Friday, August 30, 2013

Dramarama averted ... Back your work the fuck up.

The worst thing that can ever happen to an author who's stressing over a WiP happened to me today. Be it a quirk of the way the servers are set up at my office, or just a wobbly file format from me having worked over multiple computers with one document (yes I knew I was taking a chance but it's always worked up until now) ... But I lost the Jackal MS (cue the sound of whiny violins). I got a snarky little message from MS Word which told me it was unable to save the file due to an internal problem and then... Blegh. Nothing.

Here, have a picture of Ash,
he'll save the day... 
Everything kinda grinds to a halt at that point, and a nasty ringing starts in your ears as your heart gives a last few spastic contractions. And you mutter Fuck, fuck, fuckity-fuck under your breath while you wonder if there's a Control + Z button for your fucking life.

At that point your colleagues start looking at you funny, and you consider ripping off all your clothing and go running screaming down St George's Mall as if all the demons of hell were after you. It's preferable to *this*.

No point sending that error report to Microsoft.
It's not like they care. I checked my Gmail. Yep, I'd last backed up on Sunday, which meant I'd have lost about 5k words that I started since Monday. I wanted to weep. That's three hours of my life I'm not getting back. WHAT IF I WROTE DEATHLESS PROSE AND IT'S ALL GONE NOW???

Microsoft Word is not the best word processing software, but it's pretty much industry standard. Hence the reason why I use it. I've had my friends tempt me with LibreOffice but because I'm an old dog, I'm resistant to new tricks. No. You can't scratch my tummy and I won't roll over and play dead either.

I've also come to know (and loathe) all the different quirks my various versions of MS Word have. On my old Dell running Windows XP, Word would sometimes crash when I'd selected text for italics and the programme decided to run an auto-save. Argh.

On my Macbook I run MS Word 2008. It often crashes for no discernible reason. Also, it doesn't like it when I have multiple .doc files open. Then it freezes one of them so I have to close the programme and open it again. Argh. More lost work if I hadn't saved.

Here at work, where I often use my lunch hour for my personal writing time, we don't even have *real* computers. We run on thin clients, which means my "harddrive" is scattered in percentages across several servers. Several servers which are 1 200 or so kilometres away in Joburg. Which translates to the occasional gremlins deciding "Oh, dear, we can't save this file, whoops. Let's just corrupt this file already."

LUCKILY for me, I have friends who could help out. Icy was able to open the file on her side and resave into .rtf format. Brian said he could open the file. I only lost about 200 words because I am a compulsive saver. (thank fuck for that, princess) Barry kindly suggested that I should really start using Google Drive and Docs.

So, yeah, I'm going to give that a shot now. No more emailing the document to myself at the end of every week. What I will do is save versions once a week into DropBox so that I've got backup in a different spot.

Moral of the story: BACK UP YOUR WORK. Redundancy is the key. Can you imagine if I'd written this (so far) 63k-word novel without this backup? I'd be slitting my wrists with a blunt spoon round about now. Don't be afraid to embrace new technology. Today's little dramarama has reinforced an important lesson. And don't think that you won't have your moments. We all have them.

The awesome news is that I'm headed into the last third of Jackal, my post-Z little saga involving rangers embattled with an elusive enemy. This has been a very weird book to write. That is all. And not a single vampire in sight.

P.S. And my scary new editor, David Niall Wilson, of Crossroad Press, keeps Tweeting me with his progress on first-round edits for Dawn's Bright Talons. I'm afraid. I'm very, very afraid. But in a good way.

P.P.S. I'd really like to give a little love to my Books of Khepera 1# and 2#. If you've read either of them, do go and find the new editions on Goodreads and leave a review. If you're interested in checking out my earliest writing (which is kinda cute and crunchy in a darkly occultish way) then go show Jamie some love and feed your preferred reading device some love this weekend.


  1. I sometimes run two files, so everytime I add to one, I save as a new file, with the new content in a text file, and then when I write more, I save over the first one, and so in! I'm OCD about it.

  2. Before Google Docs/Drive became ubiquitous, I would often use LiveJournal as a cloud storage space, writing as a post and setting security to "Private."

    I use Google Drive for a few things but dislike the sort. I use Evernote for some things too, and use Jota as a plain vanilla text editor on my tablet. (And often copy paste from Jota to Evernote if I want to read it on another device later.)

    Won't use Windows, don't need Apple. So I am using Android on my phone and tablet and Ubuntu on my desky-laptop. I also stick to common and non-hoopty formats because I an old fart. :)

    So very very glad you had a backup.

  3. I have a new doc for every month. It's unwieldy and weird, I know, but if I make major changes I still have all the earlier versions sitting around.

    But yeah, I still forget to back up :P

  4. I have a weekly back-up, and I'll stick to that, but I just need to have less portage in the files that I have as my WiP considering that I work from home and at the office on the big ones. Am going to see how this works out in the end.