Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's Gone; (almost) all gone...

I opened my WiP today and faced the ultimate, authorial nightmare:

Most of my novel-in-progress is GONE.Of the 25,000+ word manuscript, only 5,000 words remain.

How can this be? Where did it go?? So many thoughts coursed through my brain as I searched every folder. I looked everywhere from the Recycle Bin to Auto-Recovery files to files where it couldn't possibly be. It's nowhere. I'm still reeling from the shock.

I didn't actually have my MS saved on my hard drive. Some of you may remember a post about digital storage options I did a while ago in which I wanted to choose a back-up site for my computer files in case of a crash or fire, or whatever. I now use Dropbox.com.

My MS draft, as well as documents containing research, character sketches, timelines, etc., is stored in my Dropbox. But I'm a careful little girl, so I also save a copy of my files on a USB flash drive.

When I opened my draft today and realized only the first 5k words were there, I had three seconds of panic. And get this: Not only was 75% of the MS missing, but the scene headings were no longer properly formatted. Something scary had gone wrong. But then I remembered the flash drive. Breathe. Everything's going to be okay.

Nope. The copy on the flash drive was exactly the same, mal-formatted and with only the first 5,000 words. What the...?

Here's the only theory I can come up with that makes sense. I had to have accidentally highlighted a giant portion of my MS and unwittingly hit the backspace, then saved the damn thing. Then saved a copy of the damn thing to my flash drive. What are the odds?

So, the only attitude I can take is that it was meant to be. I have to accept that it happened with open arms, welcoming this chance to do it better -- write a more dynamic draft -- take what I know about the story and weave stronger vibes into it.

And review old lessons learned, and take in a few new ones:

Saving your work often during writing sessions is vital -- you never know when an unexpected power outage or system glitch will shut you down. 

Saving your work in more than one place is advisable -- if one copy is compromised, you'll still have others on which to go forward.

Check your whole manuscript over before you hit 'Save.' (If I'd noticed, using the Thumbnail option, that only 22 pages were there -- instead of 108 -- I wouldn't have clicked save!)

I will no longer keep all of my chapters in one long Word document. (I don't care how cool the Document Map feature is!) If I use Word, I will save each individual scene or chapter as its own document. That way, if I lose one document I won't be back at point zero (again).

I guess this is a perfect opportunity to consider downloading Scrivener. Anyone use that program? I'd love to hear what you like and don't like about it. Is it worth the money? Your thoughts are greatly appreciated!