Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Dreaded File Corruption Meltdown

I had almost finished my editing pass on Wind of the Spirit—only a couple of chapters to go. Lately I’ve been reading David McCullough’s 1776, which covers the period I’m writing about. And after running across several good details that would fit nicely into the narrative, last Tuesday evening I went back to the beginning of the manuscript to add those.

As I scrolled down through the file, I came across a section where the text had corrupted into a symbol that looked like y’s with a couple of dots above. That was followed by lots of page breaks with no text. ACK!! I scrolled down to where the text began again and saw that an entire section was missing. NOT what you want to have happen when your editor is waiting for your manuscript.

Worse, I quickly discovered there were two more places where the same thing had happened. And these were more important and complex scenes that I sure didn’t want to have to try to recreate from memory.

I immediately checked my flash drive. It had the same version of the file I was working on, including the corrupted sections. I raced to my laptop. It had Sunday evening’s version of the file . . . also with the corrupted sections. So I’d saved the file at least a couple of times since then, each time overwriting the file with the defective one. And I didn’t have a hard copy printout. After all, I had 2 backups, didn’t I?

I confess, at that point my brain paralyzed, and I started hyperventilating. LOL! Anyone who’s had something similar happen with an important document knows exactly how I felt. I immediately put out a request on my writers’ prayer loop. The prayers must have helped calm me down, because I suddenly remembered that my friend Lori—who is writing an even bigger and fatter historical than mine—and I have been exchanging chapters as we’re writing our respective projects. Talk about a brain freeze! Holding my breath, I e-mailed her to find out if perchance she had saved any of the chapters.

In the meantime, my husband reminded me that all three of our son-in-laws are computer experts and suggested I call the one who lives just down the road, who writes software. Well, duh! His suggestion was to google “corrupted Word file.” That brought up a number of suggestions as well as several free downloadable programs that promised to fix the file. Well . . . after a couple of anxious hours of fiddling with it, nothing worked!

Back to e-mail. Thankfully Lori had saved every chapter I sent her. Praise the Lord and good friends! I was able to reconstruct the file from the rough drafts of those sections, and evidently I hadn’t changed much because the original text looked fine to me the way it was. But at that point, I suspect any reasonable proximity would have looked good. After replacing the wrecked sections and rebuilding the file in open office, I saved it back to Word and sent it off to my editor. What a relief to have that project off my desk for the time being!

This volume ended up at 105,000+ words. That’s about 4,000 words more than Native Son. Daughter of Liberty, however, weighed in at 127,000+ so this is a mere novella by comparison. But I’m very pleased with how the story turned out. I think this may be the strongest book in the series so far.

It’s strange, but often as I reread manuscripts I wrote a few weeks or months earlier, they seem not to have come from me. I’m astonished at them. I know they passed through me, and I even remember the words. But they don’t seem like mine. It’s as though they belong to someone else. Did I really write that? I know I didn’t create it, in spite of all the work I did on it. I wonder if it’s that way for other writers. Do they feel like their stories are a gift that flowed through them but came from a mind other than theirs?

All I know is that the Lord touched me mightily as I was writing Wind of the Spirit. And I pray this story and the entire American Patriot Series will touch readers powerfully as well.


  1. Joan,

    That's horrifying! I've had a few incidents like that myself. A couple times when I went to save a manuscript, a box appeared and said Word was unable to save my work and it would be lost. Indeed the entire file was wiped out. Now I have backup copies, email copies to my laptop, and have hard copies.

    I love your books and look forward to this new one. I write in the same period of history, and hope to see agents and publishers accept more Georgian period / Revolutionary War novels.

  2. Rita,

    There's nothing that can make your heart sink like a file meltdown, that's for sure! I can laugh about it now, but I sure wasn't then.

    I'm so glad you enjoy my novels! As an author yourself, you know those are the words we love to hear. lol! And btw, I'm going to be looking for more good historicals to publish through Sheaf House once I get enough sales that I can afford to take on more projects, so keep in touch. I'd like to talk to you about your projects.

  3. Glad I could help. I'm not usually a saver, because I hate piles of paper and junk, but when I can tuck something neatly away on the computer, my inner pack-rat comes out!