Tuesday, November 23, 2010

the computer ate my chapter!

...and other blessings in disguise.

the first novel i ever tried to write died a horrible death. it caught a nasty incurable virus and when it finally went into the light, even the best computer doctors could not revive it.
this was ten years ago, and the pain of that loss was so raw, i did not write again for years.

i am being completely serious now.
i allowed a manuscript-eating computer virus to put me off writing... for years. even when someone very close to me - an angel really - produced the first ten thousand words or so from his own email archives, bless him, i could not be persuaded to pick up the story again. how could i possibly remember what the NEXT ten thousand words were? and i couldn't even fathom letting those words go and starting the story again from the middle. i was so stubborn.

but i took the ten thousand words from this angel, and put them in a folder at the back of my file box with a neat little tab labeled: Sammy Vegas. for almost a decade, every time i opened that box to file a utility bill or check a bank statement, the words "Sammy Vegas" would play peek-a-boo with me from the dark rear of the box... taunting me, reminding me that once upon a time i wanted to be a writer.

when i finally started writing again, the "Sammy Vegas" file got moved to a new filing cabinet - one filled with nothing but manuscripts, story ideas and publishing information. now, when i see the "Sammy Vegas" tab, i don't see a painful loss but a story that will someday be brought back to life. SV would have been the wrong first book for me. and maybe i needed to live a little more before i started writing for real. i truly think losing that MS was meant to be, so that all the stars could align for me to write a book some 8 or 9 years later that would actually be good enough to publish.

i tried to remember the SV tale this week when technology let me down once again.
this time, it wasn't a computer virus but a malfunctioning android application that ate my words. (oh, how time has marched on!)
my trusty little cell phone voice recorder app crashed and burned - taking with it an entire chapter of my NaNo project. in the sheer panic of losing those words, i forgot every single one of them, even thought i had dictated them into the voice recorder only that morning. Handsome and i made a few feeble efforts to recover the audio files, but they were lost. i wanted to crawl into bed and forget the whole manuscript.
but NaNo waits for no drama, so i knew i had to suck it up and write something new.

and you know what? the new scene is better. once it was all written, my thoughts cleared, and i could remember the initial scene, and it wasn't half as good as its replacement. losing that first chapter was probably the best thing that's happened to me since i started NaNo.
(but, um, Karma? if you're listening? that doesn't mean i want to lose any more chapters, okay? i AM on a deadline, here.)

i just wanted to share those stories for anyone who has hit a setback in their writing, whether it's:
- a computer virus
- a lost notebook
- an accidental 'delete'
- an identical scene in someone else's book that forces you to press 'delete'
- or just about any other uncontrollable factor that erases so much of your hard work.

words get lost.
but sometimes it's a blessing in disguise.
fortunately, we know where the words come from, and we can always make more.


Nomes said...

i needed to read this.

so thanks :)

off to write

good luck with the rest of your nano!

Melanie said...

what a wonderful post erin. just the other day, i had a situation where my computer unexpectedly quit on my and shut down. it was very strange, but when i went back in the next day to finish a chapter i was revising, the changes i had already made were gone. i swear i was ready to cry and just sat there sighing and ready to say screw it for the day because i couldn't fathom having to remember/re-figure out the words i had spent 2 hours to come up. And this was only one chapter! Alas, i searched around my puter and found that my computer had trashed the file and all was good, but that sickening feeling of thinking you lost something you've labored so hard on is one I really do know. Not the extent of your situation, but it hurts none-the-less. And I do whole heartedly believe that EVERYTHING in life hapeens for a reason, even if it's not always clear to us until years later.

erinjade said...

Melanie, i'm so glad you found your chapter, but yes - that is the exact feeling i mean. so frustrating, but sometimes good in the long run.