

  13. says

    Hi Joanna! Love, love, all your info, as I am a novice and will soon be ready to look into publishing for my book, your info is invaluable. I am no techie and spending as much time trying to learn the publishing end of being a writer, as well as my writing. I watched this video and definitely have to get scrivener! My questions are: If you write in scrivener, does it have to be exported to word after to publish to kindle, epub, etc. Also, by using scrivener does this mean I wouldn’t have to buy templates for my book? Any advice is a great help. I am so happy you are so kind and always willing to help new authors. If there was an award for greatest helper in the new publishing world, you would definitely have my vote!!!

    • says

      Debby: You can export (compile) from Scrivener directly to EPUB and MOBI files, so you can skip Word altogether. Of course, it exports to DOC and many other formats as well.

      I’ll let Joanna handle the templates question, but you should be able to handle all of the formatting during the export process.

      Good luck!

      • Debby Gies says

        Thanks so much for replying Gwen! That is even more awesome news for me. I can’t wait to get started. I am currently writing my book long hand, as this works for me. After watching your video with Joanna, I had to laugh at my little set up with my hand writing is like the prehistoric version of Scrivener. I colour code my chapters and inserts as I write because I don’t write in sequence. I am halfway done my first draft and then the plan is to lay out all my chapters and compile them into the book. I then go to the computer and type in the draft, revising it into 2nd draft as I type. Scrivener will be awesome for me to enter my 2nd draft and continue on from there without the dinosaurs, lol.

    • says

      Hi Debbie,
      You wouldn’t need templates for your ebooks, unless they were very complicated. I output directly with no problem. But for print books, I pay for a professional interior designer for formatting, or you could check out Book Design Templates http://bit.ly/11X9v6T
      All the best!

      • Debby Gies says

        Thanks for replying, as usual Joanna! Good to know about downloading right from scrivener, this is so exciting. Now for POD that confuses me. So 2 questions on that, are you saying to buy the templates and then I would compile my book from scrivener to the templates? Then enter these templates to eg: createspace? 2) How does the procedure of professional formatting work? I really appreciate your help!

  14. says

    I’ve been writing in Scrivener for years, and always exported to word and went through a mess of formatting methods to prepare for converting to an e-book (even went on to using Sigil to get a mobi) … and yeah. Apparently, I really, really needed this post. In two seconds I just did what took me hours previously. I am sending you a great big bear hug right now. And I’m wondering why, oh why, in all the google searching I did on formatting, I have never heard mention of this before…


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