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Scrivener Superpowers: Interview with Gwen Hernandez

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Published on Dec 4, 2015

Learn more at www.ScrivenerSuperpowers.com

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Gwen Hernandez is the author of the romantic suspense series Men of Steele and the nonfiction book Productivity Tools for Writers. Before becoming a professional writer, Gwen worked in computer programming and was also an engineer.

A friend recommended Scrivener to her not long after she began writing and at first she was skeptical. “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,” she says. Her first reaction was “amazement” and once she started using Scrivener she discovered many features that would enhance her writing process. “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 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.”

Gwen’s writing process is completely different for her fiction and nonfiction, and Scrivener easily adapts to this. “It’s nice having a program that supports both styles,” she says. Her fiction style is based around the four-part story structure—a modification of the three-part—and she begins in Scrivener by creating four “part” folders in the binder, and creating her scenes in there. “When I start it’s just part folders with lots of scene documents in them. I don’t think in chapters so much as I think in scenes. I organize into chapters after I’ve got the whole first draft written and feel pretty solid with it.” For her fiction she doesn’t outline in great detail and is more of a “pantser” when it comes to plotting. Scrivener helps her to feel organized and see the structure of her story clearly. “Even though my process is very disorganized, Scrivener helps me keep it all together,” she says.

When writing non-fiction her approach is very different, and she carefully outlines and creates folders for each chapter. “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.”

During the drafting process Gwen writes in the full screen composition mode to block out distractions and uses project targets to help stay motivated. For fiction, she writes each scene based on a brief outline on a synopsis card, and then uses color-coding to keep track of which character’s point of view she is in. Gwen uses annotations and comments while writing to flag things to check, fix or research later.

For self-editing she also uses color-coding to keep track of where she is in the process. She reads her first draft on her iPad and listens to her book through Scrivener’s text-to-speech function as an added way of picking up any errors that have slipped through. Her editors and beta readers edit in Word documents using Track Changes, so she uses two monitors and manually takes her changes back into Scrivener.

When it comes to formatting her books and teaching others about the compile feature, Gwen has found it can take time for most people to understand that it is based on a “rules oriented” instead of a “what you see is what you get oriented” output process. “If you’ve used Word your whole life and you are not a software programmer it’s really weird. Because every word processor out there is WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). 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. Because if you can get the levels down then you can understand the formatting tab and compile—and you’ve got it nailed.” She has found that some people become frustrated when trying to use Scrivener to create a publishing layout, and explains, “It’s invented as a drafting tool. The fact that you can self-publish in it—bonus. It’s not meant to be layout software; it’s writing software.”

You can find lots more about her books on Gwen’s website at www.gwenhernandez.com.

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