Tools of the Trade
While we are talking about writing sprints, lets talk about writing software. At the moment all of us are living in different states so we have to do our writing work online. Luckily there’s some really great tools that allow us to work collaboratively in real time. And all of these programs definitely fall within our budget.
This is a no brainer. We need to be talking to each other as we work. As I mentioned last week, most of our time working is spent discussing and problem solving, so voice chat (using Skype in this case) is very much a necessity. Also we’ve been using Skype’s screen sharing feature a lot which for us has effectively replaced VNC and TeamViewer for 99% of what we use screen sharing for (just sharing our screen, and not needing to do any kind of remote desktop control). Skype’s screen sharing is really fast and works quite well.
This is our saving grace right here. Gobby was designed for programmers to work on code collaboratively, but it works just as well—very well in fact—for story writing. It works great in Windows and Linux, and it’s a stand alone server/client so after some port forwarding you can start working.
The line numbering feature is very useful for us. We can just call out a line number and the other person will know exactly what part of the outline/script we are talking about. Each user has their own highlighting color so you know who typed what. Sometimes we’ll log into the Gobby session twice, the second time with a different user account that has a really loud highlighting color, so when proofreading the documents we can add notes that are easy to spot.
It’s a plain text editor. We write everything in wiki code so we can copy and paste the documents into our wiki where the formatting is applied.
We use MediaWiki to put our outlines, scripts, world lore, character profiles, meeting notes, anything and everything that we want to be recorded and organized (which is everything). It’s basically our series bible and we’ll be using it to make sure all the elements in our story are consistent.
In this stage of our process, even though the documents themselves are well organized in the wiki with the help of a 3-column portal page, the content in each page is a mess. New ideas are taken from our scratchpad document in Gobby and are appended to the bottom of the page it belongs to in the wiki, superseding whatever old ideas are above it. (It’s kind of fun to took at the top of these pages and be reminded of our old ideas.)
Once the script is done we plan on cleaning up the wiki so it can be used as a reference for producing the comic. Character sheets will be there, concept art for different areas, detailed information about the world, maps, all of that will be there in an editable, displayable format. It’s definitely a better way to go through your notes and concept art for a project than trying to bring it all up on your hard drive.
Subversion, TortoiseSVN, RabbitVCS
Even with the wiki you are still going to have a lot of stuff on your hard drive: files that are too big to but upload to the wiki, or are actually easier to access on your hard drive, like giant directories full of hundreds of reference images and Photoshop files.
We use Subversion and a GUI interface such as TortoiseSVN (Windows) and RabbitVCS (Gnome) to have our raw project files synchronized with everyone. This is a good way for us to edit binary files collaboratively and have them backed up in multiple locations in case someone’s computer blows up.
Lyx (or any text editor really)
Lyx is a program that is really only something I use. You can use any kind of text editor you want for this but I just happen to use it to keep a production journal.
This will be the topic of another post, most likely after the comic has been out for a while, but I think recording your learning process is very important. That’s why people have a hard time teaching: they’ve forgotten how they learned.
This project is a big learning experience for us, something we definitely want to keep well documented for ourselves and posterity. I’ve been doing a good job keeping track of what we’ve learned, mistakes we’ve made, when we made a certain decision and how we ended up coming up with it.