Tuesday, July 5, 2011

File Lost and Found

The writing life is like a man who didn't back up his files every day to a consistent, safe place. Then one day his hard drive on his ancient computer began acting up. A repair shop was able to clone the drive, but the file, with 5,000 new words not contained on a manuscript, was not to be found. So the man asked the computer to do an heroic thing: Despite the slowness of the ancient processor and the drive clone, the computer was asked to search for all documents with a certain four letter string. Not knowing whether the computer had the umph needed for the task, the man started the search, went to his newer computer, and began again on those missing chapters from the older back-up file. Later, with a thousand words of dubious quality added, the man checked the old computer, and found it had identified six files with that string. One of the six files turned out to be the missing one, saved with the wrong date. Does not that man, when he has found the file, contact his friends and associates who read his blog and say, "Rejoice with me, for my file that was lost is now found. The work is there, and the first writing is better than the second."

Yes, my lost file is found. This was my In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People file. About a week before we left for Chicago I took some pages I had written in manuscript and entered then in the computer. As will normally happen, I changed things as I typed along, and I went beyond where the manuscript had ended. I recalled that I had added two or three thousand words, but wasn't sure how many. At the end of the session I saved the file, with a vague recollection I saved it to a wrong folder, but knew I'd remember that so didn't re-save it to the right folder. Also, I didn't do a poor man's back-up by e-mailing it to my office. I think I was in a hurry that evening.

Back from the Write-To-Publish Conference, with an editor wanting the manuscript and a publisher also interested, I went to look for the file. Nothing. All the files with that name in the right folder were older. I though, Oh wait, I saved that to a wrong folder, but which one? I went through all the folders I might have been working in the day I typed that chapter. Nothing. Oh, I found a FTSP file in one of them, but it was also an older file.

Now, I typed this on our 2001 Dell, which has been my computer for at least the last six years. It has been slowly losing performance, and I knew I would have limited use of it. I was planning to move all my stuff to our 2009 Dell, since Lynda doesn't use it any more. With no home network set up, I was going to do that through e-mails. But, two days before leaving for Chicago, the 2001 Dell gave me a blue-screen error, followed by a black-screen reboot, without rebooting. I dropped it at Computer Medic and went on the trip, telling them there was no hurry with it.

The medics took their time with it, and finally said the hard drive was dying, but that they thought they could clone it. Other projects pushed mine back, but they finally got to it, and I finally re-hooked-up the computer. It's amazingly slow, much slower than it was with the original hard drive. So I was actually searching on the clone hard drive.

I searched and searched for that file, to no avail. It seemed to be gone. I began to wonder whether I had dreamed about typing that chapter rather than actually typing it. Finally, I decided to use the Windows Explorer search feature. I wasn't sure if that old Dell could do the job. I searched for "FTSP" in file names only. It took literally twenty minutes for that poor computer to do the search, but came up with results as described in the first paragraph.

When I checked the original version against what I had typed that day, the original was much, much better. I've noticed this before on those few occasions when I started over due to something lost and later found. The original is always better. The found file actually had closer to three thousand words, in two chapters. Yesterday I added more than two thousand words to it, and the book stands a hair under 15,000.

Can 85,000 be more than two months away?

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