Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The End, Back it Up


I finished writing (working title) CODE TRIAGE, the third book in my Mercy Hospital series a few days ago--getting the first draft of the last chapter down on paper. Well, not paper. Electronically down. Tucked into a file and a couple of back up files--at my house and off site. I stop short of having the words tattooed on my body, but I do make sure they are in a safe place. If you want to see a writer's forehead bead up with drops of blood, whisper "I can't find your manuscript file . . . anywhere."

I'm confessing for the first time publicly--right now--that this happened to me once. Several years ago with one of my first manuscripts. Before I made an initial sale. My agent had several editors interested, and arranged to call me to go over some last minute manuscript concerns. She wanted me to "fix" a few things, and planned to have me pull up the manuscript on my computer and she'd synchronize on hers. And we'd input the changes, page by page. Seemed logical, and really techno savvy to me--I was a rookie and she was (is!) a pro and I was sponge-like in my eagerness to learn. So I sat in the chair. Waited for her call. Got butterflies in my stomach. Answered the phone. We synchronized . . . and I pulled up my file (an 80K romantic comedy I'd been working on for more than a year), and . . .

The file was BLANK. Empty. Gone. No. Longer. Existed.

I'd accidentally copied over the manuscript file and obliterated it.

You would not have wanted to own my stomach at that moment in time.

When I could breathe, I . . . hedged. Choking around my heart wedged in my throat.

"Oh . . . wait. . . . Can I call you right back?"

I hung up, slid to the floor and wailed. Then . . .

Because (we are blessed by a merciful God) and I married an amazing techno savvy man--

While I wailed and writhed on the floor, he performed some sort of hard drive search . . . and found it. Then (with the wonderful compassion of every hero I've written since) scooped me up off the floor. Gave me a hug. And whispered sweet file "back up" information in my ear.

My guess is that this same nightmare has happened to every writer at some point in time. Whether it involved a lost paragraph (always brilliant in hindsight of course), page, scene, chapter, blog post, or (like moi) an entire completed m-m-m-m-manuscript (sorry, flashback finger tremble). Due to power failure, author induced glitch, lightning strike . . . whatever. It happens. And it's awful.

So, while I'm still not the sharpest crayon in the box technically, I do take steps to prevent such a disaster. This is what I personally do:

1) Hit "Save" often ( compulsively) while writing.
2) Install a daily back up system (free ones available through MicroSoft) on site.
3) Save files off site/online (in case of fire). Via a paid storage service, or even by uploading nightly to a online site like a Yahoo Group. (I do this).
4) Burn a CD and keep it in safety deposit box.
5) Send chapters to critique partner.

As writers, we spend hours, weeks, months, sometimes years completing a particular work. Not to mention the angst, heartburn, sweat and tears involved. We don't want to lose that work.
And, take it from me, you don't want to sit in your office chair during a phone call with your agent (or editor), open a file . . . and slide under your desk as your entire circulating blood volume shunts to your feet.

Back it up!

Now that I've gotten all that off my chest, here's where things stand with CODE TRIAGE:

First draft completed: 94, 255 words, 334 pages, 28 chapters plus an epilogue.
It's been read by my awesome critique partner (who is a finalist in the Genesis contest!).
I've read through it once in electronic form, inputting changes based on her comments.
I'll be reading it again on the computer with an eye toward the story's time line (easier in this book because the action spans only a few days!)
Then I'll print it off. Hold it in my hands. (Smell it probably) As fellow writer Bridget Chumbley says, that's the moment it feels "real." She's so right!

Then I'll sit down with the stack of pages and read it through again (much of the time out loud, to get a feel for the dialogue and rhythm), with an editing pencil in hand.

Next I'll input the changes into the computer. (Back it up!)

And let it "steep" (rest) for a week or so.

Then read it again (with fresh eyes), picking out "crutch words" ("weasel words" as some folks say).

And finally . . . I'll send it off to my editors at Tyndale House.

Who will suggest revisions . . . so I can pick it back up again and improve the story.

The End. Fur, feathers, stripes . . . and curly tail.

Feels great!

Writers: how about you--deletion horror stories, saves, back up tips? Do share!

7 comments:

Bridget Chumbley said...

I'm so excited for you Candy! I can't wait to read the next 2 books in the series. Thank you for the "shout out"...you are awesome! ;)

C.J. Darlington said...

I think the worst I had was a chapter, or a scene (which is proof it couldn't have been that long or else I would've been wailing too)! I backup on the hard drive and two flash drives myself. If I ever go away on a trip I only take one of the flash drives, leaving the other one home "just in case".

CandaceCalvert said...

Bridget, and honor indeed to have you "scrub in." You're a delight, and oh so gracious to your fellow writers. I love your website/blog.

CandaceCalvert said...

CJ, good point. Flashdrives are excellent. You can have them in place, and "Save" to both. I carry a flash drive with me when I travel. But I also like knowing that my entire ms. is in a file at one of my Yahoo Groups. I can access it there as well. Was traveling once through an Arizona desert and got a call from my agent--request for chapters from an editor. I was not "packing" the ms. Fortunately my CP bailed me out. I always, always travel with my work now, too. Thanks for stopping by! Can't wait for your book to come out! :-)

Peter P said...

Backup tip #1:

Do it!

Backup tip #2:

Do it often!

Thanks for sharing your story, Candace. It was quite amusing from sitting here!

K.M. Weiland said...

Congrats on finishing! That's a one-of-a-kind feeling, right there!

I back my important files up on an external hard drive and then save them in my email account. But thanks for the reminder! I haven't backed up in almost a week! Ssh, don't tell...

CandaceCalvert said...

Katy, thanks for stopping by and sharing. Its so easy to shut down the ms. file for day and feel "done." Then realize later, "What if I lost all that?"

You work hard, I know. Back that brilliance up. So your readers will be able to enjoy it! :-)