Monday, January 18, 2010

Recovering from a Screw-Up

La Taciturne 1931--François Emile Barraud I have two manuscripts that are in the pre-submission stage. One is far along in the process—in the hands of my agent and going to Midnight Ink in ASAP, and the the other is in the first draft stage (going to Penguin before my April 1 deadline.)

I took a two week break on my next Myrtle Clover to work on my next Memphis BBQ book--I have a hard time working on two manuscripts at once.

When I came back to my Myrtle Clover book about a week ago? I couldn’t find the revised file. I’d rewritten the first three chapters completely…where were they?

I spent three hours looking for the corrected file. I looked on my desktop. I looked in My Documents. I even looked in my Downloads folder. Nothing.

I checked the files I’d emailed to myself. I checked my thumbdrives. Nothing.

The computer had eaten my file. But it was my screw-up.

My mistake (besides neglecting the backup that I nearly always make)? I should have just immediately started the rewrite again.

Every time I rewrite chapters from scratch they end up better than they started out.

It’s tedious. It’s annoying. It makes me grind my teeth.

But the text is better.

Finally I accepted that the chapters were gone. I sat down and tried remembering where I’d gone with them the first time. Then I started writing.

Have you messed up? Lost a file? Accidentally deleted one?

Try to calm down. This is a big one. I was in orbit for at least an hour.

Stop the recriminations. Really, does it matter now if your puppy ate your outline? (Yes, this happened to me several years ago when I made an outline. It was one of many factors that made me decide against outlining. You can even lose hard copies of things--not just the electronic version.) It's definitely quicker to accept the text is gone, not be too hard on yourself, and start working on that section of the manuscript again.

Piece together your thought process from the last time you worked on the project. Where were you going with the plot and characters? If you were revising, then were you cutting text, adding text, or rewording?

Build on the foundation of what you’ve already got. There’s usually still something there…on paper, on an email you sent someone, in some random Word folder. It might be an early draft or only brainstormed ideas. Take what you’ve got and then add to it.

Help ensure it doesn’t happen again. If your mess-up involves backing up, then you’re in luck—there are a multitude of methods of backup these days. Thumb drives/USB drives are incredibly cheap now and, to me, easier to use than CDs. My all-time, lazy method of backing up is emailing the document to my Gmail account. It’s accessible on any computer and it’s there. Too bad I didn’t back up those first few chapters. There are also external hard drives you can buy, online storage, etc. My husband now has me hooked up with a USB and a program (SyncToy) that automatically saves to the USB as many times a day as you set it up to save. Even if I don't think about it, the computer application will.

Have you lost data? What’s your backup method?

I did some blog housekeeping yesterday. Do you read Mystery Writing is Murder? Are you listed in the blogroll in my sidebar? Also, I'm opening up Fridays (soon) for guest posts on 'writing process.' In addition, the blog is available for promo spots for authors with upcoming and new releases. For more information, please check the post: