Tag Archives: Version Control

Version Control: Naming Your Files #amwriting

With the advent of November and NaNoWriMo, naming files and version control becomes an issue, especially for new and beginning writers.

For every new document you create, I recommend that BEFORE you do any work whatsoever, you give the file a working name and save it to whatever folder you normally work out of.

Do that immediately.

Do it while the page or spreadsheet is still blank, before you write the first line.

Most people never had more than a few personal files to manage. For this reason, they have no concept of how easily something that should have been simple can veer out of control.

This is where a good system of version control comes in handy. The worst thing that can happen is when you accidentally save an old file over the top of your new file or delete the file entirely.

It is vitally important for writers to save their work regularly. I don’t like thumb-drives because they’re easily lost, so I use a file hosting service called Dropbox. I have a lot of images on file, so I pay for an expanded version, but they do have a free version that offers you as much storage as a thumb drive. I like using a file hosting service because it can’t be lost or misplaced and is always accessible. I work out of those files, so they are automatically saved and are where I want them when I close out.

But you can use a standard portable USB flash drive.

What I want to discuss today is naming your files, so they are consistent and easy to identify.

A consistent system for naming your files eliminates accidents when it comes to saving your manuscript and subsidiary research files.

DIRECTORY

> FOLDERS

>> SUB-FOLDERS

> >>DOCUMENTS

My work is all saved in a folder labeled Writing.

Inside the master folder are many subfolders, one for each book, and one for essays and short stories.

Bleakbourne_on_Heath

Each subfolder contains documents, and each document has a proper file name:

Bleakbourne_V1_cjjasp

That stands for Bleakbourne on Heath, version one, by Connie J. Jasperson

A more recent version of that manuscript is named Bleakbourne_V2_cjjasp.

By clearly denoting which version it is in the file name, I should have no disasters.

In older Operating Systems the underscore was used instead of a space because the OS could not process filenames with spaces. Many publishers, editors, and agents want the files you send them to be named in this way, so it’s a good habit to get into.

When I first began working in an office that had upgraded to computers in the early 1990s, we had a rule for naming files: use no spaces, use an underscore where the spaces would go. There was a good reason for this.

When transferring files between different operating systems with different file naming conventions, the underscore prevents using what may be an illegal character in another OS.

So, if an office had to send files to an outside agency, the two users could open the files in their respective programs.

What are the different Operating Systems currently in use that your work may come across?

Linux

MacOS

Windows

Unix

Chrome OS

Some operating systems are more business oriented, but if you send files to a variety of publishers, your work could end up on a machine with a different OS than yours. Usually it will be a PC (Windows) or a Mac, as those two operating systems are most common. Using a Mac or PC is a personal preference. When purchasing gear, employers usually cater to the wishes of those who will use the machine, so the offices of publishers and editors will usually have both.

For this reason, we have some rules to obey regarding certain characters when we are naming files.

What are common “illegal characters?” The following characters are invalid as file or folder names on Windows using NTFS (New Technology File System) which took over from FAT as the primary file system being used in Windows:

/ ? < > \ : * | ”

Any character you can type with the Ctrl key. Most Alt Codes are also not permissible.

In addition to the above illegal characters, the caret ^ may also not be permitted in some Windows operating systems, those using the older FAT (File Allocation Table) system.

Also, don’t use # % & {   }@

These characters make files that can’t be opened on some operating systems, so even if your operating system allows these symbols, it is best to not use them.

One thing I learned the hard way is to be mindful of something called “Version Control.” Anyone who writes using both a laptop and a desktop machine will understand why this is still an issue, even when we save to Google Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, or any cloud-based storage service.

The scenario: you went to the coffee shop to write, and suddenly realized you were running late for an appointment. You saved your file but forgot to close out, simply shutting your laptop and going home, forgetting your word processing program was still open. That evening you go to the PC (or Mac) in your regular writing space, open your file, and continue writing.

When you save it, you have created a “conflicted file.”

According to Dropbox’s website, there are three ways you can end up with conflicted files if you are using cloud storage.

A conflicted copy is a file that is created when multiple people have access to a shared file and edit the same file at the same time. There are three ways a conflicted copy can happen:

  • Two users change the same file at the same time

  • Someone edits a file offline while someone else edits the same file

  • A file is left open on another user’s computer, which Dropbox saves as a new edit—this is especially common when using applications with an auto-save feature

Note: The last version saved will always appear as the conflicted copy, with the user’s name, such as File_Name_Connie’s_conflicted_copy.

So, now we know why we who use cloud storage sometimes end up with conflicted files. But how do we consistently and professionally name our files so that we don’t inadvertently save over work we want to keep, but aren’t currently using?

First of all, if you are trying to “save as” and a dialog box pops up warning you a file already exists with that name, you should click on cancel and rename your new file, or you will lose the one you just saved over.

Before your novel is published, you may create several versions of your manuscript. I advise you manage your versions with meticulous care. Nothing hurts like losing files you have worked on for months. Even having to rewrite a section you just wrote is aggravating.

Name your files promptly and save often—two things that will save you a lot of heartache when you are deep into writing your novel.


Credits and Attributions

Dropbox Help Center, What’s a Conflicted Copy, https://www.dropbox.com/help/syncing-uploads/conflicted-copy accessed 30 October 2018.

Open File Cabinet 2 Clip Art, PD, via Clker.co, Free Clip Art. http://www.clker.com/clipart-open-file-cabinet.html accessed 30 October 2018.

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#amwriting: Version Control

tree_of_filing_LIRFYou would be amazed at how many authors I meet who don’t know how to properly save files, and who regularly lose or save over important documents.

Naming files consistently is a skill most people never had a reason to learn. Because they’ve never had more than a few personal files to manage, they have no concept of how easily something that should have been simple can veer out of control.

Fortunately, I worked as a bookkeeper and office manager for many years. I was responsible for naming and saving my employers’ files in a consistent and manageable way.

Now that I am writing full time I generate a lot of different work, that I want to submit to different places, so I have a large number of files within my writing folder.

This is where good system of version control comes in handy.

“Version control” is a system that records changes to a file or set of files over time so that you can recall specific versions later. The worst thing that can happen is when you accidentally save an old file over the top of your new file, or delete the file entirely.

First of all, you need to save regularly. I use a file hosting service called Dropbox. I have a lot of images on file, so I pay for an expanded version, but they do have a free version that offers you as much storage as a thumb drive. I like using a file hosting service because it can’t be lost or misplaced, and is always accessible. I work out of those files, so they are automatically saved and are where I want them when I close out.

330px-SanDisk_Cruzer_MicroBut you can use any storage system–Google Drive, Amazon S3 Storage (if your files are so large you require a server farm), or a standard portable USB flash drive. What I want to discuss today is naming your files so they are consistent and easy to identify.

You can make many different configurations for your filing system. Your decision as to what works best for you should ultimately be based on what you’re filing, how many files you have and how many sub-categories (sub folders) your system needs to be broken down into. The important thing is to use a consistent system of for naming your files.

Detailed below is the system I use for saving my writing files.

A filing system is quite simple, rather like a tree from the ground up. For most documents, my system  is a standard office-type system that consists of:

DIRECTORY> FOLDERS> SUB-FOLDERS> DOCUMENTS

version_control_3

In the second draft my goal is to condense my fluffy, fat prose to something readable. I will copy and save each individual chapter to a separate new document, and I will give them a specific name. Yes, I am separating each chapter out of the whole ms, but we will not lose their order because we have a reliable system for naming files and will ALWAYS use it!

First of all, be sure to save it as an actual Word DOCUMENT and not a Template.  If you save it as a template, you will keep getting a warning the document is read only and it won’t let you save it. Libraries are the screen that opens when you click “Save As” and are where you go to manage your documents, music, pictures, and other files. You can browse your files the same way you would in a folder, or you can view your files arranged by properties like date, type, and author.  These pictures, above and below, are of Windows Explorer libraries.

I will do each chapter one at a time, saving them and closing them out. Any time I am confused as to what chapter I am supposed to be on, I look at the library of files to see what I have already saved, and go the next chapter.

The main file folder for each book or project I am working on is labeled with the initials of its title, in this case, VOS for Valley of Sorrows. As I save each chapter, they will automatically sort themselves into the proper order as long as I name them this way.

version_control_4

 

Name your files consistently, and save each version in a separate separate folder within the master folder.

version_control_5

You, as an author, will create many versions of your manuscript. YOU MUST manage your versions with meticulous care, or you will lose files, have to rewrite sections you just wrote (and which were brilliant) or any number of horrible, irritating situations will arise.

These tragedies are not caused by your word processing program, so don’t blame Bill Gates.  They are caused either by you not knowing how to prevent them from happening, or inattentiveness when saving files.

But now you know how to avoid version control disasters.

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#amwriting: 3 steps for keeping the story straight

1916 Momus Pinocchio via Wikimedia CommonsEvery liar knows it’s difficult to keep a story straight–the story keeps evolving and soon it’s out of control.  However, writers, those spinners of awesome lies on paper, must devise ways to avoid this little problem.

Some people use a program called Scrivener which is not too expensive, but which seems to have a tricky learning curve. I downloaded the free version but couldn’t make heads or tails of it and found it quite frustrating. Nevertheless, I understand that it works well for many people, and to them I say, “Good for you.”

For myself, I don’t want a fancy word-processing program. I just use MS Office, because I have been using the programs that come with that software since 1993, and I’ve been able to adapt to each upgrade they have made. It’s affordable, so I use Word to write and edit in, and occasionally use Excel  to make small charts that are my style guides for each  novel or tale I write, and also for every book I edit.

Helpful tip #1: Create a style sheet for every work-in-progress. Whether it is a handwritten list or spreadsheet–keep track of what you named people, places, and things.

Bleakbourne Style Sheet

By creating a visual guide that I can print out or  keep minimized until I need it, I will not inadvertently contradict myself later on in the tale. This particular chart is the style-sheet for a serial I am writing for Edgewise Words Inn, a small online blogzine.

Lets consider Lord Tenneriff, the name of a minor character. Because I noted it on the style sheet and gave a small explanation when I first used it, I will always remember that Lord Tenneriff was spelled with two ‘n’s and two ‘f’s, and with no ‘e’ at the end of it.  The heading of the sheet is like this:

Character Name       Word 1st appears      Other names       Meaning?

            Jason Tenneriff              chapter 1                                                      a local lord

                                                         chapter 2                   Bleakbourne             a village

By listing out the names of every character no matter how minor, even the horses, I will not have a continuity problem by the time I hit chapter 14 of this series. For my editing clients, I also list all magic spells, every god, demon or dwarf that comes into the tale. Anything that is named goes onto that style sheet exactly the way it was first mentioned, the chapter it was first mentioned in, and the brief description of what it means.

Every author has a different way of visualizing these things, and this is what works for me.

Helpful tip #2: Map it out:

Map of WaldeynSo how do you visualize your country and the world you are creating? I have discussed this before–I draw maps.

They start out like this, all blotchy and hand-drawn, with whiteout covering the changes. After a while of refining them they end up looking more like real maps.

Its a gradual process, and the actual shapes and where the places are will evolve throughout writing the tale, but it will remain basically that way.

Many authors will use locales they are familiar with for their fantasy maps, just changing the names of major cities.  This is a good way to do it, because your world is already well defined for you, and Northwesterners know that Portland, Oregon is about 170 miles south of Seattle, Washington.  You are safe using currently existing terrain.

map of Waldeyn 2015 with lettering cooper black copyBut safe isn’t exactly my thing, so I had to invent both the world of Waldeyn (Huw the Bard), and the World of Neveyah (Tower of Bones). This is what the hand-drawn map of Waldeyn from above has evolved into————>

Helpful Tip #3: Version control:

When we first begin to write seriously we learn how critical it is to have proper naming of our files to ensure version control.  The most recent file will usually be the best edited unless you have accidentally saved an earlier version over it. ALWAYS use a separate file for each version, and ALWAYS use consistent file labeling practices to avoid this tragedy!

Use good file labeling practices, even if you have a fancy program that handles structuring your manuscript.

As an editor, I am particularly careful how I name the files of my clients.

  1. I use a specific sort of naming system. It will ALWAYS be Book_ AuthorName_script.doc .
    This is the main file folder for this book and this author!
  2.  The file folder will contain everything that pertains to this author and his work. There will be at least two folders in this file, and can have up to six. Version control is critical, so proper naming of the files is absolutely essential. If he should ever lose his files, I will have the most recent version on hand.
  3. The raw manuscript in its entirety is saved in this file, and I will name it:
  •  Book_ AuthorName_rawscript.doc

There will be 2 files for every step of the process this manuscript goes through with me: One file will be from the author’s desk to me, and the other will be from my desk to the author.  I will break the raw ms down into chapters, and label each chapter in that file consecutively:

  • Book title_Ch1_ author initials_cjj_edit_rnd1.doc

This tells me that this is Book A, chapter 1, by Author SoAndSo, and was edit round one of that ms.

For my own work I label the files uniformly, like this: The main folder will be labeled with the working title, such as Bleakbourne on Heath. Inside the main folder will be the style sheet, and any images that will be used, including maps if needed.

Version Control 1

These three tips, creating a style guide, drawing a map, and labeling your files so you have good version control will help you navigate the shoals of the authoring business. You will always know who you are talking about, where you are, and you will be working in the most recent version of your work.

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Version Control, or The Name of the Beast

Anne_Anderson05 - Beauty sat down to dinner with the Beast illustration PDArt - Wikimedia CommonsThis is the 1st post in the series “WORD—A Shifty Beast,” focusing on helping authors of both fiction and non-fiction get the most out of using Microsoft Word, if that is your chosen word-processing program.

I use MS Word as my word-processing program. It is a reasonably priced thing, although if I could afford to buy a different program I would use  Corel WordPerfect. It is much easier to find the hinky formatting errors in your manuscript with WP, but that is a blog post for another day.

Microsoft WORD is a versatile program and has many wonderful tricks for writing letters, making awesome presentations and pretty brochures. It is good in a business setting.

However, for the author, Word is a shifty beast at best. One must learn how to make it work, and there is a learning curve. Just like every other product out there, WORD is the creation of many layers. It has had many incarnations, and some were more successful than others, and there are inherent flaws in the design. All that aside, of all the versions of WORD I have used, I like the 2007 – 2010 version best.

Most authors are using some form of WORD, whether it is the free version, or the inexpensive student version I use.  I’ve had to do a lot of desktop support for various clients via chat and cell-phone lately, so today we begin a series on using MS WORD as your word-processing program.

When we first begin to write seriously we learn how critical it is to have proper naming of our files to ensure version control.  The most recent file will usually be the best edited unless you have accidentally saved an earlier version over it.

Oh, the Agony….  Experience is a hard teacher.

ALWAYS use a separate file-folder for each version, and ALWAYS use consistent file labeling practices to avoid this tragedy!

You would be amazed at how many authors I meet who don’t know how to properly save files, and the reason they don’t know is they have never worked as an office manager using WORD, so they have no concept of how easily something that should have been simple can veer out of control.

I am a structural editor, and as such I deal with a lot of different authors and am responsible for saving their files in a consistent and manageable way. I spent many years as an office manager for a charter-bus company, and here is where my hard-earned knowledge of how to use my word-processing program comes in:

  1. I create a master folder for each individual author in my CJJASP Editing folder. That folder is inside the CJJasperson Writing folder in my dropbox account, which is what I write from at all times.
  2. I never use the documents library on my computer for saving anything important. I use dropbox because my work is always saved into the cloud and I can access it from a computer at the public library if my computer is toast for any reason. My work is also always available on my desktop if the internet is down so I can save it to a thumb drive, and when internet access is reestablished, the files I have changed will be saved automatically. GoogleDocs is also free, and many people use it successfully.

Dropbox is free, gives you as much storage as a thumb drive and is always accessible.

DB screenshot

I have an icon on my desktop that takes me directly to a standard library of files (menu) when I click on it. But I can access this menu on the main website from any computer by going to dropbox dot com and entering my email and password. Yes, it is password protected, and a good 6 to 8 combination of letters and numbers is best.

  1. I use a specific sort of naming system. For any new master-folder, the file-name will ALWAYS be:  Book_ AuthorName_script.doc .   This is the main file folder for this book and this author! every thing pertaining to this book will be in this file in sub-folders.

There will be at least two sub-folders in this file, and there may be up to eight. (One for each step of the editing process.) Version control is critical, so proper naming of the files is absolutely essential.

First: The original raw manuscript in its entirety is saved in this folder. Lets use Joan Hazel’s wonderful book, Burdens of a Saint for example:  I will name it this way:

Burdens of a Saint-JHazel-script  (It will look like Book_ AuthorName_script.doc)

Word will automatically add the .doc as the extension.

There will be 2 folders for every step of the process this manuscript goes through with me: One folder will contain files from the author’s desk to me, and the other will be from my desk to the author.

  1. Inside of the master file is a folder labeled:  1st Round Edits JH (Book initials>version>author initials)

I will copy and save each individual chapter to a new document, and I will give them a specific name. Yes, I am separating each chapter out of the whole ms, but we will not lose their order because we have a reliable system for naming files and will ALWAYS use it!

save as screen shot

First of all, be sure to save it as an actual Word DOCUMENT and not a Template.  If you save it as a template, you will keep getting a warning the document is read only and it won’t let you save it.

I will do each chapter one at a time, saving them and closing them out. Any time I am confused as to what chapter I am supposed to be on, I look at the library of files to see what I have already saved, and go the next chapter.  (Libraries are the menus you get when open “Save As” and are where you go to manage your documents, music, pictures, and other files. You can browse your files the same way you would in a folder, or you can view your files arranged by properties like date, type, and author.  The picture below is of a Windows Explorer library.)

As I save each chapter, they will automatically sort themselves into the proper order as long as you name them this way:

Book title initials>Chapter # > author initials  –  it will look like this:

BOAS chapt 1 JH submitted.doc 

This  tells me: it is chapter 1 of Burdens of a Saint, by author Joan Hazel, and is the raw unedited version. This is important to save it this way, in case we need to refer back to it. This file will remain unaltered.

Each consecutive raw chapter will be named in this way and the list will look like this:

Folder shot

Inside  BOAS beta 1st Round Edits JH,  I create a second folder, this one labeled: 1st Round Edits CJJASP complete. It will be at the top of the list and will look like this:

These are the first edits of the individual chapters, with my comments and suggestions in the right-hand column, and are what I send to the author for their consideration. These I will name like this:

BOAS beta chapt 1 cjjasp edit 1.doc   Again, each consecutive chapter will be named in this way, and the library will look the same as the one in the image above.

  1. The Author will make the changes or not as they see fit, and will send me each corrected chapter back.  When those chapters come back to me, that is the beginning of round 2.  The files will be named with the number 2.

BOAS 2nd Round Edits JH  (sub-folder name for files submitted by author)

BOAS chapt 1 JH rnd 2.doc   (document name for each document in the folder)

BOAS chapt 2 JH rnd 2.doc   (see the pattern here?)

2nd Round Edits CJJASP complete (folder name for files edited 2nd round)

BOAS chapt 1 cjjasp 2nd rnd edit.doc (and so on)

You, as an author, will create many versions of your manuscript. YOU MUST manage your versions with meticulous care, or you will lose files, have to rewrite sections you just wrote (and which were brilliant) or any number of horrible, irritating situations will arise.

These situations were not caused by your word processing program, so don’t blame Bill Gates.  They were caused by you not knowing how to prevent them from happening.

But that’s not a problem now, right?

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