Viewing threads or progressions in text?

Boy, this is going to be tough to explain, but here goes: I often find myself needing to review a certain progression or theme that runs through many chapters of a novel. It may be, for instance, the way a protagonist feels about something (e.g. “John’s feelings about the upcoming party”), if this feeling changes over time. What I would like to do is to mark all the paragraphs or lines pertaining to John’s feelings about the party at different points in the story and view them - isolated from the rest of the text - in sequence. The reason is that I want to make sure that the change in John’s feelings about the party does not happen too abruptly or unclearly; that there is steady change in one direction, from one standpoint to another.
The ideal in this example would be to be able to highlight all the relevant passages in the same color and naming that color “John’s feelings about the party”. All the passages highlighted in that particular color could then be brought up in sequence on a page. A read-through would give a quick idea of how John’s feelings change.
I’ve tried to use Keywords, but I can’t find a way to make them apply to chunks of text, only to whole documents. I haven’t tried Labels yet, but I suspect they have the same limitation. Perhaps there is a way to make Scrivenings work like this?

Why not split the documents into smaller chunks, so that Keywords will work?

The document is the atomic unit in Scrivener, so most problems of this kind are best addressed by working with smaller chunks.

It is possible to use the Find by Formatting command for this, but that’s going to be much clumsier than using Scrivener’s document-level tools.


Marsan, I’m so glad you asked about this! I’ve been searching on the forum and reading through various scrivener for writer books to try to find an answer as to whether something like this is possible. Katherine, splitting the doc into smaller chunks would be really time consuming and clumsy. Like Marsan, I want to try to keep track of various ARCs in the story. What I do now is highlight the text. “Find” (specific color) highlight enables me to run through the particular ARC, but it would be much easier if there was a way to make a scrivenings type doc from it and/or be able to compile it to print off. Basically, what I think we are looking for is a way of marking parts of a scene (which sometimes might be just a sentence or two, which is why the keywords idea won’t work), to pull all together later. This seems like something a lot of writers could use. If you’d like more specific examples, I’d be happy to send you details/screenshots.

You could also use the Inline Annotation function. It gives you a little more flexibility than highlighting, but still wouldn’t let you print just the selected text.

You could use the synopsis and/or document notes functions to summarize what takes place in any given document. That would make it easier to see the story arcs, but wouldn’t really help if you’re trying to polish individual sentences in the draft.

I’m not sure I understand why splitting the text into smaller chunks – thereby allowing you to use all of Scrivener’s document-level tools – would be more tedious than highlighting (and presumably un-highlighting) chunks of text. I know everyone’s working methods are different, but I use documents as small as a paragraph or so quite often. The ability to do so is, for me, one of Scrivener’s most powerful and useful features.


As for splitting being tedious, are you aware that you can split a document into two parts with a single keyboard shortcut? See the menu items Documents->Split->Split (at selection/with selection as title) to see the shortcuts to the right. Keep in mind that you only have to split them down to the level where the ‘chunks’ are useful. In other words, while you can split down to the paragraph level, you don’t have to do that at every paragraph. Also, once you are done with your final edits, you can merge the files back together if you like; just select a set of documents in the binder, and select Documents->Merge.

Katherine and Robert,
Thanks for the replies! I am aware of the splitting option, but unfortunately the type of threads and ARCs that I keep track of often are a sentence here and a sentence there. For example, in the 1500 word scene I just highlighted, I have two highlights (one for an ARC and one for a thread that I’m trying to keep track of), which would necessitate breaking the one text scene into 13 different text documents, some of only a sentence. In that one scene I’m keeping track of the heroines romantic ARC (highlight in pink–varies from a few paragraphs to a line or two), and a thread (highlighted in yellow). Often when I’m writing, I might not know exactly how I want to handle a certain thread (for example the heroes backstory). There will be oblique references–sometimes a line–that I mark off, as well as larger sections to go back and “fix” when I figure it out. Being able to pull these all out easily for revisions would be a very useful tool. My binder would be unmanageable, and I’d lose the easy of notecards if I replaced every scene with 13 different text docs.

I’m afraid there’s no way to do what you want then (which is why you posted to the Wishlist forum in the first place, eh? :stuck_out_tongue: ). However, if highlights + just pulling out the individual files that feature each thread might be sufficient, I’d suggest you look into keywords to use in conjunction with your highlighting. By color-coding your keywords to match your highlights, you can view those threads on the cork-board, and the keywords can be searched for and can make up search-based collections.

This won’t solve your issue of eliminating all the other text around those highlighted passages, but it can get rid of large swathes of text that have nothing in them related to a given thread. Once again, the more you break your documents down, the more relevant each collection will be.

Here’s a tip that might make dividing your documents less painful and a bit more useful: stack the splits onto the first part of the scene/chapter. In cork-board view, they will appear as a stack of index cards that won’t take any additional space on the board. In Scrivenings mode, they’ll just appear as sequential text for read-throughs.

And I’ll let that be the last of my pesky re-iteration of the same suggestions. Good luck with your stories!

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LOL! Exactly why I posted here. Thanks for the reply, Robert. I didn’t think there was a work around that would work better for me, but I thought I’d come to the experts to make sure. Scrivener has so many features, I probably only use 1/3 of the. So thanks again. I hope the developers will think about doing some kind of mark text/scrivenings option to make this type of ARC/thread revising even easier. Just doing it the work around way for me–“find” color highlight–has really helped me to hone the important ARCs in my books, making sure things are moving and I’m not repeating myself. I think many other authors would find a feature like this extremely useful.