I’m a software engineer. I spend my days working with code projects. There are a few tools that sit in every programmer’s toolbox. Once of these is source control. Whenever you finish a significant piece of work, you commit your changes to the repository. Others working on the same project have their own working copy of the project (a check-out) and they can update to get your most recent changes. If you want to see what the code looked like at 2:oo PM last Tuesday, you simply go back through the repository revisions. All your historical changes are kept.
It seems logical that when I come to do my writing, some of my “day job” mentality comes with me. I’ve found that source control is my friend when working on fiction.
It occurred to me that since a story in yWriter is essentially a project file (xml) with individual code files (in rtf format), it makes logical sense to go the next step and use source control. My source control tool of choice is Subversion. The main benefit that I see in using this is that I can have check-outs of my project on multiple computers, and I can submit all my changes to a centralised repository. Sure there are plenty of other ways to keep your writing at your fingertips. Google Documents would be another good idea, but I often have slow or limited Internet connectivity. I can still manage to do updates and commits at times when I’d have no hope of opening a google doc.</p
Subversion also allows you to create branches of your project, where you can make major changes just to explore an idea. When working in code, you can merge changes from one branch to another, although in the case of a yWriter fiction project this would not be trivial. RTF is technically a text format, but not a very human-readable one. Trying to merge changes in an RTF file is not something I’d recommend.
Now, this way of working won’t be for everyone, and in truth it may only appeal to die-hard nerds like me, but maybe you might want to consider source-control for your writing project.
Also, if you’re interested in nerdy tools for writers, check out what I had to say recently about organising your writing projects.