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Hope this question isn't off-topic because it involves programming software (for some reason I think many people in this site has used Git, though). Git is a revision control software to keeps track of your changes and revert them in case you messed up something.

Does anyone have any experience writing fiction (or non-fiction) with it?

If so, is it useful? Or it's an overkill?

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I start my documents as "NameOfDocument 000.doc" (or similar, depends on software being used.) Every time I start a writing/editing session on the document, I do a "Save As" and increment the number, before doing anything else. I find the Undo/Redo commands to be sufficient within a session. Exception: If I'm about to perform major surgery, e.g., delete/move large sections, I'll save, then SaveAs with an incremented number. Then I'll make the major changes.

This method works with any software (and any computer task). Storage is MUCH cheaper than your time.

Also, don't forget to copy all those backups to another physical location, or a fire/flood could destroy your magnum opus.

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I use git for fiction. Sometimes I'll save versions at various milestones, such as when I finish a chapter). But more often I forget, and save a version only when I finish a draft.

Some other times that I save versions:

  • Before and after I apply my editor's edits.
  • When I finish creating a book cover, book interior file, or epub file.
  • Whenever I want to try experiment with the cover or interior. For this, I not only save a version, but create a "branch" that I can use to try lots of ideas.
  • Whenever I create a copy of the manuscript in a different format, such as when a magazine wants a .doc file, or .rtf file, or text file.

It might be overkill. Git shines with text-based files, on projects where you're collaborating with others. I use only a tiny fraction of git's features for fiction. Other version control systems (e.g. subversion) are potentially simpler.

But I'm comfortable with git from my software development work, and I really like being able to create new branches to experiment on.

I don't think I've ever reverted to an earlier draft. If I don't like a scene or a chapter, I'll just drag it into my "deleted scenes" folder and start again.

But I often revert when I'm experimenting with covers and interiors.

  • I'm curious. Do you write your novels in Markdown? How do you format them so they look OK on Kindle? (I do that manually and it's a pain). – Alexandro Chen Mar 3 '15 at 12:54
  • I write other stuff in markdown, but (for some reason) not fiction. I write in Scrivener, export to HTML or Markdown, then use other tools to create epub files. I'm working on automating as much as I can, but so far it's a pain. As for how to format ebooks for Kindle, that's a question better asked on the KDP site or on the Ebooks StackExchange. – Dale Hartley Emery Mar 3 '15 at 18:46
  • Maybe someone will find this tutorials useful, "Git and GitHub for Poets" by Daniel Shiffman: youtube.com/playlist?list=PLRqwX-V7Uu6ZF9C0YMKuns9sLDzK6zoiV – kr85 Feb 6 '17 at 2:34
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After reading the question and answer that Joel Bosveld linked to in his comment, I installed Git to do version control of the novel I was writing.

If find the idea of version control intriguing, because I often rewrite parts of my fiction only to realize that a previous version contained some great phrases that I'd like to reuse but can not remember and have lost by rewriting.

The problem for me with Git is that I don't use it. I find the GUI unattractive, finding the relevant sections cumbersome, and the process of creating versions cumbersome. I have installed Git, "commited" (as it is called) the first version, and then never used it again.

Probably Git is intuitive and attractive for software developers who are used to that kind of tool. I grew up writing with a pen on paper. I am a visual artist. I want a "natural" GUI and interface. I simply find that I don't use a text editor like Vi(m) or a tool like Git, no matter how "powerful" they might be. I cannot warm for them.

So for me the answer is not that Git is overkill, but rather that it is too technical and abstract. It is not a tool make by and for a sensual person like myself, who loves the feel of paper and the sound of a pencil sharpener.

What I need is a writing software that automatically creates a verson whenever I save. The text editor TextWrangler (which I use for coding and for writing everything that is not a novel) does this. Every time you save, it automatically creates a copy of the current document in a backup folder of your choosing. The files all bear the same name (making them easy to identify), with a timestamp attached to it (helping you find a document from a certain period). Whenever I want to find some deleted phrase, I type what I remember of it into "Spotlight", the Mac file system search engine, which indexed the content of files as well as their names. All I have to do is delete the oldest files every now and then, but text files don't use much space, so these can go back years.

The only drawback with TextWrangler is that it cannot do markup: no italics, no bold text, no different fonts or font sizes. This works well for drafting of shorter texts such as letters, blog posts, StackExchange answers (lol) and so on, but not for text that needs such markup, like a novel or short story. I do often write out complicated paragraphs in TextWrangler and copy them to Scrivener once I'm happy with them.

This may not properly answer your question, but it will give you an idea. Look at screenshots of Git, read the documentation, and see if that is the kind of process that you find yourself attracted to. If you think it all looks quite complicated and not at all like writing, then you might want to avoid wasting time with it.

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I think git is a bit overkill, because you have to remember to commit it all the time it does not just happen like after a save.

Options that I can think of

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