Monday, 17 September 2007

Inspiration, re-drafting, rewriting...

What would you do if you lost your manuscript?

This actually happened to Jilly Cooper, who left the one copy of her just-finished novel on a bus after a good lunch with her agent. One can only imagine the weeks of hope and despair before the poor woman sat down to write the whole thing over again...

But without the excitement and discovery of a first draft. Flipping between trying to recall the old version, and just writing it anew. Thinking it still possible that the original might turn up...and being completely certain that the first rendition was better.

I have experienced this in a minor way, when I suffered a series of computer crashes over a period of months. I bought a second computer (belt and braces) then, come the next failure, discovered that they had not been programmed to back each other up at night as I'd thought. In the end, after a week of nail biting, it transpired I'd only lost one scene. But, do you know, I still think it lacks something the original had.

Now, in case the workshop burns down, I print out the books every two thousand words or so, and take them home, where I add them to a wobbly stack; geological layers of Rising Fire and Trav Zander, going back through time to my earliest efforts.


  1. How's about just committing the latest version to disk? The darned things are cheap (I like cheap) and care be stored in as secure an area as you've got. Some of my computer savvy friends tell me there are actually online services that will be your backup memory. It sounds a little weird to me, but you send the file to them and they keep it safe. Off-site storage, as it were.

    Every once in a while I print what I have so far and put it in a binder. Of course I'm always changing things in Chapter Two because of something in Chapter Twelve, so often as not it means printing the whole thing.

    Just as long as you have your backup!

  2. I use a laptop so am very paranoid about it getting nicked. I have a flash drive thing which I keep backups on. I also intermittently e-mail copies to myself. And print out every now and again.

    BTW is YWO down today? I can’t get on it.

  3. Hi Alan, I used to put it on disk - quick and easy.

    For some reason, after the major computer overhaul, I couldn't make it do it on either computer.

    Instead of taking thirty seconds, it became hugely complicated and often failed. Then I bought new disks, and the computers refused to work with them.

    Maybe I should have another go.

    Hi HJ, yes, YWO went off this morning.

    Thanks for the tips re email and flash drive thing. I will consult my computer expert before she vamooses to university.

  4. T. Jefferson Parker TYPES his entire story, sets it aside, TYPES another, sets it aside...he repeats the process until he is satisfied with his story. He never looks at his previous versions--just continues creating draft after draft until he feels that the last on is good enough to be the final.

    Me? I have some 80 backups of previous versions on my hard drive, some CD backups, flash drive, I even have emailed myself the file so it's in cyberspace.

  5. I believe that if I followed T.Jefferson Parker's method, each draft would be worse than the last.

    I've emailed the latest versions to myself.

    Good wheeze, HJ and Norm. Thanks.

  6. Hi Lexi,
    I too back up everything. Habit after I picked up a Virus on an old computer I had a lost 20 years of family history. Lucky for me I did back some of it up, but like you I wonder about the parts that were lost.

    I'm really enjoying YWO. It's great fun reading other people's books. My reviews for my book have been very interesting too.

    Best wishes

  7. Hi Annie,

    A virus - I hadn't even thought of that. Poor you.

    Funny to think of all the regretted lost bits of writing, sad ghosts floating in cyberspace...

    YWO is quite addictive. I've enjoyed most of the extracts I've read, and profited by the experience of analysing them.

    And some reviews one is grateful for forever.

  8. Hi Lexi! Thought I'd drop by your nook and say hello. I don't have any better ideas than the ones already suggested. Emailing is a good idea, easy to do and you can delete previous versions as you send yourself the current one.

  9. Hi wonderwood (woody? wonder? won?)

    My nook...I like that. Sounds rather cosy.

    Yes, emailing the latest version - complete with friendly encouraging note to self - seems the way to go.

    Foolishly, I'd always thought a whole novel would be too big to email. I now know better.