Finding a way to highlight a theme in my novel

Hello, sorry if this has been covered lots before, but I am not sure what to even start searching for!

I want to highlight, and ideally be able to automatically pull together, the chunks of text that are the main reveal in my story. There will be a line or so in a dozen chapters that need to be highlighted/brought together so I can check their continuity.

Is there a way to do this? I have watched some youtube tutorials on keywords and metadata but am none the wiser.

Help would be much appreciated.

Thank you.

If it’s just a few lines scattered throughout your manuscript, then you should try inspector comments. Just highlight the first word or phrase of the passage you’re interested in and create an inspector comment that marks it as pertaining to your theme. You can even color code those comments if you want. Then load the entire manuscript in Scrivenings mode, and click on each relevant comment to skip from one passage to the next.

Another option would be to break your chapters into separate documents, where the theme-relevant passages are their own document. Then use keywords, status, or labels to mark those documents as relevant to your theme. You can then create a saved search that gathers the documents that have those bits of metadata associated with them, and they’ll all be shown together, in order, in the search results.

It depends on how you’ve set your binder up.

If you have one binder document per chapter, then things like Keywords aren’t going to be particularly useful – they apply to a document as a whole, not to lines or paragraphs within them.

If you have a binder folder per chapter, with individual scenes as separate documents as children of the folder (which is probably the most common structure), then keywords are more helpful – they’ll still only point to scene as a whole, but as the documents are smaller, you’ll get more fine control over where you assign the keywords.

Assume for a moment that you’re happy just to have these ‘key’ scenes highlighted the process would be:

  1. Assign a keyword called ‘key’ to each of those scenes.
  2. Do a project search for ‘key’, setting the search to look in Keywords only. This will create a ‘Search Results’ collection with the relevant documents in.
  3. Save that search with a suitable name.

From now only, you’ll have a collection with all the key scenes which you can see as one long scrivening (virtual document).

This ability to search on documents for documents matching certain criteria is one of Scrivener’s best features – you can use it for example to see all the scenes with Character A in them. It does rely on using small enough documents (eg scenes) in the binder – it becomes meaningless if you have all the text for a chapter in one binder document, for example.

Now, you may be looking for a bit more granularity than that – you’re actually looking for the key paragraphs not just the key scenes.

I can think of two ways you can go about this:


  1. make each of these key paragraphs into their own binder document. eg.

Chapter 1 (folder)

  • First part of scene 1
  • Key paragraph of scene 1
  • last part of scene 1
  • Scene 2
  • Scene 3
  • first part of Scene 4
  • Key paragraph of scene 4
  • rest of scene 4

This would enable you to add the ‘key’ keyword only to the important scenes and makes the collection method I outlined above very effective. When you want to read and edit the whole of scene 1, you simply make them into a scrivening.

2. If you don’t want to go down this route, then you could simply highlight the text of the relevant passages (cmd-shift-h). Then when you want to work through them, highlight the whole of your project and go to Edit > Find > Find by Formatting and search for Highlights. This will go to the first highlight in your document and as cmd-opt-shift-g will take you to the next highlight, you’ll be able to walk through the key passages in your document in sequence. (You won’t of course see them all next to each other as you do with METHOD TWO.)

Personally, I’d go for [METHOD TWO] because it’s the most flexible. But if you’d prefer not to do that, then a good compromise would be to split the document into scenes and just highlight the relevant passages so you can pick them out easily - in other words, I’d combine METHODS ONE and THREE.