Saturday, February 28, 2009

Putting the Pieces Back Together

By Keith Fisher

Recently, I posted this on my Face Book wall.

Keith is crying buckets of tears. He did something stupid and lost two weeks of work on his new book. Never again, will he resist the urge to backup.

I received a gratifying response—mostly from my fellow writers, expressing their sympathy for the loss. One old friend offered to lend me a program to recover the files. I searched the internet for solutions. I felt stupid, but let me tell you the story.

I was loading a Microsoft Word data file and through a series of weird notes and windows, the program asked me if I wanted to revert to the saved version. I wrinkled my forehead and checked the file on my screen it was blank so I told the program yes. I knew better, but in my defense I was also working on a dozen things at the time.

The computer did what it was told. It deleted the original, in favor of the new matrix, (nothing). I was devastated. I’d spent two weeks working on that story without backing up.

As I might have mentioned, I’m writing this story in pieces, and from many points of view. Then later, I paste the pieces into chapters in the main data file. I breathed a sigh of relief because I thought I could reconstruct from the different pieces. Then, I realized there were three chapters I’d written directly into the main data file. Not to mention the strings of transition and dialog, making the POVs nest together.

I searched every inch of my hard drive for old temp files of all conceivable extension type, and managed to build a facsimile of part of the original. There was a lot, however, I couldn’t retrieve, and it devastated me.

But . . . as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been writing most of the first draft by hand, in notebooks, and transferring to the computer later. God Bless my notebooks. I went back and found the drafts, minus some minor parts.

Now, I’m re-writing my book. There are a few obscure thoughts and dialog, that will be lost forever, but I think I can patch it up again.

Some writers frown on my notebook way of drafting. It’s true, if I’d been smart enough to back it all up, I wouldn’t need them now, but I’m glad to have them.

Good luck in your writing—see you next week.


Scarlet Knight said...

Ouch! I feel your pain. That just made me want to cry :(

Now I feel the urge to backup my files! Yikes.

Annette Lyon said...

Good reminder. Thank heavens for your notebooks!

LexiconLuvr said...

Oh Keith, I'm so sorry about that. I've done the same thing before and about cried myself to sleep.

Hey, I don't frown upon the notebook thing. Especially in this instance. Thank heavens you did it this way!

I'm running to back up my files right now!

lachish said...


Let me make a suggestion that may help. As a computer geek (yes, I do this for a living), I am insanely paranoid about software programs messing with my files and causing me to lose important changes to my work. I devised the following method for making sure I always have a good, non-corrupted copy of my latest stuff.

1. I call the latest version MANUSCRIPT-WORKING_COPY.doc

2. Once I am done for the night, I save it.

3. Then I immediately save it a second time under the name: MANUSCRIPT-20090228.doc

4. Then I copy BOTH files to a USB key.

5. The next night, I open and edit the MANUSCRIPT-WORKING_COPY.doc version.

6. Repeat the process.

The side effect of this is that I end up with a chain of dated files where I can see my progress with the manuscript. This has also saved my tail before because I had the WORKING-COPY open once, and the application crashed, and corrupted the file. I had only made about 10 minutes of changes, and so I opened up the latest dated file, and quickly brought the draft back in line.

I hope this helps!

Daron D. Fraley

LexiconLuvr said...

Guess what?! I backed up my stuff just after reading your post and I STILL almost lost a days worth of work! Thank heavens for those temporary file caches. I almost wept myself silly. Remind me to use "save as" when I'm finished working on something in the event I've been saving in the wrong place for FOUR HOURS!

Luckily, all went well. Phew!!!