Scrivener Superpowers

How to Use Cutting-Edge Software to Energize Your Creative Writing Practice

Writing Romance Novels and Staying Organized: Interview with Gwen Hernandez

Gwen calls herself a left-brained planner, but the habits she learned as a programmer and analyst don’t necessarily translate to her fiction writing.

In this interview, Gwen tells me about the four-part system she follows to writer her romance novels, and how, apart from that high-level structure, she likes to fly by the seat of her pants, following the story instead of leading it.

We also talk about how she uses Scrivener to stay organized, the process she used to work with editors when writing Scrivener for Dummies, and some of the differences between Scrivener for Windows and Scrivener for Mac.


Matt Herron:                        Hi Gwen. How’s it going?

Gwen Hernandez:             Good. How are you doing Matt?

M.H.                                           Good. Thanks for taking the time to chat. So just as a brief introduction for our listeners, Gwen is the author of the romantic suspense series Men of Steele and the non-fiction books about writing Scrivener for Dummies and Productivity Tools for Writers is the other one. Excellent.

So today we’re going to talk a little bit about the creative writing process with Scrivener, but I’m interested in your background as well, because it looks like you don’t have a background as a writer initially. You were an engineer first?

G.H.                                            Yeah. I was a computer programmer/ analyst type person and then went back to school and became a manufacturing engineer.

M.H.                                           Manufacturing engineer. What does that entail exactly?

G.H.                                            Generally making production lines work more efficiently.

M.H.                                           So how long have you been writing?

G.H.                                            Since early 2009.

M.H.                                           And is that just writing or writing professionally? Were you writing professionally in 2009?

G.H.                                            No. That was basically when I realized—I mean I’d always kind of wanted to write a book but that’s when I figured out romance was my thing and sat down and started actively pursuing that.

M.H.                                           And how much of the time that you’ve been writing have you been using Scrivener?

G.H.                                            Since mid-2009 when a friend recommended it.

M.H.                                           Nice. Can you describe what your first experience with Scrivener was like?

G.H.                                            Yes. Amazement. I remember thinking, why on earth would I need writing software? I have a word processor—I was using Word—and I couldn’t imagine what it could possibly bring to the table. But pretty much instantly I realized the value. Just the fact that it would open up to where I left off was brilliant in my mind, and the ability to see the whole structure of your story and kind of shuffle things around as needed, go immediately where you need to go, color-code things to keep yourself on track, leave notes for yourself—everything. It just blew me away. I bought it three days later because I couldn’t wait.

M.H.                                           Awesome. I don’t think I waited for the trial to expire either. It was like, I have to have this right now. So what changed in your writing process when you began using Scrivener? What were the first things that changed? You mentioned structure but…

G.H.                                            That’s a really good question. Well I was definitely more organized. I think I started doing a lot more on the computer instead of just jotting notes everywhere. I mean I still sometimes write things out to spur the creativity, but just having a much better feel for everything about my book. And I think I was more excited to write actually. Which sounds silly, but I like gadgets and tools and shiny software.

I think also as I started learning more about story structure, then I immediately saw how Scrivener could help me have a better understanding of how my structure was going. Even though I tend to be more of a pantser than a plotter. Maybe I even need that more then, because I can see where my story is going if I’m getting off-track—before I go too far off-track.

M.H.                                           And I think a pantser and a plotter they can both finish the story—they just might do it in a different way. So what kind of structural principals do you use in Scrivener?

G.H.                                            I generally follow the four-part story structure. It’s like a modified three-part where the second part is divided at the mid-point. So I usually write by putting in four part folders and then I just write the scenes. Because even if I don’t know exactly where they fall I know what sort of general part of the story they belong in. And I organize into chapters after I’ve got the whole first draft written and feel pretty solid with it. Then I can figure out which chapters have the best ending hooks and balance out the word count for chapters and things like that.

M.H.                                           I think that’s a really effective method. Is this Larry Brooks?

G.H.                                            Yeah. He was one that inspired me and I guess turned on the light bulb for me. I’d read other books but this approach is definitely…

M.H.                                           I just finished reading Story Engineering and it was absolutely just mind-blowing for me. I thought it was really educational.

G.H.                                            I think it was his precursor to Story Engineering—I can’t remember what it’s called off the top of my head. Story… something. Before he was putting out through Writer’s Digest. It just changed my whole understanding of what I would—I was doing a lot of it without realizing it but I think my stories got stronger when I knew exactly what type of scene I needed to be writing towards. Even if I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen there.

M.H.                                           Yeah. Absolutely. So when you’re outlining and you’re using this four-part structure how do you break it down in terms of folders that contain scenes? Do you do chapter folders that contain scenes and then do you do part folders that contain the chapters?

G.H.                                            By the time I’m done with the book that’s what it looks like but when I start it’s just part folders with lots of scene documents in them. And they don’t tend to get moved between folders or anything like that. I don’t think in chapters so much as I think in scenes. So I just like to deal with the chapter folders after. And when I have to send it off to somebody like an editor or a beta reader or when I’m ready to publish it needs to be in chapters. But otherwise I wouldn’t bother!

M.H.                                           I think Scrivener is made to think in scenes, right?

G.H.                                            Absolutely. Yeah. I know there is definitely people who they’re so used to writing in one long document that don’t think like that, but I always felt that I needed to have a better handle on those individual charms. Especially when you’re writing genre fiction where every scene has a specific purpose. So we’re taught to think in scenes I think.

M.H.                                           So when you’re planning a story do you also think in scenes? Just tell me more about the planning process. Do you use the corkboard or text documents?

G.H.                                            I don’t tend to use the corkboard. I’ve never been much of a story boarder—probably because I’m not much of a plotter. I mean, I do plan. I tend to do a lot more of free writing and making notes to myself on characterization, writing back-story scenes. All that kind of stuff to get to know my characters and my initial premise a little bit better.

But then with my plotting I try to go through the structure and have a line or two of what I think might go into that part of the story. But I don’t set up documents in advance that are like, each document applies to the scene. Some people do, and you totally can, which is what I love about Scrivener. Because everybody has their own process and it supports whatever your process is.

M.H.                                           Absolutely. So do you use a physical corkboard? You said you don’t like the digital one.

G.H.                                            Oh no, I don’t have a problem with the digital one—I just don’t corkboard. I don’t storyboard at all. I could never work at Pixar. I would fail.

M.H.                                           Do you use character sketches or setting sketches?

G.H.                                            I have used some of that in the past. Sometimes I use the templates or create my own. And sometimes I don’t. It just depends on my mood.

M.H.                                           I’d love to hear more about the templates. What kind of templates do you use? Do you use custom ones? I know they come with the character sketch and a setting sketch, and of course you can modify them. But what kind of custom ones do you use?

G.H.                                            Well so far I’ve only really used the character ones I think. I’ve just modified a character sketch to match what I was more interested in keeping and capturing. But it’s funny because I’m this very logical, left-brain oriented person who plans everything in every other aspect of my life and my job. My previous jobs were very much like… and then when I write for fiction I am totally just—sometimes I’ll do something, sometimes I won’t. It’s really awful. And it kind of shocked me in a way.

And I think that’s another reason why Scrivener makes me feel better because even though my process is very disorganized—Scrivener helps me keep it all together. I have character sketches that I wrote, and then when I go back and look at them now that character is totally different.

M.H.                                           It’s the development process, right? They’re different all the time.

G.H.                                            It is. Getting my understanding of them. I’ll write a few different scenes and then I’ll realize, oh no, this is what they’re really like. This is their backstory.

M.H.                                           Absolutely. I experience that too. But you write fiction and non-fiction, right?

G.H.                                            Yes.

M.H.                                           So you say the fiction process is out of order, or a little bit disorganized. Do you find the non-fiction process is as well?

G.H.                                            Actually no. It’s the total opposite. I have to outline everything, and when I wrote Scrivener for Dummies of course I have to submit an outline to the publisher of what I’m planning to put in the book. And then they approve it. It’s basically like the table of contents. So for that one I went in, I put in all the folders and documents in advance and named them and whatever so I knew exactly what I had to work on in each one, and where it fell.

For that project because I had to turn in each chapter as it was done and I had certain deadlines for the first quarter of the book and second and so on—so for that being able to use the color coding to keep track of where I was in the process for each individual chapter and what I needed to work on next was invaluable.

And so for that one it was the total opposite. I started all setup, everything organized and planned—total opposite of my fiction. So it’s nice having a program that supports both styles.

M.H.                                           So what about the writing process, the drafting process itself? I know Scrivener can—you said earlier it can make you a little more productive because you can keep track of things easier. So tell me a little bit about the drafting process itself. When you’re writing words every day.

G.H                                              For me I tend to work in the full screen composition mode because I like to block out distractions. I like to have a picture that keeps me in the mood of whatever the story is that I’m writing as my background. Like the book I just finished, that just came out on Tuesday mostly takes place on a tropical island, it’s very jungly. So I just had a picture of Saint Lucia as my background while I was writing. And I actually use that mode a lot when I’m editing too. Just to keep me on task.

I do use the project targets to help motivate myself. I set up a manuscript target, and then I also set up section targets so I can just check in and see how I’m doing, can I quit yet? Or, oh I’m doing really well, I should keep going because I’m feeling really good. But that kind of helps keep me on track.

So what I do try to do is, when I’m getting ready to start a scene, I use the synopsis card. I don’t go into the corkboard to do it, I just use it in the inspector. To try and jot down what the point of view character’s goal is. Goal, conflict, disaster basically. What their goal is, what’s going to get in their way, and how is the ending going to come out. Horrible or good.

M.H.                                           So you outline the bones of the scene before you write it? Using the synopsis?

G.H.                                            Generally I do. Especially if I think I might need a reminder or I don’t finish the scene that day and I’m going to have to come back to it. I find as I get toward the end of the book I’m not doing that; also when I get close enough to the end I have a really good idea where I’m going and I tend to be writing faster I think.

M.H.                                           So do you build your own word deadlines based on the manuscript count and what your deadline is? And then do you just do however many words a day to meet your deadline? Or do you have a 1000, 2000 words every day sort of goal?

G.H.                                            It depends. I know that deadline, it’s Mac only that ability.

M.H.                                           Oh I didn’t know that. I only have a Mac so I’ve not actually used the software on Windows.

G.H.                                            Yeah, I have it on Windows and don’t use it that much but I teach Windows based courses and so I have to be able to use it on Windows too. But I like the deadline feature. I would do NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month; I would always use the deadline feature. You know, you put in your 50 and you back it up, and I’m only going to write five days a week or whatever…

I’m self-published with my romantic suspense so I try to set deadlines but they’re not as hard and fast as they would be if I had a contract. So I don’t tend to use the deadline feature itself as much but I definitely use the—if I’ve decided I want to write 2000 words today, I put in 2000 words and try to stick to that and stay in the chair till I get it done.

M.H.                                           So what else is different between the Mac version and the Windows version of the software? Important differences, like the deadline feature. That to me—I really like that so I would be like, “What? It doesn’t have it!”

G.H.                                            I know. Well it didn’t used to have it in the Mac either.

M.H.                                           True. Are their software development cycles just a little bit behind? They’re a little bit ahead on Mac and a little bit behind on Windows?

G.H.                                            Yeah. The Mac version has been around quite a bit longer. Windows just came out in 2011 I think. So they’ve actually caught up really well. I mean even when it came out it was already ahead of the version of Mac that I had in 2009. The biggest difference is… compile is huge. For example, you can definitely do nice e-books in Windows and word documents and stuff, but you wouldn’t be able to do a good PDF for CreateSpace in Windows because there is no alternating headers and footers and no alternating margins.

So I always need to tell people, “Well I did my book in Scrivener and created a PDF without ever having to use Word and it looks beautiful but if you have Windows you can’t do it.” Not yet anyway.

So compile’s big, there are a few things in there. I’m trying to think of the others… there’s a couple of areas and they keep improving it. Project targets, and there’s a couple of things like—quick reference windows don’t exist in Windows.

M.H.                                           I think quick reference windows are a Mac specific thing. There are a lot of Mac software that have quick reference windows.

G.H.                                            Yeah. And there are some of those little things—like the inspector’s kind of a Mac thing, which is why Scrivener has it. And they’ve kind of put it over to the Windows version because it works, but it’s not a Windows standard thing. So there’s a few.

M.H.                                           And it’s clunky. It’s like Word on Mac, because they try to imitate that Windows feel. And it doesn’t really translate to the operating system. So maybe if Scrivener was designed originally for Mac, it won’t really translate and it will feel kind of clunky in Windows.

G.H.                                            Yeah. I think they’ve done a pretty good job with it. It looks and works pretty well I think. And if I had never known the Mac version and I had the Windows version I’d be very happy with it. Which is one of the reasons I started splitting out my classes into the Windows and Mac separate forums. Because all the Windows users would start to feel annoyed. Even though they were originally happy!

M.H.                                           That’s a shame. I didn’t know that you could format a whole book in PDF as well. I have trouble with Scrivener trying to get the images into the PDF… anyway we can talk about that another time. So we were talking about the writing process. We got through writing. Tell me a little bit about the editing process. Do you use the comments? Or the status update tickers?

G.H.                                            What I tend to do when I’m writing for fiction—which I guess we are talking about creative writing here—I use the color-coding a lot. And when I’m in the initial writing stage, I tend to use it just to keep track of which character’s point of view I’m in—because I write romance I always have a hero and a heroine’s point of view. So it’s like, blue, pink, blue, pink all the way down the binder.

And then when I’m in the revision stages I tend to change the colors to represent where I am in that process. So it could be my first pass of my internal revisions. And then I’ll have one for beta reader revisions done, editor revisions done, copyeditor revisions done. That kind of thing. So I can tell how I’m doing on each scene and chapter.

And as for the actual working on it I tend to try to go into the full screen composition mode. Again to block out distractions. And, you know there’s the little go-to button at the bottom? When you finish one you can have the inspector open and you can change its label to “it’s done” and then go-to and go to the next document. And never have to get out of that sort of Zen mode that keeps me focused.

I do use annotations and comments quite a bit while I’m in the writing process for things to come back and look at later. As well as during the revision process if I see things that I need to go back and fix or that I need to check up and do some research on.

My editor and most of my beta readers still want Word documents and we use track changes so I just plug into a second monitor, look at their comments on one monitor and make my changes in Scrivener.

M.H.                                          I was definitely going to ask about that. That’s how I’ve been doing it too. Although I notice if you copy/ paste tracked changes from Microsoft Word over to Scrivener it will take the comments but it won’t take the actual text changes—if they delete something or replace a comma with a semicolon. You won’t be able to tell, but if you leave a longer comment it does port over.

G.H.                                           I think if you were going to work with somebody and you were going to just import back into Scrivener you would definitely want them to only do comments. Because I notice it will take their change, it will have your original plus their fix—everything all in one line. And you can’t tell without reading it.

M.H.                                          So you put them side by side on dual monitors and you manually port the changes?

G.H.                                           Right. Which I prefer anyway because I’m not always going to choose to accept their changes or I’m not necessarily going to do them the way that they had in mind.

M.H.                                          And it’s a learning process of course.

G.H.                                           Yeah. And because I’m using Scrivener to keep me on track it’s a lot easier to have it in there. I know if you’re working with a traditional publishing house that can be an issue because they usually want your changes to be in the original document with your track changes right next to theirs and all that. So for some people it’s not going to work that way.

When I was working on Scrivener for Dummies I had to—once I had sent in the first draft, when I was getting things back from the editor, I had to work in Word to make all the changes. But I was still using Scrivener as kind of a project management, for keeping track of where I was in the process in each chapter. And then I would import each version as I got it. So I’d have a full searchable copy of it in Scrivener. Because they were coming back as a single document that’s one chapter. So I had like twenty single documents. So in Scrivener it was easier to keep track of everything in one open project window.

M.H.                                          So when the Microsoft Word document came back from them, say it was round three, you would snapshot what you had in Scrivener, import the new one and then snapshot it again? Or, I guess you’d only have to do it once. Once you’re set up, right?

G.H.                                           Yeah.

M.H.                                          Interesting. That’s a really good idea. And then you just use the binder as your project manager, so you could have the status labels?

G.H.                                           Right.

M.H.                                          Interesting. It’s kind of a pain that you have to have two documents.

G.H.                                           It is a little bit. The one thing I like about it is that I have that Word document with all of their comments as kind of a good backup copy of what I had originally written. Even though I use snapshots and I also tend to save whole pieces of scenes that I liked and things like that—even if I’m not going to use them. But it’s just one long document of my original work.

M.H.                                          And so when you’re making changes do you make the changes directly in Microsoft Word?

G.H.                                           Not for my fiction. I always just make the changes in Scrivener. I don’t check off the comments or anything I just leave everything as it is.

M.H.                                          Yeah, sorry I was referring to the Scrivener for Dummies process. When you got the changes. So you were working in Microsoft Word and you were only keeping carbon copies basically? For lack of a better term. Carbon copies in Scrivener?

G.H.                                           Yeah I was required to. Because even if you are not going to make a change you have to acknowledge a comment from your editor and you have to, I’m not going to change this because or, okay I changed it. They have to know that every single comment was addressed.

Even the guys at Scrivener will tell you it’s invented as a drafting tool. Everything else is a bonus. The fact that you can self-publish in it—bonus. I try to remind people of that. If they get frustrated that something… they want to do something and they are trying to use it as a publishing layout software, I’m like, “It’s not meant to be layout software; it’s writing software.”

M.H.                                          Totally. Do you think they’ll ever add track changes to Scrivener?

G.H.                                           I don’t know. I’m pretty sure it’s on their wish list 1000 times over. I wish I knew it was coming with Scrivener 3 but I don’t have the inside scoop.

M.H.                                          So we talked a little bit about working with an outside editor. Do you use any other tools with editors? Like for collaboration?

G.H.                                           You mean outside of Scrivener?

M.H.                                          So you’ve talked about Scrivener and Microsoft Word. There’s also Dropbox. We could talk about tooling with that or—everybody’s different, right?

G.H.                                           Yeah. We usually just exchange the files by email. I mean I have Dropbox and I use it a little but I really don’t do a lot. I probably will start using it more because I think I’m actually going to get a desktop—but I’m still going to want to use my laptop—so I’m going to have to start.

M.H.                                          I personally keep my stories folder locally and then I keep a backup on Dropbox. But I do use the backups feature of Scrivener. Actual backups to Dropbox like the automatic backups. For those paranoid writers out there. Do you have a backup system?

G.H.                                           Yeah. I actually have a little tiny flash drive that I backup all of my Scrivener stuff to, and then my whole computer is backed up to an online service. Just incrementally all the time.

M.H.                                          Like Amazon Glacier?

G.H.                                           Yeah. Like Carbonite, Crashplan—those kind of things. I have dropped my computer before and damaged the hard drive and had quite a freak out. Luckily I had been saving all my writing and he was able to recover all the other stuff too but it really made me think. Not just my writing but even my emails, I have so much stuff saved in my emails. Conversations with people that I’ve shoved in a folder to save for later that I wouldn’t want to lose. Because I do go back and reference certain things.

M.H.                                          I guess you’re using a local email service then. I use Gmail so it’s all backed up on the web so I’m never worried about losing that.

G.H.                                           Well I use Mac Mail but I don’t keep all those folders online, because they’re huge. There’s like years’ worth of stuff. And when I check on my phone I don’t want to see all 50 folders. I just want to see my inbox. So I haven’t been keeping all those online. But I do back them up.

M.H.                                          Do you use Scrivener for anything else? We talked about fiction, we talked about non-fiction. I know some people use it for blogging.

G.H.                                           I definitely use it for blogging. Mainly because it serves as an archive of all of my blog posts. Fully searchable, organized by year, month, etcetera. Color-coded by which blog website it’s on. The searchable things been good.

M.H.                                          So you keep things for other people’s blogs—like guest posts as well as your own blog? In the same index?

G.H.                                           Actually guest posts go somewhere else. I have multiple platforms. So I have my own personal blog, and then I have a group blog that I’m part of that’s all romantic suspense type writers. And I used to be on another blog that was all romance writers. So I used to color-code them by which one they were going to. Now I’m just on the two so it’s not as big a deal, but I can instantly see if it’s pink it’s Kiss and Thrill if it’s green it’s mine.

So I have another—I’m using it more for project management/ document storage—it’s an appearances project. So it’s all of my—anytime I’m going to give a workshop or an online course for someone else, not for myself, or a guest blog or some kind of interview—I have all of the information there. If I had to create a handout, if I have gotten some detail from them on what they want or if I’ve given them a marketing blurb that has the topics listed. So I just keep all of that stuff in there. So if I have to go back when I’m prepping to give the presentation speech or whatever I can go back in there and make sure I’m not forgetting to hit certain points.

And then what I do is I color-code those by where it is in the process. Like, if I’ve submitted all the materials to them or not, or if I’m still in the planning stages, whether they’ve accepted them. Which used to be different. I used to be going to people and asking them to let me teach, but now usually they come to me. So it’s not so much of an acceptance, but more of a reminder to myself that I have already submitted all these materials. And then once I’ve delivered the workshop or whatever I just mark it as delivered.

But that way anytime I’m going to create a new one I have all these old ones to look at as a starting point. So I don’t have to recreate the wheel every single time I give a workshop, and then it’s just an archive of what I’ve done before.

M.H.                                          That’s an amazing idea. I have never thought of using it as project management system. And I use project management systems for work like Trello, Basecamp, Total Tracker—all these other ones. I never thought of using Scrivener. It’s genius.

G.H.                                           Well it’s nice because you can keep all the related materials in there as well.

M.H.                                          I do use Excel spreadsheets to track word count over time. Do you use Scrivener for that?

G.H.                                           I did used to do spreadsheets and I would create graphs and I would put them on my website every year. I kind of backed off from doing that. I do keep track of my word count on each project just in a document I call “productivity” that’s in the binder. So every day when I write or edit or plan or whatever I’m doing I’ll just write a note of how long I spent doing it, how many words I got and maybe a little note about what it was that I was doing. Or how far I got. So that way I can see, okay I got through part three yesterday, here’s where I need to pick up.

M.H.                                          So instead of recording it in a document that collects all of your work you record it in like a sub-document inside the file.

G.H.                                           Right. And I did used to then take it and put it in a spreadsheet. I just… I found it was stressing me out a little bit. Especially on the months where nothing happened. Or it would look really bad like I didn’t write anything, but I revised 50,000 words. But there was no way to sort of track that with a bar graph in the same way. I go through these phases where I really need that, and other phases where it kind of depresses me if I’m not hitting the targets.

But I like being able to go back and look at that project page and say, Wow! I started working on this book in 2012? And look at the idea I had back then it was a totally different story. I’m hoping those won’t be as long as I move forward here but… A couple of these I started and then started working on something else—came back to it, got new ideas, changed it. It’s kind of amazing; you don’t think you’ve been working on something that long, but it’s been a long time.

M.H.                                          Yeah. You bought up a really interesting point about how you track writing versus how you track revising. I’ve had the same experience. It’s really easy to track while you’re drafting, because you’re like word count per day—it’s simple. And you can even break it down into different times of the day. But once you get into the revising phase—I don’t know how many words I revised. It’s hard to track. I’ve thought about using pages but then the pages change and it confuses me. So I’ve just given up!

G.H.                                           I tend to just try to do hours. And I’ll look at the project targets to see, hey did I add any words today? Usually when I’m going through revisions I’m hoping overall to add words. I tend to be a pretty spare writer so I’m usually trying to add rather than remove. But I try to do hours. Today I’m going to sit down and over the total of the day I’m going to spend three hours doing revisions or whatever. But it’s definitely not as satisfying from a hitting a target standpoint as drafting is.

M.H.                                          Totally. And Scrivener, their word counter is cumulative, right? Say if you’re working on a 50,000 word manuscript and you add 1000 and take away 800, doesn’t it show 200?

G.H.                                           Yeah it’s net. Net words.

M.H.                                          Is there any way to adjust that?

G.H.                                           You can have it so that it doesn’t go below zero. So it will never go negative if you subtract a bunch of words. Although you may want it to. Because some people, they’ll write a 200,000 word doorstop and they need to cut words and so they’re trying to keep track of that. So it may be valuable to keep track of that.

M.H.                                          Can you do that in Scrivener? Record the negative value?

G.H.                                           It does. It totally does. So if you went in and just cut a whole bunch of stuff it would show negative unless you turn that off. That’s Mac only. All the extras in project targets right now, all the options, those are all Mac only.

M.H.                                          And then just one last thing about how you use it for blogging. Do you take the text—I’m curious about the formatting. The trouble I have is when I’m using Scrivener, I try to be format agnostic. I could write in markdown but then it doesn’t export to HTML. So I’m wondering how you do that.

G.H.                                           The markdown doesn’t export to HTML?

M.H.                                          I don’t know. I haven’t tried.

G.H.                                           I think it does but I don’t use markdown. I basically just copy and paste into WordPress and then format later. It will keep all the bold and italics, hyperlinks and stuff like that. And I insert pictures after I get it- over there. Because I have to upload them anyway.

M.H.                                          Right. Might as well only do it once.

G.H.                                           And I’m not like a full-time professional blogger—I blog once a week. So it’s not a big deal for me. I’m really just doing it in Scrivener, more so I don’t have to write directly into WordPress. That always makes me a little nervous. And like I said I want to have an archive of what I wrote that is searchable so that I can be, oh what did I write on that topic of stress before? But I’m not really worrying about the formatting; again, I’m using it to draft. Then I get it over there and I fool around with it and I change it 50 times and I paste it back into Scrivener.

M.H.                                          I do end up changing it as well. Once you get it over to WordPress you’re like, it looks different I have to just… maybe just a little bit.

G.H.                                           Yeah. It’s the same reason I read my first draft on my iPad instead of on the computer; because I find things. In fact I had it—well it’s Mac only—but you can have it read your book to you through Scrivener. And I just copy 10 or 15 stupid things like “he” instead of “the,” and “it it.” And I don’t know, just a bunch of dumb stuff.

M.H.                                          I love that auditory sense. Do you also dictate into it?

G.H.                                           I don’t dictate. I’ve never gotten into that. But I know there is definitely people that do.

M.H.                                          It’s kind of intimidating.

G.H.                                           Just not how I work I guess. I’m sure I could get into it if I had a need to or just changed my style. When I’m brainstorming I tend to talk out loud. It’s bad because I’ll be walking the dog and I’ll be like, “Well they could do this…” And I’m like, gosh if anybody comes out of their house… I’ll be like, okay I’m talking to my dog!

M.H.                                          I do like the text to speech function though. It’s a good way to self-edit.

G.H.                                           Right. Yeah I did that before I sent it off to my copyeditor just to catch those last minute things that I was afraid I’d missed. It’s amazing how your brain will just fill in those gaps or fix those errors for you. Which is great; except when you’re trying to edit your book.

M.H.                                          Yes. The human mind is a powerful thing. It’s so powerful it will make you keep mistakes in your book. So be careful!

So let’s transition a little bit now and talk about the future of technology. I only have a couple of questions here because I don’t want to speculate too much. But because we’ve been talking about Scrivener and I think it really is the cutting edge of creative writing software at this point. Or even drafting writing software—creative writing, for non-fiction for blogging for everything. Even, like you said, you can use it as a project management tool.

So I’m just curious where you see the future of creative writing tools headed in general? If you see other tools coming up that might be helpful in addition to Scrivener. I know that Literature and Latte also has Scapple. So we can talk about that if you wanted to—any thoughts you have on that.

G.H.                                           Gosh. I do think Scapple is awesome if you’re into the mind mapping, drawing—all that sort of stuff. I’ve sort of played with it and like I said I’m one of those people that is really just sort of haphazard about what I do. If I were one of those people I would be all over Scapple because I think it’s awesome.

The other one I don’t know if you’ve heard of is Aeon Timeline. It was written to work with Scrivener by some avid Scrivener user and it helps you create a timeline for your whole story. And then you can sync it with Scrivener and it will… I think it creates—I haven’t played with it but the people I know who have say it’s awesome. And it sounds like a great idea. It’s probably something I should look at. Especially as I write a series!

M.H.                                          For the listeners who are just on audio now, is that Aeon—A-E-O-N?

G.H.                                           It is. A-E-O-N.

M.H.                                          Cool I’m going to look that up afterwards. I do timelines by hand right now, just on paper. Or on a corkboard. But it’s just not the same. I wish there was a digital function. I would totally go build one in JavaScript but who has the time?

G.H.                                           Yeah. So you should check that one out. As far as the future goes… I don’t know. I’m not one of those future predicting people. But I’m excited because one of the things that is supposed to happen with Scrivener 3.0 is that Windows and Mac are supposed to have full feature parity. So I think that’s going to be awesome for Windows users.

And then I’m just excited to see what the new features are. Because I know when Apple—I think they switched from Cocoa to Swift for their programming language—and so Keith spent three months switching everything over. And he’s—as far as I know—writing Scrivener 3 in Swift. And so instead of adding on to the original code he’s had for a really, really long time he’s sort of starting from the ground up. So I think it will be interesting to see. I mean it’s a pretty stable program but I think it might be just a little bit more streamlined if you will. I’ll be curious.

But I know there’s some major wish list items. And one of the things I think he’s trying to do is make compile a little easier for people to understand. Because it’s so incredibly powerful, but it really takes a little bit of time to wrap your brain around a “rules oriented” instead of a “what you see is what you get oriented” output process.

M.H.                                          That’s an interesting way to describe it. It totally is that. I think it would be—because I have a little bit of a background in computer science that sort of thinking comes naturally to me. But I think it would be… Maybe a lot of writers are used to WYSIWYG—what you see is what you get.

G.H.                                           Exactly. If you’ve used Word your whole life and you are not a software programmer or whatever it’s really weird. Because every word processor out there is WYSIWYG. It’s taken me until recently to think of it as applying rules to types and really making sure people understand the hierarchy of the binder and what that means and how it all works. Because if you can get the levels down then you can understand the formatting tab and compile and you’ve got it nailed. That’s the hardest part out there.

M.H.                                          Well this has been great. Just a couple of last questions. What are you working on these days? What’s coming up next? I know you just had a book released, right?

G.H.                                           I did! So I’m working on Book 3 for that series and that’s my big thing. I’m focusing on Book 3 and Book 4 right now of that series.

M.H.                                          And any other non-fiction you had in mind?

G.H.                                           I’m taking notes for a second edition of Scrivener for Dummies but nothing official.

M.H.                                          So anybody who’s interested check out Scrivener for Dummies and the other one’s called Productivity Tools for Writers. Fantastic. And where can people find you and your work online?


M.H.                                          Okay. Well thanks again. It’s been great!

G.H.                                           Right thanks.

M.H.                                          Bye for now.

G.H.                                            Bye.

About Matt Herron

Matt Herron is the author of Scrivener Superpowers: How to Use Cutting-Edge Software to Energize Your Creative Writing Practice. He has a degree in English Literature, a dog named Elsa, and an adrenaline addiction sated by rock climbing and travel. The best way to get in touch with him is on Twitter @mgherron.

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