Last month, my five year old laptop bit the dust and I lost 15,000 words.
The laptop had been acting funky for a minute. Finally, without me actually telling it to, the laptop reformatted itself.
I’ve used Dropbox for over a decade, and since I bought that laptop in December of 2013 I’ve also made some use of OneDrive. All my writing and other absolutely irreplaceable files are stored in the Dropbox folder. Scrivener saves directly to Dropbox. Every month or so I’d back up a copy to OneDrive, but Dropbox was the automatic.
I’d been planning to replace the laptop this year even before the old one started acting funky. I’d figured on the fall, which is when my real-person-job is most profitable. September perhaps. Two months shy of six years seems a decent enough lifespan for a work computer. So it’s inconvenient but not catastrophic that I had to go ahead and order a new one at the end of April.
It arrives and I unpackage the new machine. It is sleek and sexy and of course six years newer. I am pleased, except by the touchpad (the old one had touchpad with two separate buttons, the new is just the touchpad that clicks down in the lower corners, and I have always hated this design) and Windows 10 (but hey, I despised Windows 8 when I first got it. And actually that’s been true of every iteration of Windows since goddamn 95, so…)
I boot up, run through the setup, and then get down to replacing my program suite. Scrivener, Dropbox, Brave in place of Edge. A few others but that’s the core.
That’s when I discover my old laptop apparently had another problem I hadn’t noticed. Last time Dropbox synced was apparently April 2. (This despite the fact that I watched the little blue sync icon turn into a little green check mark every single time I finished a writing session and before I put the machine to sleep.Every single fucking time.
I wrote right around 15,000 words in April, divided between two projects. One was a brand new project last month, so I lost the entirety of that story. I likely will not start over on it. My other project is book 3 of Voidstrider, and it was …. nearly finished. Already way past my intended deadline, but nearly finished. I’ve been set back just under 10,000 words on it (call it around 25-35 pages for you non-writer-types).
I haven’t lost a manuscript or partial manuscript in almost 20 years. Back then I smoked a lot of things and drank a lot more and I won’t say I had more emotional equilibrium because there’s a difference between muted, partially numbed emotions and actual emotional balance, but you can see how the effective difference is perhaps negligible.
I lost my goddamn mind when I found out I’d lost an entire month’s work.
And then, two days later, having accepted it and pointed out to myself the only way forward is to move on, I sat down last night to start the process of recreating what was lost.
Some thoughts on the attempt:
I managed a little shy of 1100 words in a two-hour session. Rewriting without the original draft is … weird. Some parts are much easier to get down, due to the fact that I’ve done this already. The hardest part is behind me. Figuring out what goes where, who says what and when they say it, how a scene moves. Other parts are infuriatingly difficult as I try to remember the exact phrasing of a particular ‘graph or a sparkling gold sentence that I was so goddamn proud of a week or two ago. There were bits of the scene I worked on last night that, the first time through, I sat back and smiled and said to myself, “Yeah, that’s it right there, that’s fucking perfect.” And those are gone.
The opening of this scene used far fewer words second time around (about a 30% trim, probably for the best). Setting description went from about 500 words to about 300. And some of those sparkling gold bits I mentioned? Those were in the description, and I mourn because description is not my best strength.
The second bit of the scene, which highlights the characters and shows what they’re about to do, used more words this time. I added some bits I forgot the first time. Details, a bit more difficulty in reaching the objective, makes it more real. So, again, probably best.
Original scene was ~1800 words. I’m at 1K but only about 40-50% done. So overall it will be a bit longer this time, but I’ve trimmed the (best written but ultimately least important) opening and expanded the middle.
I can’t remember if I’ve ever written a second draft without being able to reference the first. My normal process is to edit inside the existing draft. I did do several complete fresh drafts of Jimmy Stick, but I also spent eight and a half years on it.
Anyway. That’s what’s happening with me.