Gather round, writers both young and old, for I am about to tell a tale that will chill you to your very bones…
Once upon a time there was a writer who had finished the first draft of her novel. She sent it off to her editor, who returned the novel with some notes. Upon reading these notes, the writer realized that there were three big problem areas that she needed to fix – one at the beginning, one near the middle, and one at the end.
The writer wracked her brain for ways to correct the problems. It required a lot of thought, but eventually she came up with fitting solutions and fixed everything that wasn’t working. After those three changes were made, she started going through the rest of the novel, working her way through other, smaller problems.
A few nights later she realized that she was nearing the end of her editing. Soon she would be finished and the novel could be sent off again. However, when she scrolled down to the bottom of her novel, she realized that something was terribly wrong.
When she looked at the final pages she saw that nothing had changed. Despite having re-written the entire chapter and doubling the length, it had somehow reverted to its previous state, appearing as if she had never touched it.
All those words she had written were gone.
If your heart is in your throat, you now know how I felt last night. Honestly, there is no fright like realizing you’ve lost a part of your work – either through misplacing a notebook or forgetting to save a computer file. My brain instantly went into overdrive - could I remember what was written? Could I replicate it well enough? Should I drown my sorrows until I couldn't remember what words meant?
Luckily, I was able to recover the missing part, due to a recent habit I’d developed.
My usual habit for working on projects is to work on one file, copying it to a thumb drive so that I can move it from computer to computer (home/work/etc). However, that stopped being convenient for a couple reasons – one being that my tablet doesn’t have a USB port, and another being that I kept leaving the thumb drive behind, thus leaving my work behind.
So, I started doing something different – I started emailing my work to myself. Whenever I’d finish working on something, I’d email it to myself as an attachment (sometimes with other stories I was working on), and when I wanted to work on it, I'd save it to the computer. That way I could continue writing no matter where I was or which computer I was using. There were times when I’d frowned upon this habit, seeing all those emails and files and wondering if I was junking up my email by doing this, but I continued because it was convenient.
And then last night happened…
For some reason, one of my files didn’t download and all my previous changes didn’t get copied over. I can vaguely remember thinking “I thought I'd corrected the page number heading”, but then assuming that I’d forgotten to save that part and moving on without checking anything else.
Thankfully I was able to go back through my emails and find a version with the correction! It was tedious, making sure that I'd copied over all the missing changes, but it was a heck of a lot better than having to rewrite everything from scratch.