Gwen Hernandez

Author of romantic suspense. Scrivener expert.

The secret is out: Author In Progress is coming soon(ish)

paper wrapped book with "coming soon" tag

I’ve had such a hard time keeping this a secret, but I can finally tell you I’ll be adding another nonfiction book to my oeuvre (sorry, I couldn’t resist using that word). I’m part of the forthcoming Writer Unboxed (WU) collaboration published by Writer’s Digest Books, Author In Progress: A no-holds-barred guide to what it really takes to get published (Hint: It’s less about adverbs than you think.), edited by the awesome WU co-founder, Therese Walsh.

Due out in November (I know, not exactly around the corner), Author In Progress went up for pre-sale yesterday. The collection of essays from all of Writer Unboxed‘s regular contributors guides you through the entire process of writing a manuscript, including how to deal with the frustrations of writing and pushing through when you think your work, uh, stinks (hint: that’s the section my essay’s in).

I’ve only read my own part, so I’m excited to get my hands on it! With such an all-star cast, I’m confident the book is going to be fantastic, and I’m honored to be included.

Author In Progress is something I hope every writer—at any stage of their career—will find useful. And with the November timing, I see this on many holiday wish lists. *marks calendar for holiday giveaway*

Waiting for Scrivener class news? It’ll be coming much sooner than this book. I promise. 😉 Happy writing!

Building a better Scrivener course

Thin line flat design of website building process. Modern vector illustration concept, isolated on white background.

In late December, I began a search for a better way to teach my online Scrivener courses. Honestly, I’m always trying to improve, but this time I wanted to take a big leap forward.

I was looking for a way for students to sign up any time of the year and start taking the course immediately, while still allowing me to interact and answer questions. I wanted a platform that would be easy to navigate, let me incorporate video into the lessons that need it most, deliver content in easier-to-digest bites, look great on mobile devices, and make learning more fun.

I found one that hits just about all of my criteria, and I’m working hard to get it set up. But, holy cow, it’s taking W-A-Y longer than I anticipated. I won’t be rolling it out this weekend (as I had originally hoped), but my goal is to have everything running smoothly for the Scrivener Intro courses by mid February. Which was when I had planned to offer those courses again anyway.

Now that I know what I’m up against, I’m confident I can meet that goal.

The changes are a lot of work, but I’m having fun with it. I love digging into the tech side, thinking about how to make Scrivener easier to learn, and how to provide a better experience for everyone.

And I’m excited about launching the new site because it’s seriously going to take the learning experience up a notch.

My Scrivener newsletter subscribers will be the first to know when it’s ready to roll (at a discount for early birds), so if you don’t want to miss out, be sure to sign up today.

I hope your new year is going well. Keep writing and reading and enjoying every day!

La pura vida in Costa Rica

Playa Jacó from a nearby hill

Playa Jacó from a nearby hill on our morning hike.

Over the winter break, we traveled to Costa Rica. In addition to time at the beach, I got to meet my oldest uncle—who married a Costa Rican woman and moved to Central America in the late 50s—and many cousins and extended family for the first time.

What a beautiful country! Lush, fog-capped mountains, gorgeous beaches, and lots of jungle. Paradise.

San Jose had incredible temps in the mid-to-high 70s (Fahrenheit, obvs) during the day, with cool breezes and plenty of sunshine. On Christmas, I wore a light sweater to sit outside on the restaurant patio. The weather reminded me of the California coast. Surrounded by tall, green mountains, this centrally located city is breathtaking, but sits several hours from the ocean.

Gwen on a coffee plantation

Me on the coffee plantation

coffee bean plant

Coffee beans on my cousins’ plantation

Costa Rica Mountains

View from a highpoint on the way to Jacó from San Jose.

After a quick visit with my new-to-me family—including  tour of their small coffee plantation—we spent almost a week on the Pacific coast in Playa Jacó. My weather app said it would be 85° F every day, but apparently that really means:

Temps in Jacó

Wait, it feels like what???

Jacó was a two-showers-a-day kind of place. The minute we left the condo, we were covered in beads of sweat from head to toe.

TMI?

To cope, we usually spent the middle of the day inside—can you say siesta?—or in the water. The ocean temperature was probably in the low 80s. Absolutely perfect. We tried to either hike or run early in the morning, and catch the sunset every evening.

Playa Jacó

Playa Jacó on a morning run.

dog on trail

This little dog “led” us to the ruins of a half-built party venue on the side of the hill overlooking Jacó.

Ruins of a party venue in Costa Rica

Ruins of the party venue

sunset

Everyone came out for the sunsets on Jacó Beach.

We didn’t see quite as much wildlife as I had hoped, but still had several encounters with monkeys, saw a colorful parrot in flight, glimpsed a sloth hiding high in a tree, and watched crocodiles sunbathe beneath a bridge. The beach was chock full of tiny crabs, and we also saw cutter ants, a couple of iguanas, several green-and-black frogs, and lots of little lizards.

Monkey on a wire

This electrical wire on the mountain was like a monkey highway.

Here are a couple of super short monkey videos.

capuchin monkey in a tree

Capuchin monkey “hanging out” in Manuel Antonio National Park.

sign: don't feed the monkeys

Keep the monkeys wild!

crab tracks in the sand

Crab tracks in the sand.

Beware of crocodiles sign in Spanish

Beware: cocodrilos!

Crocodiles on the highway to Jacó.

Crocodiles on the highway to Jacó.

Some of the things I noticed:

  • Stray dogs are everywhere, in the city and at the beach, but they pretty much leave everyone alone. However, the dogs force homes and businesses to keep their trash in containers several feet off the ground so the dogs don’t get into it.
  • Costa Rica is very environmentally conscious. I loved that they had both regular and composting trash bins, and recycling was common as well.
  • Eggs aren’t refrigerated in the grocery stores. I guess this is okay. It must be working for them. I don’t eat eggs, so it didn’t bother me. 😉
trash bin

Everyone keeps their trash up off the ground, out of reach of stray dogs.

trash bins in Jaco

Organic (compostable) and inorganic trash bins were common in San Jose and Jacó.

eggs and food in grocery store

We saw eggs out on the shelf like this at all the grocery stores.

Tree embedded in curb.

I got nothin’.

If you get a chance, definitely visit Costa Rica for a taste of La Pura Vida! (Translation: The Pure Life, but also a greeting, a general expression that life is good or life could be worse.)

Happy holidays

Wishing You peace, love, and joy this holiday season

Whether it’s winter or summer where you are, enjoy the holidays and have a fabulous new year!

Writing together makes us better

better together text

Anyone else a little busy right now? The only way I’ve been getting any writing done lately is to meet my friend Bria Quinlan at the library three days a week to write for several hours. Since we started, I’ve averaged more words per week than I have all year (even during NaNoWriMo).

The concept is simple, but the result has been epic. Writing at home always sounds great, and I can do it, but the minute I get stuck in a scene, it’s far too easy to get distracted by food, laundry, a dirty counter, my dog, my bed, business stuff, errands, email… At the library, I know I’m there for one reason only: to write. No excuses. And there are very few distractions (aside from the books on every wall).

We had to lay some ground rules—based heavily on the “Writers Camp” formed by Roxanne St. Claire, Kristen Painter, Leigh Duncan, and Elle Saint James—to make sure we don’t just chat the whole time. For example, we get 15 minutes at the start of the day to catch up with each other. We set a goal for the morning (e.g. word count, pages revised), and no one gets lunch until we both reach our goals. How’s that for motivation?

We take 45 minutes for lunch during which we can eat, talk, check social media or email, and then get back to work. Appointments are scheduled for other days of the week. This is Work Time. Writing is our job, and this is our version of an office with a boss.

In the afternoon, we each try to meet our goal for the day before we wrap it up. Even if I miss my overall mark, I’ve been so much more productive that I have no complaints.

Not only am I getting in more words, but Storytime (as Bria dubbed it) is freeing me up to spend more time on the business tasks I’ve been putting off, without feeling guilty for not writing (as much) on those days.

I realize not everyone can do this during the day. I’m lucky to work from home full time. But the concept can be modified. Maybe it’s two hours at a coffee shop on Saturday and Sunday morning. Or a couple hours at the library several evenings a week. Or take your laptop to work and find a spot to write during your lunch hour (the conference room?).

Honestly, though, this works best with a partner. Why? Accountability is a big part of it. (Having someone to watch your computer on a bathroom break is an added bonus.) If I’m not meeting Bria, it’s easy to skip writing to tackle all of the other things on my to-do list. If I haven’t reached my goal by noon, I can’t just give in, I have to keep writing until I make my morning word count. It often comes easier than I expect when I force myself through the block.

The key—at least for me—is to get away from the distractions and to set up an unassailable period of time where my brain knows that writing is the only option. Some people can do this at home. (I envy you!) After almost a year of fighting with myself, I’ve learned that I need an alternative.

Do you struggle with distractions when you want to be writing (or working on something else important to you)? Have you found a way to deal with it? Please share!

How to become an expert in 6 years

Guru name badge“How did you become a Scrivener expert?” a man recently asked me at a workshop for Yale librarians.

“Uh…”

A couple years ago, I finally decided to own that title: Scrivener expert. I wanted a better word—because there’s that saying that if someone has to tell you they’re an expert, they probably aren’t. But guru? Even more pretentious. Trainer? Too bland, and limiting. Coach? Uh, taken by that point. Ninja, queen, or Jedi would have been more fun, but those should probably be reserved for the folks at Literature & Latte who know more about Scrivener than anyone on Earth.

So, expert it is. (Until I change my mind. 😉 ) Assuming I am one, the answer about how I got there is both easy and hard, because it happened by accident, without intention.

How does anyone become good at anything? Practice.

Some experts (in other fields) say 10,000 hours of practice.

I have no idea how many hours I’ve put into Scrivener since 2009—a lot!—but my efforts grew out of love. I truly love Scrivener, and I had an insatiable desire to learn its secrets and share them with my friends. I also happen to enjoy working with software, and teaching. Triple win.

When I reached the limits of my knowledge, I ran through Scrivener’s menus looking for functions I didn’t know how to use, and then looked them up in the manual. I distilled each feature down to what I thought were its key points, and wrote a blog post about what I’d found.

Then I did it again. And again.

I started teaching.

I wrote a book.

And through it all, I kept learning. I’m still learning. I get questions from Scrivener users almost every day, and I answer all of them (I’m in trouble now, right?) because sometimes they challenge me, and I don’t want to stagnate. And because I like helping people come to love what I love.

Being an expert isn’t so special. Everyone is an expert at something. It merely takes time and a strong interest. Consistency.

And, for me, a little love.

Where do you claim expertise?

By the way, if you want to increase your understanding of Scrivener, the Scrivener Master Course: Compile starts Monday. :-) Last chance to take the class for $20!

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving graphic

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you have at least one thing to be grateful for today. I am truly thankful to all of you for being part of my writing and reading community. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, have a wonderful day.

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