Monthly Archives: June 2015


Make a pretty PDF in Scrivener

I decided to give my MS another once-over (ugh, will it ever feel done?)

One piece of advice you hear, is to print it out. Because reading a printed page feels different to reading on screen. I’ve done that already.

The other thing I heard was to make it look like a book. There’s probably a million ways to do this, but since I have Kindle for PC, I thought I’d use that. (Why Kindle for PC, rather than a Kindle device or app? So I could fix things as soon as I found them, compile it again, copy it over, and see how the change looked.)

Kindle for PC can open a variety of formats, and I decided PDF was the easiest for me, since I could compile a PDF directly from Scrivener without any add-ons.

Compiling to PDF is straight forward, but if you use the standard manuscript settings, it still looks like a manuscript (well, duh) and not a book. So here’s how I made it prettier and more book-like.

(A lot of this will depend on how you have Scrivener set up. I use a folder for each chapter, and within that a text doc for each scene. So I’ll tell you how I did it, but you should be able to play around with it until you get something you like.)


First, Save Preset

If you have any custom settings for compiling (like I did) make sure you save them as a preset (I call mine “My Manuscript”) so you don’t lose them and then have to spend ages getting them right again. (Can you tell I’m talking from experience?)



Getting set up

1. I started with Format As: Standard Manuscript Format and made my changes from there. (It’ll switch to Custom when you make changes.)

2. Compile For: PDF

3. Add front matter: I went for Paperback Novel > Title Page, which is a plain page with only Title and Author.

3a. The “Add front matter” option doesn’t change when you change the “Format As”, so if you’re switching between compiling as a manuscript and compiling as a pretty PDF, that’s something to watch out for.



a. I went for the traditional 3 asterisks between adjacent text documents

b. And a single return for text documents that follow folders (because I actually have text in those folders, like a sub heading.)




This is where you can get fancy and start making it look pretty.

a. Click on the type (level) you want to edit.

b. Highlight the text

c. Make your formatting changes.


For chapter titles, I used a font called Loved By The King, size 20. I also changed the Page Padding to 1 line, instead of the standard manuscript 14.

For the body text, I liked the look of a nice round font, which was different to the normal Times New Roman I’m used to. So I chose Bookman Old Style, at size 11.


Page Settings

a. Page Size: Custom (This opens up a dialogue box.) I set it to 15 x 21 cm. Which is about A5 size, and more bookish than A4.

b. I also played around with the margins, and ended up settling on 1 inch for the top, 1/2 inch for the bottom, 3/4 inch for the left, and 1/2 inch for the right.



Save Preset

And, for the love of all things chocolate, remember to Save Preset… and give it a name like Pretty PDF, so you can reuse those settings easily. (Also, if you make changes, you can save them by entering the same name. It will warn you that you’re going to overwrite it.)



Hit the Compile button and give your PDF a name.


Reading in Kindle for PC

There’s a folder called My Kindle Content which, for me, is directly in my Documents folder. Copy your PDF from where ever you just saved it to this folder.

Then you should be able to start Kindle for PC and open that PDF. So, so pretty!



Was it worth it?

Yes, absolutely. I found typos that I hadn’t noticed before. I played around with paragraph sizes because they look different on a smaller page. I enjoyed reading it because it looked like a book.


Writing workshop with David Hill

New Zealand has some amazing writers’ festivals. The Auckland Writers Festival and Dunedin Writers and Readers Festival both took place in May, and The New Zealand Young Writers Festival (also in Dunedin) was in June.

But I have to admit, none of them have ever been appealing enough to make me get off my butt to organize flights, accommodation, time off work, childcare, or battle Auckland traffic to go. (Though I did go see a talk by Elizabeth Knox during Hamilton Book Month last year.)

The toilet key from
The Children's Bookshop.
Yep, that's a full-sized board book.

But last week I heard David Hill was doing a workshop at the Children’s Bookshop in Wellington. David Freaking Hill. And I got that itch to go. So I checked there were flights available (so what if they cost $350 and might end up getting fogged in?) and that my husband didn’t have plans, and I booked my place.

This was one of those times where I really felt like a writer. I must be a writer. I was going to a writing workshop. It’s right there in the title!

So, I got up super early on Sunday morning, made the husband and kids drop me at the airport (they went for pancakes afterwards), survived the flight down, didn’t burst into tears when I couldn’t find the bus (have I mentioned I have anxieties?), found the bus, made it to the Children’s Bookshop, and actually managed to talk to strangers like a rational human being (see aforementioned anxieties).

David Hill was great. He’s funny, and honest, and I really love hearing NZ writers talking about writing.

It was a small group, and I could tell everyone felt that awkwardness that you do in those situations. Not just me. And I was big and brave and put myself out there. It made me think I really should get myself to the next local NZSA meeting. Because despite my shy introvert nature, I do like other writer people.

All too soon it was over. I had ages to wait for my flight home, so I walked back to the airport (it was a beautiful day in Wellington) and then spent an hour listening to music and reading in a semi-comfortable chair in the departure lounge (which was bliss in itself–clearly I don’t get enough relaxy time.) And this time I enjoyed the flight (the empty seat next to me, the fresh spring water, the cup of tea, the biscuit, and more listening/reading time) since the anxieties were behind me.

So, big thanks to David Hill for sharing your ideas with us, and to John and Ruth from The Children’s Bookshop for hosting the event (and John’s blunt opinions on the state of publishing.)