Open Source Solutions for Old Writing Problems

The original manuscript alongside of my computer running Typora, GitHub Desktop, and Chrome.

There are many problems that I have encountered while on my journey of writing Without Power. And as writing is an incredibly old skill, it is interesting to see how modern tools have helped me on my journey to overcome some of the most difficult problems. What’s more is that there are many free, open-sourced solutions available to writers.

What I used to write the book

When I started writing, I used only a pen and paper. Now don’t get me wrong, I love writing analog and I prefer to do it when ever I can. But what I hate doing is taking the time to transfer my cursive writing to a digital document. That transfer process is such a pain that I quit writing by hand while writing Without Power and focused entirely on writing by computer.

When it comes to writing by computer, the first of many problems is how to stay focused while writing. With so many distractions available that writing on a computer, I would argue that it is nearly impossible to actually write. It is not so simple sit at a word pad or a text editor and just write. The very UI is distracting! And so for that I made use of a free desktop tool called, FocusWriter. Just look at how lovely and customizable it is.

What I used to proof version of the book

When it comes to proofing a book, I would argue that the most powerful way to do that is to actually go through the printed document with a pen one word at a time. There is something to visiting upon every single word, one after another. It feels as though each key stroke is up for scrutiny. There is something absolutely wonderful about that, and I can’t quite put my finger on it.

So, yeah, I know it seems hypocritical to hate transferring information from analog to digital, and to still do it anyway. And I know that there is software better suited for proofing, but reading a proof on printed page is far more satisfying than on a screen. So I don’t really have any open source software for this section. But I do know that I was pretty open about my proof reading on my fb page.

What I used to manage edit versions

Now comes for the most intriguing part of all of this, to be honest. I say it is the most intriguing because it is a territory that I have yet to explore as it pertains to writing, and that is version management. What do I mean by that?

Well, when it comes to writing and editing a book, there are going to be many changes that take place of the course of the project. And over time, those edits can potentially get lost. In the past, the way that authors handled editing was simply by re-writing the proof from scratch. Yes, that’s right. An author like Hemingway would take a page he had just written and re-write the page from scratch over and over again until he had the page down pat.

To me, that is astounding. It explains why those early typists from the turn of the century had the kind of interiors to their texts that they had. They were repeating the text over and over again until it satisfied their obsession. For that, I tip my hat to them and they will always be considered greats for it.

For me however, I thought I would try something a little different. I learned recently that some people use GitHub as a repository for crowd-sourced creative work. I am not a big fan of the idea of crowd-sourcing my creative work, but the idea of using GitHub as a repository for version control of edits seemed like a brilliant way to proceed with polishing the work and implementing the proofing edits I have on written the printed draft.

The thing that I am really excited about with GitHub is that it enables me to empower other people to work with drafts of the document. This is the part of crowd sourcing that I am excited about, proofing. Each person will be able to make changes to their own version without losing any progress of my own work.

So now I turn the time over to you, do you use any particular tools for writing?

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