SPP 013 – Writing Better, Faster, and More Efficiently Using Scrivener, with Gwen Hernandez

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This week, we delved in deep on what we feel is the best writing tool anywhere, ever, since the invention of the pencil: Scrivener. For this epic discussion of our favorite writing software, we managed to coerce Gwen Hernandez, author of the upcoming Scrivener for Dummies book, to join us on the podcast.

Gwen started as a nonfiction author, decided she wanted to write romantic suspense and wrote a lot of it, but ended up blogging tips about the software she used to write it. She became known as an authority on Scrivener and ended up getting her first book credit for a book about what she used to write her books, which was very meta.

Among the amazing cool things Scrivener has going for it are:

  • It allows you to drag and drop scenes from place to place
  • It keeps all of your writing — and all of your research — in one contained place
  • It allows you to make annotations and comments in your work so that you can keep writing fast and address your short-term concerns later
  • It allows you, as a self-published author, to do all the “heavy lifting” of proper formatting for different devices/platforms on your own
  • It works for fiction, nonfiction, scripts, novels, novellas, short stories, and any other form of writing
  • It saves your work meticulously, so that you’re always backed up and never lose anything you write
  • It allows you to take “snapshots” of your project before making changes, just to be sure and to allow you to revert at any time
  • … and about a billion other cool things.

Gwen also outlined a few cool features in this blog post about how to write fast.

The wrap-up

After we let Gwen go lest she contaminate herself with how idiotic all of us are after a while, we continued to kiss Scrivener’s ass as being awesome.

We then built a shrine to Scrivener.

We sacrificed cows to Scrivener.

We ran around naked in the moonlight in tribute to Scrivener.

We then noted (seriously this time) that Scrivener gives you a 30-use trial to see if you like it and encouraged you to try it out so that you can see how terrible Microsoft Word truly is compared to its awesomeness.

Oh, and then we gave you this link again so that if you wanted to pick up Scrivener, I could get a commission. Thank you!

Sean also made a point to say that we should link this video about how James Ellroy Hates Everything in the show notes. It’s not relevant at all, but it’s funny as shit so we wanted to share it.

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  1. I can’t wait to listen to your podcast, but did you know you say “30-USE free trial” up there? It may be nitpicking but some people might think they can only open the program 30 times before it shuts down unless they buy…it’s a 30-day free trial. You can open and close it as many times as you want during your 30 days. :^)

    – Happy Scriv user and alumna of one of Gwen’s online Scriv classes!

    • Hey, Terry! It’s called a 30-day free trial, but it’s really 30 uses because you can make it last longer than 30 days. Here’s how it’s described on the Scrivener website: “The trial runs for 30 days of actual use: if you use it every day it lasts 30 days; if you use it only two days a week, it lasts fifteen weeks.”

      Hope you enjoyed the podcast, and thanks for checking in!

      • But if you open and close it twice on the same day. Does that count as one, or two uses? Sounds like it would be one use to me.

        • Yeah, one use. It’s like a Europass, if you’ve ever gotten one to travel by train through Europe. You open it on a day and you get the whole day, no matter how many times you open and close it. But if you then close it before midnight and keep it closed through the next day, that day won’t count, and day 2 will only start on the next day you open it.

  2. Interesting podcast, and I think you sufficiently draped yourselves across the bonnet of the hot sports car that is Scrivener. Well done.

    Since you started the podcast with the term “blokish” which is a very British term, I should mention that if something is “the dog’s bollocks” then that is very good.

    • We’re always telling Sean that he’s exactly like dog balls, and he thinks we’re complimenting him, so this totally feeds the fire. I approve.

      • Also, since I was still listening to the podcast when I commented before, I wanted to add something about its reliability – I have been using Scrivener since 2005 (early beta) and I have never lost data. It is absolutely the most rock solid editor I have ever used, with the possible exception of vim.

  3. I had been hearing good things about scrivener for a while now, but I haven’t tried it out yet. I currently use google docs. The main selling point being that I could easily go from my laptop to desktop while working on it. But after hearing Sean’s idea of using dropbox, I don’t think I have a good enough reason to leave it be. Thanks guys.

    • Right. If you install it on two machines and use Dropbox, that’ll work fine. (I’d close the doc on one computer before opening it on another, though.)

  4. I just picked up my free trial of Scrivener, and introduced my boyfriend to it as well, so this came at a perfect time.

    Have to say, compiling is the hardest part. The rest of it seems fairly intuitive (add/drop sections, move them around, etc. etc.) but the compile feature… I do like that I can compile it in mobi, but haven’t figured out how to get it to put the table of contents in the right spot (after the cover and title page) or how to keep the text formatting and page breaks. Do you know any tutorials for formating mobi files?

    • This is just my opinion, Crissy, but I’d probably invoke the 80/20 rule here and say that if you can write, arrange, and compile as-is, that’s probably good enough. I fought forever to try and make compile do what I wanted and eventually got it, but I half wonder if my time would’ve been better spent writing and I could’ve just let it compile in whatever default way it wanted.

      Gwen might know. I know her book will cover it!

  5. Thanks for the podcast guys. I thought it would be a “how to” do the logistics, but it has been much more helpful than that as tells em what I did not know I needed to know! Enjoy the banter too.

    This scrivener tool sounds great and off to buy it after this comment!

    • Yeah, one of our commenters (Mars) told us that he liked the things that we sometimes said about self-publishing in this podcast. We’re all about tips, on occasion, when the dick jokes run out!

  6. I bought Scrivener after listening to this podcast. I’ve heard people rave about the program for about a year and I’ve always been on the fence about it. I’ve been using MS Word for over a decade and have always felt that it met all of my word processing needs.

    The podcast showed me that a word processor could do more than the features included in Word. The Corkboard feature is what pushed me over the edge and turned me into a customer.

    Thanks for a great show. I learned a lot and look forward to reading the Scrivener for Dummies book when it’s released.

    • I keep finding new ways to use it, and they’re not even things I’d think of asking for if I were designing a writing program. It’s crazy.

      You really start to realize that there’s much, much, much more to what a writer needs to be optimally productive than just the ability to “process words.” That’s a fraction of what Scrivener does. It’s like it’s an end-to-end creativity tool.

  7. I am totally sold. I’ve never been unhappy with Word but this sounds like it can do so much more. I’m just about to start a new novel and plot it out for the first time so I think this program will really help with that – thanks for the great info, as always.

    • I just started a new project and dipped back into Scrivener after a long time away. Now I’m having to work on something else in Pages, and resenting every word I type, lol. It really is the best.

      • Now you know why, when you asked if we could use Scrivener for our upcoming joint project, I basically said, “Hell yeah, and if you think for a motherfucking second that we’d use ANYTHING else, I will eviscerate you.”

        Okay, I didn’t use those exact words. But that’s the basic gist.

        • Sorry, I’ve been trained by my paranoid partner, who rarely chooses easy and straightforward if something *could* go wrong.

    • I thought you did rlealy well! Don’t worry too much about little details, because you work them out over time—we all have. And NO one likes to edit!Looking forward to more of your story!



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