No Explanations required

Dear Miss Snark,
I am a faithful reader of your blog and in need of your opinion. Last summer (August) at a writer's conference, I received requests from both an editor and agent for my second manuscript.

Six weeks later, as I about to print out a finished, polished version for each, my computer and the saved CD backups, went corrupt on me. I lost the entire manuscript. (I have since learned to do more saves in different locations and medias.)

I did notify the editor of this event as she and I were in correspondence about my first ms, which she had on her desk but ultimately, took a pass on. She did state in her last email (last October) that she was still interested in reading my second manuscript when it was ready.

Now, five months later and I am only half way complete with rewriting. Besides personal and professional dignity (both of which are shaky now) the only thing keeping me from trashing this rewrite from scratch/memory all together are the requests. I have no delusions that the editor or the agent is waiting with baited (unless you think we stink, it's bated) breath for this book. I know that each passing day isn't helping, but I guess I'm asking if it's hurting the situation and if I should offer an explanation of the delay and remind of the initial
request to both the editor and the agent when I finally get this book in the mail?

You'd be surprised to learn perhaps that Miss Snark herself has had to slink into editorial offices with a delayed manuscript. For a lot of reasons. In fact there are so many reasons an index under "Manuscripts-delay thereof" gives numbers so all you have to say is "sorry this is late; reason #12".

1. dog eating
2. computer crashing
3. stars realigning
4. death of writer (metaphysical)
5. death of writer (physical)
6. discovery of aliens in chapter 14
7. failure to paginate with base ten system
8. failure of will to finish
9. mysterious stench of fear emanating from pages

Agents and editors want good projects. We understand the travails of life and computer systems. We may screech a lot about it, we certainly don't PREFER things be delayed, but life proceeds at its own pace despite all exhortations from Miss Snark.

Finish it. Let it sit for a bit. Re-read. Fix. Send.
Say "I'm sorry this didn't arrive sooner. Thanks for your patience". No further explanations required.


Simon Haynes said...

This is for everyone: Invest in a memory stick, back up your writing folder to it and take it with you everywhere you go. You can get 128 megs on a memory stick costing next to nothing, and that's enough for 250+ full length novels.
Honestly, not having backups is like driving with your eyes shut. Your computer will fail. It's just a matter of how soon.

Anonymous said...

This person said he had back ups on CD, which are generally reliable compared to other forms of storage. Even memory sticks can fail, and do, so it's best to have multiple back up locations an formats. But in this person's case, I find it odd that both the computer and back up CDs failed. That's especially bad luck. Does the author have a disgruntled spouse?

Eileen said...

Excuse one is the dog ate it. Interesting. By any chance is KY your shredder. Do you sprinkle rejected manuscripts with liver sauce and let him go at it?

Darren said...

Memory sticks fail all the time - at least mine do.

Zip it all up and email it your special, secret, backup, Yahoo account; and while you're at it, CC your Hotmail and Gmail accounts too. But be aware that in the event of a nuclear conflict of any kind, the 'pulse' generated from detonated devices could wipe all your data. It happened on TV (Dark Angel), so it must be true.

Burn a CD every week, and send it to your trusty grandmother in Alaska. This is guaranteed to work.

lorra laven said...

I don't get it. If the FBI can reconstruct files from a computer that has been run over by a steamroller and scattered in the mountains of Afghanistan, couldn't you have hired one of those firms that specialize in file recovery? I'd mortgage the dog to do that if I lost my entire novel.

Anonymous said...

Also, I printed out a hard copy and gave it to my mom for safekeeping.

Anonymous said...

"mysterious stench of fear emanating from pages"

Sheesh - how did you guess this one? You're psychic, Miss Snark. Get out of my head.

Anonymous said...

Don't understand how cd's can corrupt, unless they never burned/ripped correctly in the first place. I had a computer crash, and the techies saved my files, no problem.

Dan Leo said...

Excellent advice from Darren. If I change one word in my book I e-mail the attachment to my novel-specific Yahoo addresss. You can buy CDRs in stacks of 50 from Staples, CHEAP. So don't BE cheap and back up your stuff. Another tip, send e-mail attachments of your book to your friends, if you have any. Also, buy cheap paper and print your stuff up now and then as you go along. This is good not just for back-up, but because writing always looks different on paper, and you will catch many typos and see much stuff you will want to change. And always remember, as the wise Simon says, "Your computer will fail." (I know.)

EHsquared said...

First my computer was stolen from my apartment but I had most of the novel saved to disk. THEN my new computer burned up with the rest of my apartment - fortunately, a few months before our CD-ROM was acting up so we made a full computer back up before taking it to the techies. When the apartment burned the back-up was at my husband's office. About the only thing I recovered from the fire was my novel.

Dave Kuzminski said...

As a computer programmer with 25 years of experience, 10 of that in direct PC support to several factories, I've seen many problems with all sorts of media. The worst is when a backup is made and no one bothers to try to read the backup on a different computer to see if the recording actually came out right. I can only recommend quite strongly that you check the backup in a friend's or an office computer the next day before you consider your work actually backed up. If you can read it in a different computer, then you should be relatively safe.

Anonymous said...

OMG. So all my fears aren't groundless. No, actually I knew they weren't. Which is why I'm almost neurotic in making copies of my books. My biggest fear has always been, what if... (fill in the blank: house burns down, computer crashes, virus eats, etc.) I made floppies which I kept in my locker at work. I kept copies in my car. I have hard copies printed at home. I have a flash drive in my purse, and I e-mail it from my PC to my girlfriend who has an Apple computer, so is less prone to viruses. (And she e-mails hers to me.)

It took me a friggin' year to write the things when I was working full-time. Last thing I wanted was to come home, find out that a contracted book that was almost finished, was dust.


pennyoz said...

I take a memory stick with me where ever I go. If I forget it (usually if I do its in the computer after backup) I even go back home to get it. I am so superstitious about this.

Losing your m/s! I can't think of a worse fate other than my Mother In Law coming to live with us. I'm not sure in this case which is first. They're on an equal par.


Laura(southernxyl) said...

Dave is right about the need to check your CDs right away, on another computer. I found that out the hard way. Quelle suprise.

If I had a ms, I would have the CD, the flash drive, the e-mailed copy, the tree copy, and I might even hire a bunch of street urchins to memorize it like Fahrenheit 451.

Anonymous said...

It cost me 800 bucks, but when my computer crashed, I had a data recovery firm recover all my 7 novels and numerous short stories along with everyhting else. I also print out hard copies of everything from time to time, AND I have an external hard drive. I will probably get a memory stick also.