text movie

Here's something that occurred to me would be a sort of neat tool for a writer to play around with - sort of a live action-ish version of the Wordle software that was doing the rounds a year or two ago.

Paragraphs in novels get rewritten a lot. A lot. It occurred to me it would be interesting if someone could write a small piece of software that recorded all the changes being made to a particular paragraph or piece of text from inception to finished work. Then you could save it as, say, a video file that shows you all the changes, deletions, additions, retypings of that piece of text as a movie - minus, of course, all the long hours of introspection when the writer is either thinking or playing Quake Online (not me, honest guv). If anything, it would demonstrate just how much work goes into writing even a single sentence, sometimes. And it would sort of be a way to actually see inside a bunch of different writer's heads.

But which text? I figure an opening paragraph or page would be the obvious one to go for. Does anyone out there know if it's possible to write a piece of software like that, or if it already exists?


Boris Legradic said...

Most office-style programs can do that, it is called "track changes" or something similar.
EMACS and VI can also save all changes, afaik.

mike said...

Elizabeth Bear did this with a sentence on her blog a few weeks ago

AbbotOfUnreason said...

I think such a piece of software could be written. The hard part is capturing the changes, not replaying.

What are you using to write the paragraph?

If you're making straight text files, you could save it/check it into a version control tool, but that might interrupt your flow somewhat. You could write the text file in eclipse. I think we could write a plugin for that. Imagine that, a novel written in an IDE.

If you're using word, I think we might be able to make a macro that hooks into the auto-save function. I'm going to think on it.

What do you use for writing?

Nyrath said...

As AbbotOfUnreason said, programmers use various version control tools for this purpose. So if you make a change to your program and it is a disaster, you can revert back to a prior version.

Eclipse can use the version control tool called "SVN" via a plug-in.