There is something out there that we writers live in terror of. Something that brings such a cringe to our faces when someone talks about it that you’d expect a horror movie soundtrack to start playing in the background. Something to terrible that some people never recover. Is it rejection? Worse than that. Is it really bad reviews? No, it’s even worse than that. What is this horrible thing that sends chills down our backs?
Losing a story.
And guess what, friends. I lost a story last weekend.
Yep. There I was, typing happily away. I’ve been working on a novella to go along with my Montana Romance series. The title is Sarah Sunshine and it involves several of the minor characters of Cold Springs, Montana. Folks you’ve heard of, who may have had a line or two in Our Little Secrets and Fool for Love, but who take center stage for this story. I’d cracked myself up a few times writing it, sighed over the romance, fanned myself a time or two over the love scene. Finally it was done. Ten lovely chapters and 33,000 words. Excellent! I clicked “Save” (as I’d been doing all along), closed the Word document to back it up and … it was gone.
Yes, gone. Just … gone. I did everything I could think of to get it back. I searched every drive on my computer in every way possible. I asked tech savvy friends online for suggestions. I poured through the Microsoft help page looking for answers. Nope. It was gone. My vicious, lying computer kept telling me that the last time I saved it was on May 22nd. That version had four chapters and 12,000 words. I lost six chapters and 21,000 words. That’s 2/3rds of the book!
Yes, Saturday night was a sad, sad night for me. But strangely enough, I wasn’t as upset as you might think. For one thing, it was just a novella. 21,000 words is not so bad. If it had been 2/3rds of a full-length novel, that would have been another story. By the time I made peace with the fact that it wasn’t coming back, I was resolved to rewrite what I’d lost. I got to work on the painful task the next morning.
The thing is, it’s not so bad rewriting a novel for the first time. I really like these characters and the situation they find themselves in. It’s kind of fun revisiting them. Plus I knew there were some things I was going to have to change anyhow. I’d made some different decisions about the background and personality of the hero and the motivations of the heroine by the time I got to the end of the novella, so it’s been nice to rewrite with that perspective in mind. As soon as I realized the last six chapters were gone, I whipped out my handy pen and paper and wrote extensive outlines of what each of those chapters contained. So in rewriting it’s not like I have to invent the story again for the first time. I’ve found that the writing process is going a lot faster because I already know what happens. I know the structure.
What this whole fiasco has taught me is the importance of backing my work up.
WAIT! Before you say anything or even think it, please note! It is not even remotely helpful to a writer who has just lost a story to A) ask them if they back-up their work frequently, B) scold them that they should be backing up their work frequently, C) advise them on the multiple online/cloud back-up services available! NOT HELPFUL. Why? Because we know these things already. And telling us again will not bring the story back! The only appropriate response when a writer tells you they’ve lost a story is, “That’s terrible! I feel so bad for you.”
Because yes, I do back up my work frequently. I use Box.org and a thumb drive and three different computers. I have my Word programs set to auto-save every 2 minutes. This loss was due to a computer malfunction, not any ignorance or fault on my part.
To reiterate, think of it like this: A writer’s stories are like their babies. If someone you know (God forbid) loses a child, would the first thing you say be “You should have taken them to the doctor more” or “Why did you let them play in the street?” or “You should hire a nanny service if you’re going to turn your back on them – here’s the one I use”? No! The first thing you would say is “I’m so sorry for your loss!”
But back to the silver-lining. I really am enjoying rewriting this book. I was ahead of schedule with it anyhow, and it will still be released at the end of August as planned. Best of all, what I’ve written in the last few days is genuinely better than what I’d written the first time around. Maybe all writers need to lose something once in a while and rewrite it. You can get through this!
So forget losing a book as being a writer’s worst nightmare. I’m back to thinking that boneheaded idiots leaving lengthy, negative reviews on my books when they completely missed the point of what I was going for or incorrectly assumed I ripped off my ideas from a tv show that I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of is my worst nightmare!
On another note, I’m away at the Philadelphia Writer’s Conference today through Sunday. I’ll bring back all sorts of fun and juicy tidbits for you next week!