Southern Scotch

Southern Scotch

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Day My House Was Set on Fire: Conclusion

When my laptop crashed on 12/8 I lost the near-completed but unsaved third Boss MacTavin novel. Luckily, I did find a second draft saved on a flash drive earlier last year. I'd gone through many drafts since then, but my decision was simple: abandon the book entirely--or try to recover the lost book through the miserable earlier draft. I donned my green visor, rolled up my sleeves and got down to work.

And now...
Nearly two months later I'm close to completing recovery. Much proofing and tweaking remain. But I want to share with you the process of recovery and tell the main lessons I learned. Here we go!

Key obstacles
1) Computer time was limited to free sessions in the library: two 1-hour sessions with occasional short extensions. Libraries here close at 8 p.m. weekdays, 5 p.m. on weekends. Within these sessions I also had to squeeze at least a little Web work so I didn't entirely lose my presence here or on Facebook and Twitter.
2) I could not afford to repair my laptop for about two months, so I had to make my free computer sessions count and devise a strategy to reduce my typing time.
3) Memory is imperfect. I had to accept the cold fact that I could never recall, word for word, the book I'd come close to perfecting. I could remember key changes in plot,timeline, character...good quips and memorable phrases...etc. But I'd still have a different book. I could only do my best to make sure the new version rocked.

1) I printed out the second draft and worked as I had before there were computers: going through each page over and over again. In this way, I leapfrogged from second to sixth draft before I began to retype.
2) I took my time, removing any thought of deadline fever. I accepted a setback of four to five months, allowing for proofing and tweaking.
3) Using the hard copy, I worked anywhere and whenever I could--once again, as I had when a boy.
4) I put off repairing the laptop for now until I'd bought a Kindle Fire--using library computers for typing only and the Fire for online work and play in any place with free wi-fi.

1) I prefer working, in the early drafts, from hard copies and will continue to do so.
2) I'm more resourceful and stronger than I'd thought. No whining. No cussing. I'd messed up and I did what needed doing to fix that mistake.
3) Recovering forced me to re-examine every word--something that grows harder as we go from draft to draft.
4) The freedom from deadline fever is a blessing I don't want to lose. Not ever again. I will never rush my work.

And oh, yes, the huge lesson:

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