BAckups and the importance thereof

Ideal backup system… that I didn’t have.

With NaNoWriMo coming up on us once more, I thought of doing something different this time around. Instead of starting a brand new manuscript, I would dust off the very first story I wrote for my very first NaNoWriMo and try to edit at least 50k words. 

My reasoning for that was two-fold. First of all, I had been so busy at work since August that I didn’t have time to even think about a story to write, yet alone plan it out. I am a pantserish planner, which means that I need to work on the backstories of my main characters and have at least some of the worldbuilding figured out before I start writing. I usually also do a loose outline of where I want my story to go, though most of the time the plan doesn’t survive the encounter with the enemy. Most of the time, I am lucky of my beginning and my ending stay the same. The rest of the story usually meanders through paths I hadn’t even imagined when I initially planned it out.

Nevertheless, I need to have at least some structure before I start writing. I tried to go complete pantser during NaNoWriMo 2020 because I had been just as busy at work in the previous months and couldn’t plan anything, but that didn’t turn out so well. Oh, I still managed to pound out 50k words and won NaNo, but the story is a complete mess that will need a serious rewrite to wrangle it into some semblance of shape. Oh, and I discovered only about 90k in what the story actually was about, so…

Plus I had at least 4 different first drafts just lying in my desk drawers gathering dust. If I ever want to publish at least one of them, I need to learn not only how to finish a first draft, but also how to edit it well enough to transform it into a final draft. So I decided to dust off my partially edited first draft Of Broken Things and give it another go, especially since, from what I remembered, it didn’t particularly suck.

I powered up my computer, went into the folder in which I keep all of my stories… and almost had a heart attack. Of Broken Things wasn’t there. ALL my other stories are there in neat little folders, EXCEPT for this one. 

Queue nervous breakdown.

I went to my drop box where I usually save all of my Scrivener backups and same thing – I have everything apart from Of Broken Things. 

With shaking hands and a developing nervous tick, I did a search of my Gmail inbox… I got bits and pieces that I had emailed back and forth with one of my beta readers, but not the full manuscript.

After about an hour of frantic searching on all electronic mediums where I usually save or backup my work, I was forced to admit that I didn’t have a digital copy of this book anywhere. It’s like the gods of internet and computers decided to erase it out of existence. I don’t know how that happened. I mean, I have ALL of my other manuscripts I wrote, including some half-baked short stories that I toyed with and abandoned. I don’t remember deleting Of Broken Things, and why would I even do that? It was my first ever novel and I actually rather like it…

Anyway, that’s when the realization dawned that the ONLY copy of my first novel that I have is the printed version full of annotation that I had stated editing 4 years ago then put in a desk drawer when I moved to Texas. I am glad that at least that survived the transition, even if the digital copy didn’t. 

Yup, that’s exactly how it this manuscript looks like… all 342 printed and heavily annotated pages of it.

Which, rather ironically, makes it rather perfect for NaNoWriMo this year, because not only do I have to decipher my own edits on a printed copy, but I also have to retype everything back into Scrivener. So I will be getting my 50k words one way or the other and hopefully a better flowing story by the end of this adventure.

However the biggest lesson I learned from this little adventure is – always backup your files. And don’t just back them up in one place, have several copies on different mediums. That way if something happens to one, you can always get it back from a different storage. Oh, and while you do that, do check on your work from time to time to make sure you have the most recent versions of all your files. And when you clean up your backups, make sure you don’t delete anything important by mistake. 

And with that, I want to wish everyone who is participating in this crazy adventure a productive NaNoWriMo. Good luck, let your imaginations fly and your pens follow!

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