Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ever lost it?

Congratulations to Patti and Debbie on the release of their latest novels, Seeing Things and Raising Rain, which were released yesterday. Woo hoo, girls!
We're so thankful that Debbie's home is safe from the fires burning in northern California, but our hearts go out to those who have suffered such devastating loss throughout the state.
Debbie's post on Monday got me thinking about all that can be lost in disasters of any kind, but especially fire. Years ago, a fire claimed a U-Haul trailer-load of my family's possessions, which included my high school yearbooks, photos of the Beatles concert I attended at the Hollywood Bowl, and many of the drawings I'd done throughout my high school years. I can't imagine losing everything, as many are experiencing once again here in California due to the fires burning up and down the state.
What about our work as authors? Ever "lost" part or all of a manuscript due to computer glitches, not saving correctly, or consumption by the demon that possesses your computer? I have. That moment you realize a day's work, or worse, has been irretrievably launched into cyberspace feels like stepping "off a cliff where the falling seem(s) never to stop" (to quote Elizabeth Berg) -- a huge sinking sensation at best.
The story is told that Hemingway was traveling with his wife Hadley -- love the name! -- from Paris to Bavaria for vacation. Too late they discovered a valise holding a substantial portion of his unpublished writing was left on the train. It was never recovered. Apparently among the material lost was the manuscript for The Sun Also Rises, Hemingway's first major novel. He went on to rewrite it, even stronger than before, it's said. But talk about a sense of falling off a cliff! Okay, first of all that valise would have been handcuffed to my wrist, and secondly, it would have been handcuffed to my other wrist.
I love the inspiration that comes as I write. Which is why I hate editing. It's like I'm suddenly straight-jacketed, with much of my creativity stifled. And I've never been able to recreate lost material. Hemingway may have done a bang up job, but not me. I try, but the magic is gone. Because of that, I'm that much more careful not to lose it in the first place! I have a flash drive that I save my work to (those days I actually remember to do it), but I never take it with me when I leave the house. My "back up" would be destroyed right along with my computer files should the unthinkable ever happen. But since meeting several years ago Katy and I have critiqued each other's work, sending chapters via email as they're completed. That gives us a safety net, knowing that if we lose a chapter, or our hard drive crashes, someone else has a copy of our work. In my case, I'd lose the notes I add to the end of my manuscript document -- the ideas I jot down in the middle of the night when my creativity likes best to frolic -- but that's nothing compared to losing the actual work.
So what about you? Have you ever lost a significant portion of a manuscript? If so, how well are you at recreating a scene or a chapter? And how do you safeguard your work?


Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

I love four chapters of Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon when I was working on my Alpha Smart. I didn't download it quickly enough and it reached overload and - blip - it was gone. Gone gone. I called tech support and he said, "Yup, gone." Sadly, it was the last time I used it. I always felt like there was part I couldn't reconstruct. I'll never know!

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Correction, it should say "I lost four chapters." It's early.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Hi, Sharon!

Thankfully, I haven't lost anything yet. Right now I save everything to a jump drive... but I don't take it with me when I leave the house, so I guess that doesn't do much. I do send every edited chapter to a secure online email account too. I'm going to have to re-think how I save things, just in case! Thanks!

Carla Gade said...

Once, between homes, my household items in someone's storage got sent to a mission in Bolivia. Grandmother's teacups, everything. Since then I've had a policy to 1) be cautious 2) hold what I own with an open hand.

But my writing, ah, I've got to work on that. Not so good at backing up. I think these past few days has certainly been a wake up call!!!

I once lost an entire story plot through an accidental overwrite on my computer. Got to be careful not to have more than one of the same file open at a time! At the moment, I'm searching for two notebooks with a WIP that I'd like to pick up again. All others are present and accounted for, must have tucked this one away somewhere so I wouldn't lose it.

I might lose it after all! Does anyone else write with a pen anymore?

Lori Benton said...


Years ago I lost the sequel to my first novel in a computer crash, the day before we were to leave for vacation. Back then it was floppy disks we used for backup, and I was hit and miss about it. I probably hadn't backed up my work for months at that point. Thankfully my husband is a computer tech, and he worked for a computer tech, and this man generously spent a good portion of the time we were away recovering much of the lost novel. He made a hard copy of it, which came out scrambled, and it was a JOB putting it all back together, retyping it, rewriting portions, etc. But I got most of it back.

A hard lesson learned.

Your mention of critting chapters for another writer reminded me that not long ago I was able to bail out a friend in that way. I had saved the chapters she had sent me of her WIP (since published), when she lost them to cyberspace. I was so thrilled I had saved them.

I back up my own work to a flash drive daily, and I keep it with me at all times. It stays in my purse, or if I go hiking it comes along in a small pouch or buttoned into a pocket. And when I leave for extended time away from home, I email myself a copy of my major working files, just to be sure.

Nicole said...

Haven't lost any, but the fear of losing the stories (five complete novels and some starts) numbs me. I not a re-creator either. So I use Carbonite. Small price to pay at $50 a year.

Kathleen Popa said...

I think it's cool that friendship turns out to be the best backup. Sort of makes poetic sense, doesn't it?

My second best backup is my cell phone, which is a Palm Centro. (Too poor, cheap or both to own an iPhone.) That means, along with other lovely benefits, that I can download my entire WIP to my phone and make quick changes wherever I happen to think of them. It also means that if the house burned down, I would have the entire document in my pocket. Assuming I hot-synced (hot-sank?) before I left the house.

Nikole Hahn said...

I'm so paranoid at losing my hard work, I not only have the file saved on a computer, but also on a CD. Then, I also print it out. I once lost a short story because I was not familiar enough with my mother in laws computer and it did not have automatic save. I could not get it back.

Nichole Osborn said...

I haven't lost anything yet, but I have been thinking about backing things up on a flash drive. Right now I only have I complete MS and my mother in law has a paper copy so unless something happens to both of our houses then I'm save for now.

Samantha Bennett said...

Haven't lost anything yet, but just thinking about it gives me the shivers... Not sure anyone would want to be around me if that happens! :) Congrats Debbie and Patti!

Latayne C Scott said...

Physical things -- when we were moving, someone took the box I'd put in a garbage bag to protect itand threw it away. It contained not only my son's baby clothes but also the infant clothing my grandmother hand made for me. Ouch. Also in a move we lost a box with my first handwritten manuscripts, from the time I was in the first grade. Ouch ouch.

Computer glitches -- one day I was on a roll writing chapters for a Bible study and didn't save between chapters. Stupid stupid stupid. Then there was a power outage .... and I put my head on the keyboard and cried.

Then I got right back to work. The Lord sees and knows -- this was certainly foreknown by Him, and I have to assume nothing essential was lost.

LeAnne Hardy said...

Latayne, we lost a whole bag of Christmas presents one year, having transported them in a black garbage bag. The trash hadn't been picked up yet when we realized things were missing, but we never thought to check the garbage until it was too late.

A friend lost all the interview recordings he had made and notes for his doctoral dissertation when the airline lost the suitcase, never to be recovered.

I use Mozy for back-up. It happens automatically when I am on-line, and I don't have to think about it. Otherwise I am terrible about remembering. I have tempted fate way too often.

Karen Schravemade said...

I use Carbonite, which backs up my work automatically online. Does not require computer skills, organisational skills or remembering skills. Therefore it suits me terrifically.

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