This has been a good twelve months for writing. It started in October when I finally completed a re-write of the novel I gave to my wife (A chapter a month for two years.) more than ten years ago. Then in November I took part in and completed NaNoWriMo for the first time. This was something I had wanted to do for years. Writing for Worth1000 and Armchair Interviews had sharpened my skills. My wife liked her novel (version 2), but had some suggestions. So I sat down and wrote version 3. I emailed her a copy which she promised to read when she had time. In the meantime I pulled out my NaNo novel and began to work on version two.
That’s where things stood when some of the neighbourhood thugs decided that our house was a good target for a break in. I got home one night to find the door smashed in and my computer missing. My wife’s computer was also missing. The first thing I thought of was that I had a back up of my photos, at least up to April, I had thought I put my writing on the same disk. No such luck.
I figure I lost about 100,000 words and the work of the better part of a year. My short stories and reviews are still on the net, my novels are gone. I have started version 3 of my wife novel over. I found a very old copy on an old server on the web. I have a print copy of version 2. My NaNo novel will probably get recreated during this year’s NaNo, which isn’t really the purpose, but I don’t imagine I can write 100,000 words in the next two months.
What have I learned?
There is no such thing as too much back up. I had the photos on a DVD at my office, so it was in a different location. It was safe. I probably had my writing on a thumb drive, but since they stole the thumb drives along with the computers, that didn’t help much. Now I have all my files on a thumb drive which is stored separately from the computer. I will be taking a friend up on her offer to let me email versions of my writing for storage on her computer. I will burn CD’s with versions of the books as they are complete.
Electronic data is fragile. We tend to save our work on the computer and think that it is safe. But unlike hard copies of manuscripts the electronic files can get corrupted, lost, erased, stolen. Even CD’s and DVD’s deteriorate or fail to be compatible with new hardware or software. There is nothing worse than holding a disk, knowing that your data is on it, and knowing that you will never access it again. (This is why archives are still stored on Microfiche and not computer files.)
Words are important, but family is more so. For all the angst of losing the work on my novels from the past year, it could have been worse. My family are safe and well after a horrible summer. (Stress put my wife in hospital for a week.) School has started, work is gearing up for another year, and given time I will put all those words back on the page.
Nothing is permanently lost.
I hope your summer was better than mine, and please, back up your work.
This is an article I wrote at the end of the summer of 2008. I thought it still had merit. As an addendum, I recreated Princess and she is now in the process of being published. I also got an email from a friend apologizing because she hadn’t got around to reading the NaNo novel that had been lost. I got that back so I only had to recreate about 50k words instead of the 100k.