Managing long form journalistic notes in Scrivener for Non-Fiction

I am a long time Scrivener user in MacOS, IOS, and Windows, but until now it has been strictly for Fiction.

I now have a contract for a non-fiction book dealing with journalism, relief workers, and war zones spanning decades.

I have good and detailed notes taken over the years but I am at a loss as to how to make use of Scrivener in building the discrete chapters the book will need.

An example: One chapter will deal with corruption and thievery of relief supplies in disaster areas. Throughout my notes I have many references to the subject but no reliable way of finding them all unless I get lucky with a search term. I had thought that I could go through the imported notes, which are all in Scrivener as one huge file, and highlight sections that appeal to me for use, tag the highlighted sections with keyword(s) or some common standard for relating the section of highlighted text to a document Comment.

But apart from making a Comment which is related to a text selection there does not appear to be a way of associating a keyword to a selection – or I have missed that function altogether?

What I am looking for is a tool similar to what is known as “chunking” when organizing long-form journalism. It’s a term coined by James Fallows of The Atlantic back in the days when he used a highly powerful piece of organizing software called Zoot! from zootsoftware.

And it may be that my solution is to use Zoot! (highly powerful but not for the faint hearted) to achieve what I need to do, and then import the various identified, tagged and sorted sections back into Scrivener so I can have like related notes with other related notes.

But, perhaps there is a way in Scrivener?

You want the Documents -> Split command. Split your massive notes file into smaller chunks, assign keywords to the chunks according to topic and source, and then search by whatever topic you want.


Thank you Katherine,

That will work nicely. I was too far into the weeds to see that there was a simpler way to do it

And, I suspect that for the first time after years of using Scrivener that I will have a good use for the corkboard which seems like it would lend itself well to the organization of everything.


You might also enjoy Scapple. It’s more free-form than the corkboard, and I find it very helpful for the early parts of organizing longer works.