A writer’s worst nightmare and lessons learned

Technical errors can and will happen when you least expect them to.

Always save files regularly, constantly back files up: This is the mantra of all writers — or at least, it should be. Surprisingly while most writers will constantly save their work as they write, they do not always make regular up-to-date copies on multiple devices. Personally, I had gotten into a routine of saving a copy to a USB flash drive and on my computer, usually a copy a piece on both my desktop and laptop. However, I grew complacent and then Murphy’s law struck: I lost the final revisions to my novel, setting me back several months.

I had started to only save files on my flash drive as I started those final revisions; the flash drive, one of those sliding ones, failed. I rushed it to a repair shop, where I found out it is virtually impossible to fix flash drives with the sliding USB flash drives being notoriously faulty. I left with a crippled husk of a flash drive, my files unsalvageable.

Needless to say, I was devastated and could not pull myself out of the tailspin for several months. I had had good practices in place, but like most people, I grew lazy. Luckily, I had my “version two” revisions and even some of the final revisions, which I had shared with writing friends to see if the changes improved the story or were unneeded. I began to reexamine my habits, looking for ways to prevent any future catastrophic data loss, especially when another failure left me without my laptop — fortunately in this case, the hard-drive was fine and could be converted into an external hard-drive. My search eventually led me to the “cloud” as it were.

In The Cloud

I turned to Google Drive, which replaced Google Docs, as a viable option for storing documents, shortly after it launched in April 2012; prior to that, I had started to email copies to myself. Google Drive creates a folder on one’s desktop allowing you to drag files into it; they are then accessible online. Google Drive also maintains Google Doc characteristics, so you can literally edit anywhere even on mobile devices thanks to the Google Drive app. You can also share documents with friends, setting the level at which they can interact with the document: just reading, only comments or full ability to edit. Document owners can also prevent files from being downloaded to their readers computers. Google Drive comes with 5 GB cloud storage space.

I find Google Drive convenient and easy to use. I also see possibilities for collaborative writing or writing exercises if the opportunity would ever present itself. I also love that I can use the app to start a new document from my phone or anywhere really.

Dropbox is another popular avenue for some writers, though I admit — in my limited experience with it — I’m not as fond of it as I am with Google Drive. For one thing, Dropbox starts users off with only 2.5 GB, which might be enough for some writers while not for others. Dropbox does have DB Text Editor, which also allows for editing on the go. Really both options work perfectly with it coming down to personal taste.

Even after starting to use Google Drive, I continue to make multiple copies on my flash drive, computers and external drives, just in case the unexpected should occur.

Final Thoughts

It has been at least a year now since I lost so much work, but I have recovered — even surpassed where I was. It was painful trying to retrace my footfalls, knowing the words would never be the same, but as I continued, I realized this new final draft far out-shown the old. The pain is no longer there, replaced by contentment and lessons learned.


Published by smwright

Sarah Wright is the author of The Heritage Lost Series and several other works of speculative fiction. Professionally, she works as a staff writer and editor at a newspaper/magazine company. She enjoys interweaving her love of history into her writing, even in the most fantastic settings.

8 thoughts on “A writer’s worst nightmare and lessons learned

    1. You are so welcome! Losing one’s hard work is extremely painful, and there is so much that can go wrong with devices with all of their parts — even files can become corrupted over time — making back ups all the more important.

      1. Definitely. I suppose even when handwriting or typewriting was popular, there were still ways to lose or damage your work. And back then you couldn’t back things up. I don’t even want to imagine it, it’s too awful 😛

      2. Oh yes, that is very true. We are unable to trace the one side of my family back too far because of a fire at a courthouse in Virgina, which destroyed all of the documents.

      3. Oh wow. It’s so heartbreaking to think about losing things like that, they’re just gone forever. Even the fire that wiped out the Library of Alexandria in 48BC. So much knowledge, just gone. Just goes to show how important back ups are, haha :]

  1. Excellent points and suggestions! I too have been a victim of this. Only it was because all 3 of my backups failed. 😦 I think I have something like 5 now. lol.

    1. Yep, that can happen, too! Curse you, Murphy’s law! Yeah, I have numerous ones, too. Then either Today or tomorrow I’m going to do a wave of updating the back ups.

      Here’s a random tid-bit that I have never been able to explain: I had a file that got corrupted and then when I started a new document with practically the same name it too became corrupted along with an subsequent one that I even remotely tried to match the chapter name. It was bizarre as I tried to create the file on different computers trying to avoid the glitch, but it never failed to appear. Eventually, I just gave up and used a completely random name!

      1. Yep, I can’t explain that either. lol. Though I’ve had it happen to me too periodically! Quite annoying.

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