Thursday, July 12, 2012

Guest Post - Write Faster with Scrivener

It's my delight to welcome Gwen Hernandez as the first HTWF Guest Blogger. Gwen is the author of Scrivener For Dummies (Aug 2012, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.), and the teacher of popular online Scrivener classes for Mac and Windows. Before she started using Scrivener to tap her right brain for tales of romance and suspense, she worked as a computer programmer, business school instructor, and manufacturing engineer. Learn more about her book or classes, and get free Scrivener tips, at www.gwenhernandez.com.


Looking for ways to be a more productive writer? Consider Scrivener. This writing software—available for both Mac and PC—not only lets you write the way that works best for you, it also provides some handy features for motoring through your manuscript at top speed.
What do you do when you’re in the writing flow and you suddenly realize you need to change something two chapters back, or you have a great new idea for the ending twist? Don’t stop your momentum by going off to work on those other sections.

I create a file within my project that I call Change Log. When inspiration strikes, I jot a few notes in the Change Log and then get back to what I was working on. Not only does this keep me moving forward, but I find that many times I end up changing my mind about the “great idea” later, so waiting to make the change saves me even more time since I don’t have to undo it if a better idea comes along.

If you come to a section of your story and realize you don’t have the information you need, or you just can’t seem to get the words right, don’t stare at it for three hours. Add an annotation—a colored bubble of text that stores notes and reminders right within the text—and move on. Alternatively, you can add a comment, which creates a colored link to a word or phrase, and shows up in the Inspector instead of embedded in the text. You can use the Formatting Finder to easily search for annotations later.
Are you trying to meet a specific word count goal for your manuscript? Do you need daily goals to keep you on track? Scrivener has you covered with project and session targets. Just enter your manuscript goal and your daily goal. Scrivener tracks your progress and provides a colored bar to show you how you’re doing.



To track your progress within a single document, use a document target. This is handy if you have a minimum scene length, or are working on an article or story with a specified word count requirement.
Do you find the main Scrivener interface distracting? Try working in Composition mode (called Full Screen in the Windows version). Not only does this calming view block out the busy-ness, you can choose your favorite background color, and (currently on Mac only) even add a background image.


Scrivener can also help you keep your research at your fingertips. No more searching through stacks of printouts or trying to find the right Internet bookmark. Simply import documents you refer to regularly into the Research folder in your project. For websites that you frequent while writing, you can add a Reference so you can quickly open the site when you need it.

Those are just a few of the many ways Scrivener can increase your writing productivity. Got questions? Ask away. I’ll check in throughout the day to answer them. Thanks to Peter for having me today!



53 comments:

  1. I've had Scrivener for three years and have never learned to use the annotation bubble. That changes today. I'm so excited for your book, Gwen. All this time I was longing for the "comment" feature (as in Word) and I didn't even realize annotate was there. Tsk. I have been learning on a need to know basis and missing out on the better attributes. Thanks for a great post. You put a smile on my face. :)

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    1. D.D.: Glad you got something from the post today. It's always fun to find something new and helpful. :-)

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  2. Great post as always, Gwen. Quick question: when you say you create a file in Scrivener called Change Log, do you mean you create a physical file that appears in the Binder? And, if that is so, how do you get all the "changes" to appear in that file? Or do you do a "search" of those changes?

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    1. Good question, Sarah. I create a new text document in the Binder, then I jot down notes in it (if only I could get them directly from my head to the file!). So, I might write something like "Lindsey needs to meet John in the funeral scene" or "Delete first scene and move opening to Car Accident scene".

      So, I'm not actually making the changes, I'm just making a note of the idea and then getting back to my writing. It saves me a lot of time because I often change my mind again later. Does that help?

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  3. Hi Gwen! I'm a huge fan of Scrivener although probably use less than 5% of its capabilities. I can't wait for your book to come out and have pre-ordered it. The next step will be to find the time to read and learn in between finishing a manuscript and attending to life's interruptions (kids and husband LOL). Great post!

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    1. Thanks, Sharon! Time's always the problem, isn't it? Good luck!

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  4. Thanks for all the tips, Gwen. Scriv is the only writing tool I use now, and even though I've used it for over two years nw, I'm only scratching its surface.

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    1. Sure thing, Tony! Scrivener is my only writing tool now too.

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  5. I loved Gwen's class and learned so much. In fact, I'm thinking of taking it again because there was so much to absorb. Thanks,Gwen!

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    1. Thanks, Marian! I'd love to have you in class again. There's a 50% discount for returning students, but no pressure. ;-)

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  6. I have Write it Now and Scrivener and have not taken advantage of either one. Sadly. Write It Now made me buggy but I think Scrivener might be the answer to productivity. At the moment I have scenes stored in Word Perfect (Word also drive me buggy!) and I have to keep opening them to reference back story. This all goes back to my first four books, written on a barely functioning portable typewriter. If I had a thought, I picked up a colroed pencil and scribbled a note in the margin. Edits were done with another color. Now I KNOW this can be done writing software, I just have to figure it out
    Thanks for the prompt!

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    1. Monica: I'm not a big fan of writing in standard word processors either. Too linear, too hard to move things around, have to scroll down to find where I was working when I quit last time... Scrivener takes a little time, but it's worth it, IMO. Thanks!

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  7. I never knew about the goal setting! AWESOME! Can't wait for this book to come out so I can learn all the tricks!

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    1. MJ: Goal setting is one of my favorite parts, and I'm always surprised how many users don't know about it. So, I've made it my mission to spread the word about that feature. ;-) Thanks for stopping by!

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  8. Hi Gwen! I so need to take your Scrivener class. I have the PC version on my computer at home but I'm hopeless at learning to use it. Can't wait to get your book and figure some of this stuff out!

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    1. Hey, Manda! The PC version is still catching up, but it's pure awesomeness in its own right. Good luck getting it all figured out. :-)

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  9. Hi,Gwen!I'm interested in anything that would help me control the clutter of files and piles that grow while drafting and redrafting a manuscript. Is it easy to convert your final draft to a WORD doc?

    So glad there will be a Dummies book to help me make the leap to Scrivener. Now all I have to do is decide whether to get the mac or the pc version :-)

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    1. Krista: Scrivener lets you export part or all of your manuscript into one of many output types (DOC, EPUB, RTF, PDF, and more). That feature, called Compile, can be overwhelming for people because it has so many customizable parts to it, but it also has a simplified version.

      If the manuscript doesn't come out quite how you want it, you can either tweak it in Scrivener and try again, or just polish it up in Word.

      As far as buying Scrivener, if you have the option between either version, I'd go with Mac. Only because it's been around longer and is farther ahead at this point. Of course, if you're more comfortable on a PC and don't want to have to learn the Mac and Scrivener together, go with PC. I recommend downloading the trial for both versions and seeing which one you like better. Both trials are complete versions of the program, they just expire after 30 uses if you don't pay to register them.

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    2. Thanks, Gwen...that's really helpful advice. I didn't realize I could download a trial. Now I have a new project for this weekend.

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  10. Gwen I think Scrivener sounds like an awesome tool. Definitely going to try it out.

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    1. Great, Lena! With the free trial you have nothing to lose. I hope you like it!

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  11. Gwen, I have your book on order. I actually bought the book before I bought Scrivener, but I cannot wait to get my hands on this program and see what magic it will work with my manuscript. I always have notes to self all over the place. Sounds like a great tool!

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    1. Thanks, Carey! Scrivener is a star at helping you get organized.

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  12. Already Pre-ordered!
    I gotta tell ya though, this seems TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!
    Looking forward to learning all these tricks myself. Kudos to the company who created this and for your patience in explaining it.

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    1. Thanks, Sarah! I know what you mean. Scrivener is pretty amazing. The credit goes to Keith Blount who designed it for himself originally. He's super smart and very nice. And British, so he has a cool accent. ;-)

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  13. I've been using Scrivener since I migrated to Mac a while back, and now rarely use anything else. (I have to use Word sometimes to address an envelope.... that's about the only thing Scrivener *doesn't* do...:))

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  14. Do you use Scrivner for your blog? It seems like a great tool for a big project but I don't see how it could be helpful for small things like blog posts or articles.

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    1. A L: I do use Scrivener for my blog. Instead of creating a project for each post, I have one Blog project that holds all of them. I organize the posts by year and month in the Binder, and color code them by which site they're appearing on (using the Label field in the Inspector). I use the Status field to keep track of whether a blog post could be turned into a newsletter or magazine article, so I can easily search for those I considered suitable.

      In the Binder I also keep a file of ideas for future posts, and a folder with posts that were written or started but not used (in case I change my mind later or want to pilfer).

      By using Scrivener, not only are my posts nice and organized, but easily searchable. You could apply the same approach to writing articles, with the advantage of being able to store research (or links to research) inside the project.

      Does that help?

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  15. You'll make a Scrivener convert out of me yet.

    I especially like the progress chart and annotations features. I'll continue using Word for my current wips, but plan to purchase your book in August and read through it before switching over to the new program. Scrivener would be a wonderful Christmas gift for me, wouldn't it?

    Great post as usual, Gwen.

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    1. Ha, Jolyse, I'll keep trying. ;-) Yes, Scrivener is the perfect Christmas gift. Especially if you win NaNo and get the discount. Thanks!

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  16. Gwen, I'm looking forward to attending one of your workshops and seeing what Scrivener really can do. Your book sounds like a life saver to anyone who buys or is thinking of buying the program.

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  17. I may be coming in too late here to get a question answered but here goes anyway. What would you recommend as the best way to store research for an ongoing series? By research I mean the back story and Series Bible information. I read an article that said one writer uses a separate Project in Scrivener for her Series Bible, which makes sense. What I couldn't quite figure out from that article was whether or not you can have two Projects open at once? Thanks and I'm looking forward to your book.

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    1. MIss Bliss: If each book will have its own project, but they all share the same research, you could definitely have a separate project for the research if you don't want to duplicate. And yes, you can have multiple projects open at once. Right this minute I have about five open. ;-)

      Another non-Scrivener option you might check out is Evernote (www.evernote.com). I use it to save research I might use eventually, or stuff that's more background material. I also use it to take notes at workshops, clip recipes from the Internet, keep track of ideas, store a picture of my license plate so I don't forget it, make packing lists for travel, save receipts and confirmations for hotels and rental cars... And you can organize everything into notebooks and sync it to access from the Internet, your mobile phone, tablet, and computer.

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  18. Hi Gwen
    Interesting post as always! I just wanted to share a different way of jotting down ideas, instead of a Change Log. By opening the scratchpad you get a floating window in which to add notes as they come. I find this particularly useful if an idea comes for a separate project: just jot it down and carry on with what you're doing. The next time you're working on the other project, open your Scratchpad again and send it to wherever you like in this project.

    Hope this may be of use to someone.

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    1. darrenh76: The scratch pad is another great option that I often forget about. And the latest version (for both platforms) is greatly improved. Thanks!

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  19. I just downloaded the 30 day trial for Scrivener and have made more progress than in the last 3 months - which means the idea actually went from the brain to the computer - I found the tools very handy and look forward to using your tips!

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    1. E Edgerton: That's great! Good luck with it.

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  20. Hi Gwen, It's great to see you here! I will take the class and buy the book, and I hope Scrivener helps me be a little better organized in writing. I used WordStar back in the day, and eventually moved to Word. Until just this week, I was composing in Word and copying to Scrivener - because I just love moving scenes around. Yesterday I challenged myself to compose in Scrivener and I'm jubilant. Look how much time I just saved!

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    1. Yay, Susan! And thanks for your support. :-)

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  22. HI Peter, I don’t know if Scrivener would be good for me at this point, but I sure am glad to know there is someone out there that can fill me in. My outline is done, but reading your blog sounds like Scrivener does a whole lot more than keep you in line. I think I will touch base with Gwen. The stop gap is that it's just another learning curve. Thanks for the post.

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    1. gailingis: If you're thinking about it, consider checking out the free trial. And if you like outlining, you might enjoy the Corkboard or Outliner in Scrivener. Good luck!

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  23. Hi, Gail
    Glad this caught your interest. Scrivener becomes more valuable as you do more (and longer) works. Definitely worth investigating.

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  24. Gwen is willing to keep answering questions, but I wanted to take this opportunity to thank her for a lively and immensely helpful day as a guest host. Three cheers!
    Peter

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    1. Thanks for inviting me, Peter. It's been fun!

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  25. Hi Gwen, have just discovered Scrivener and your blog. Purchased Scrivener after just three days into the free trial and am now really fired up in getting my writing really organised and focused. Will be getting your book and will keep checking in here for more gems...

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    1. I did the exact same thing, Ken. Three days. Thanks for your interest in my book. I hope you find it helpful!

      This is actually Peter's blog, but he has some fabulous content on here doesn't he? Good luck with your writing!

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  26. Gwen: I have Scrivener and just purchased your book. Can you tell me how I can get a list of all my different projects on one screen? Perhaps I'm not the brightest stone in the brook but I'm finding Scrivener's learning curve exasperating. I'm not ready to give up just yet but just being able to find the things I've imported without searching each name would be helpful.

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  27. Barbara:
    The most recently viewed projects will show up under File-->Recent Projects, but if you want a complete list, the easiest way to do that would be to search for .scriv files in either Finder (Mac) or Windows Explorer (Windows). I organize all my writing into a Writing folder under my Documents so that they're easy to find.

    Or am I misunderstanding your question?

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  28. Thanx for all the tips which you have shared with us it is very helpful Article writing

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