Keyword organising

I have been using keywords for the last of my 3 novels. I write scifi and in the universe that I have created, many of the planets, technology and keywords are common, but not the characters or spacecraft names. At the moment I have separated them out in the keyword pane using a separate folder for each novel, but it’s becoming unwieldy. I need to keep them separated by novel so I don’t mix things up and ‘cross pollinate’ the novels with items that should not be common. Also when I duplicate a keyword for use in another novel, say the name of a planet, it adds a -1 to the name. Not ideal.

For each each novel I have categories for character names, names of things, technology names, planets, etc.
I was wondering if anyone else has an issue with organising large numbers of keywords? I have found the use of keywords really useful, but I’m now wondering what my keyword panel is going to look like when I’ve written another 5 books.

Is there a limit on the number of keywords? Anyway to organise more efficiently than what I am doing now?

Best Regards

Before working with the assumption that you definitely want to write all three (and eventually up to eight) novels of this series into one single project, I figured it would be good to suggest an alternative. It is of course fine to combine books that way, but it’s worth noting that there are other ways you can go, where each book is in its own project, with its own metadata, without losing the ability to associate material with links/bookmarks back to a central universe building project (and even each other). The basic idea is outlined in this post, and may be worth some consideration if that looks like it could work for you.

It won’t work for every scenario though, sometimes you would want to be able to run a search in one project to find every scene a character is involved in over multiple novels, for example. So the next question is whether or not having different keywords for essentially the same thing, just because they are used in different books, is what works best. You mention using for instance “Planet Name-1”, for presumably the same exact planet. The notion of searching for that planet within one single novel is what you’re going for, but I feel there are better ways of going about that, than having eight different keywords for the same thing.

There are definite advantages toward this approach:

  • The decision to make some keywords universal and other keywords book-specific is not something you have to make beforehand. Keywords exist simply to mark things as relating to that thing, regardless of how you might want to use it.
  • That decision to narrow the focus of how a keyword is used is then made at the point of implementation, and thus means your keywords are overall more flexible for it. Maybe the occasion hasn’t arisen yet, but maybe you do eventually want to run a search for that character across several novels. With keywords that are acting as compound factors up front you would have to set up a search for all the keywords associated with that character, which sounds like it may be a pain if the are all sorted into several different subcategories of keyword.
  • There is already a key point of information embedded in the structure of your binder: the organisation of multiple books into folders. This is information that we can actually make use of in a search, making the information currently embedded in the keyword redundant.

Here is how to use the binder itself as a kind of search criteria (I recommend showing the Collections tab list from the View menu):

  1. First, select the top-level folder that contains all of the content for the book you want to search within. You only want that one folder selected.
  2. Clear the project search settings with the “Reset Search Options” command, in the magnifying glass menu.
  3. Set it to “Search In: Keywords”.
  4. Search the “Search Binder Selection Only” setting. This is the key ingredient.
  5. Set any other settings that you find appropriate.
  6. Type in the keyword you want to search for.

And there you go. You now have this keyword being searched for, but only within that one novel. To show off a little of the flexibility here, go back to the Binder and select two novels with Cmd-click, then click back on the Search Results tab. So this is what I mean about moving the implementation into the search action itself, rather than trying to pack all of that into the metadata itself. With this approach you only need one keyword for each important thing you wish to track, one master list to take care of.

At this point you may be wondering about the long setup phase required to make this work. What you’ll want to do after setting this up is this:

  1. From the search results tab, disable the “Search Binder Selection Only” setting. You’ll need to do that to save the other settings as a collection.
  2. Go ahead and do that now, maybe calling it something like “Keyword Search”.
  3. Once you have the new selection set up and active in the binder sidebar, click on the magnifying glass and set the binder selection option again.

Now it should be working as expected again. We have to do this dance because it was decided that saving that option into collections would be too confusing for the unsuspecting. It’s a setting that can very easily result in confusing results if you aren’t prepared for it. But this approach was left in for those that know what they are doing and definitely want that behaviour saved into a collection.

From this point on need only use the following steps to search like this:

  1. Again, select the book(s) in the binder you want to focus the search on.
  2. Click on the “Keyword Search” collection.
  3. Type in the keyword you want to search for.

Once you type in a new keyword you’ll note that it drops back to regular search results. Collections don’t automatically modify themselves when you change the search term itself. All we are thus using this collection for is a way to save our specific project search settings, more as a kind of “mode” for searching. It’s a useful technique to consider using in general, particularly if you find yourself switching between project search settings in a repetitive way.

In the end, if you do want to carry on working the way you have, that’s all right. You probably will run into clutter issues, but with how you can nest keywords into groups and keep the ones you aren’t working on at the moment collapsed, it shouldn’t be too bad. Personally I would use a different naming scheme if I went that route, like “BookName - Planet”, so I don’t have to memorise which number means what, but there may be something to be said for the efficiency of “Planet-1” in that you can let auto-complete handle the bulk of the typing for you.

Hi AmberV,
Thanks for your complete and detailed reply. Very much appreciated. I probably didn’t explain myself properly. I am using a different project for each book. I am not putting all my books into one project. My main issue here was trying to maintain common keywords across projects. At present, when I start a new book in the same universe as a previous book, I copy the keywords across from the previous project and add new keywords as appropriate to the new book. However, I do want to keep the keywords from Book ‘A’ separate from Book ‘B’. I want to have access to the keywords used in all books so that I don’t start creating different names for the same planets (for instance). However, I don’t just want one big list of keywords as there will be many that are unique to each book, especially character names.

On another issue about keywords. I need to have the keywords in each document to be highlighted. I find the only way to get a keyword to be highlighted in a document is to click on the keyword in the keywords pane and then click on the magnifying glass at the bottom of the pane. This step highlights the keywords in a particular document. Even though multiple documents are highlighted in the search results where that keyword has occurred (in the Binder), when I click though these highlighted search results, none of the documents show any highlighted keywords. For each document that is highlighted, I still have to go back and click in the keyword pane and click no the magnifying glass at the bottom to get a keyword highlighted. There does not seem be be any way to get the selected keyword to be highlighted in all the documents where it occurs, in one step.

Thanks again for your detailed reply. I have read it through a few times and have noted your suggestions.
Best Regards

Well you might want to give some thought into keeping things in one larger project, in that case. :slight_smile: I don’t know, maybe that would introduce further complications I’m not aware of, but maintaining a huge list of keywords across eight projects sounds like a lot of work to me, and I’d wonder if there were not other things that were being replicated around as well, like descriptions of locations.

Testing the theory is low risk as well. I’d use File ▸ Save As… on book three, calling it “Series Experiment” or something obvious, and then use the File ▸ Import ▸ Scrivener Project… menu command (if it offers to merge, don’t take that option, just use regular import). It will take some shuffling and reorgnisation to see if it will work for you—but if not, all you’ve wasted is a little time confirming that, maybe save it for a Sunday afternoon project.

Sorry though, I otherwise don’t have a really good idea for you. What you’re trying to do is, I think, always going to be inefficient given the nature of separation between projects and all that duplication to keep in parity. That said, sometimes efficiency isn’t the best answer to every problem; sometimes things just have to be that way for the best result.

As to the other matter, it sounds to me like you’ve disabled the Typing clears search highlights option, in the Editing: Options preference pane. That doesn’t sound like normal behaviour to me at any rate, unless you actually leave search and go back to the binder, obviously.