Writer's Life

I Nearly Lost my Only Complete Manuscript Draft

I made a big technical oops with my manuscript. The kind where I kept kicking myself as I found more and more proof that I apparently didn’t do any common sense things. Which is weird, because I distinctly remember doing All The Right Things. And yet disaster was on the horizon.

As this was a series of technical issues, gifs from The IT Crowd feel especially appropriate.

I needed to open an older draft of Thieves to look for a scene I wanted to rework into the new version. This file was totally fine last week when I had it open to pull a different scene. But not today. No, today it was corrupted. And entirely unopenable.

For the last few years, I’ve been working off MS Word files I keep on a flashdrive. Those of you who already know why that’s a bad idea might be asking why I’d do such a thing. Honestly, it’s just a habit. I’ve been working on Thieves since I was in college. Mostly I worked directly on my laptop, but sometimes I’d put it on a flashdrive to work on in a lab or print a few chapters.

Later on, I’d bring the flashdrive with me to work in case I had any ideas. (I tried just emailing myself my ideas, buuuuuut I have a tendency to ignore emails from myself.) I used to just write them by hand in my notebook, but I didn’t want to use a lot of work time on my writing and I type faster than I write. It was just easier to keep the file on the flashdrive. Even though I know that flashdrives are meant for temporary storage, not long-term.

I was pretty sure I’d saved some backups. After all, the draft I wanted to open was the one I had printed and bound to give to beta readers a few years ago. It was a full, complete draft! Ready for people to read! A pretty important draft that you’d think I’d have saved in lots of different places.

Nope. At least not any place that made sense. Not on my desktop, not in my writing folder, not even on my external hard drive. Could it have been in an email somewhere? Probably. I sent it to a friend to format for the bound printing at the very least. But I haven’t organized that email in eons (ahem, 653 unread emails as of this morning…), and I’m prone to bursts of DELETE ALL THE THINGS YOU DON’T HAVE AN IMMEDIATE NEED OF.

In the end, in a stroke of irony, Facebook saved the day. (Since, you know, I JUST deleted the app from my phone.) I’ve sent a friend several drafts and portions over the years through Messenger.

The only challenge was finding the right draft; there were seven of the old version.

Chances are there is a copy that I uploaded to Google Drive. There was a time when I thought writing it directly in Google Docs was a smarter idea so I could work on different computers. But I had a lot of issues with wifi connections, so an offline approach worked better.

Of course, now that I’m home all the time, there’s really no need for my files to be so portable. And at least now I did do All The Right Things and ensured there are multiple copies in multiple places. But even if all that somehow fails to prevent this from happening again in the future, I did save one of the bound copies for myself.

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