Saturday, March 22, 2008


While computers have done a great deal to make a writer's life easier, there is one way in which words on a screen can never improve on paper. Barring a fire, or a careless spring clean of a room, words on paper can't be easily lost. But words on a screen are only one mouse click away from oblivion.

Yesterday, I began transferring, from laptop to desktop, the work on The Lovers that I had done in the US. The delay in the transfer was due to travel, and the completion of my office, in which I am, or was, happily established. I had about 25,000 words from the US, and before I left I'd managed to get about 30,000 done on my desktop. Due to the vagaries of builders, painters, and assorted other distractions, I'd failed to back them up.

I know, I know. My fault, right? I always back up what I write, but moving house tends to result in routines falling by the wayside. I've been struggling to find my feet, let alone a place to work, in the new house. I think I was just glad to be getting any work at all done while strange men were trooping through equally strange rooms.

So yesterday, in my nice little office space, I transferred one file marked 'The Lovers' to my desktop and, when asked if I wanted to replace the older file with the same title, I immediately clicked 'OK'.

Bang. 30,000 words gone. The prologue, the first five chapters, all gone. As I write this, I'm sitting in a state of near shock. That's three months of hard grind down the drain, and I've undone all that I managed to achieve in the US. A frantic call to the nice, clever computer man who services my Mac gave no joy: I'd overwritten the files, not deleted them. They're gone, and they're not coming back.

This is the first time that I've ever lost so much work. It's beyond frustrating. I was on target to complete the book in October, allowing for time spent touring The Reapers, and now I'm not. I'm not sure that I can even remember what I wrote: I can recall characters and situations, but not the dialogue. The prologue was good, I felt, and a long encounter between a girl and the parents of her murdered boyfriend was moving and more than a little eerie, but trying to reproduce it exactly will be like trying to snatch at smoke. Right now, I want to bang my head against the wall. It's my own stupidity that's caused this to happen.

So what to do? Start again, that's what. Open a new file, entitle it 'Prologue', and begin writing.

And yet that's so much easier said than done.

Damn. Damn, damn, damn . . .