Thursday, 28 August 2014

What Doesn't Kill Your W-I-P Makes You Stronger (Hopefully)

Yeah, I've been away from this blog for a while. August? Soooo not a good month for me, it would appear.

Apart from the obvious change in routine that having my eight-year-old son at home on school holidays inevitably brings, this particular August has been something of a lesson in stress management for me. I've had a catalogue of minor disasters occur, which has led me to conclude that this first book in The Renegades Trilogy has more lives than a cat and must really, really want to be written. After all it (and by association I) have been through these past few weeks, I practically owe it commitment now.

Disaster Number One pretty much put the mockers on me writing anything at all on my computer, since sitting at it felt like having arrows shot through my shin-bones. Remember that allotment of mine I told you about in this post?  Yeah, well, about three days after that I spent an evening out there doing my Monty Don thing, and managed to get bitten by some nasty flying midge-y things. Four of them, to be precise. I know it was exactly four, because some three weeks later I still have the four slightly hideous puncture wounds on my shins as evidence. Y'see, as the doctor helpfully explained to me, ninety-five percent of people suffer only itching and stinging for a couple of days from said midge-y things, but about five per cent will have a reaction that requires antibiotics and staying horizontal for a couple of days until their lower legs deflate back to their normal size and stop oozing. Guess which category I fell into? It's fine, don't worry. I now wear wellies and bathe in insect repellent spray before I set foot in my allotment. And I'm not a leg model so the unattractive holes in my shins are no big deal - although if I were to audition for a role as a Plague Victim I reckon they'd at least earn me a callback.

Disaster Number Two was what you might call of a triumph of my own stupidity. I use Scrivener to organise my novel, which is saved on the hard drive of my computer. But, in the interests of averting disaster (ha ha) I also keep a 'backup copy' of it saved to a USB stick, which I copy over at the end of every writing session. Or at least, I thought that's what I was doing. It turns out actually no, I wasn't. Somehow I had managed to make two copies of the Master Version on my hard drive; one that I'd been diligently adding to every day, and another that hadn't been touched for about six months. When I discovered there were two copies I thought it made sense to delete the old, redundant one - after all, if I left it there I might get confused and accidentally do something terrible to the wrong copy, mightn't I? So I solved this potentially terrible possibility by deleting one of the copies on my hard drive.

The wrong copy, as it turned out.

Did I double-check beforehand that I was deleting the right one? Noooo, because that's how sure I was I knew what I was doing. But that's okay, I hear you cry, because you still had the backup on your USB stick, right? Erm... yeah I did. A backup of the six-months-old, redundant copy I thought I'd just tried to delete. I'd been diligently copying the wrong version to my USB stick for the past six months as well.

I looked in my Recycle Bin, but for whatever reason the deleted files weren't in there. I went into Scrivener and tried to restore the most recent backup, but for some other reason it wouldn't let me do that either. I could of course have gone into full-on meltdown at this point, but for some reason I didn't - I was actually quite calm, if a little depressed about the huge amount of work that potentially lay ahead of me if I couldn't retrieve my files somehow. After a day or two of posting queries on the Scrivener forum and preparing to start the whole thing over from scratch I got some helpful replies and, with a lot of tweaking and fiddling, was finally able to restore a backup of the right file that only had about a days' work missing. And you can bet your life the very first thing I did was delete the real redundant one and put my new, restored one in a sensible place I was sure to remember. And backed it up to my USB stick as well. That's how to learn a lesson the hard way, let me tell you.

They say disasters come in threes, and clearly Fate didn't want me to feel I was being short-changed so Disaster Number Three followed less than a week later. My computer began to die. I'd switch it on and it would chug along happily for about - oooh, ten minutes - and then suddenly go to blue-screen and try to restart. Sometimes it was successful - until another ten minutes had passed and it would blue-screen and try to restart again. Other times it wasn't, and just hung there in blank-monitored silence like the proverbial dead parrot of Monty Python fame.

Needless to say this was a problem that trumped the preceding two. Being permanently without a working computer would mean I wasn't going to get much of anything done - but I didn't have the money to buy a new one. There was always my local library, which offers free computer access - but that often means waiting for ages for one to be available, and while the Scrivener program does fit on a USB stick (and I'd managed to copy it to mine before my computer started its death throes) running it from there is so agonizingly s-l-o-w it's unworkable in practice. And libraries definitely don't like you installing your own software on their machines.

Buying a new computer was out of the question, but fortunately I have a computer-y background, part of which involved a previous job at a large, well-known computer retailer with a technical support department. If I could get an expert opinion from one of the guys there on which bit of my computer had gone belly-up, I could possibly afford to replace that one component. (I'd already previously replaced the hard drive in the past, when my old one succumbed to the effects of a particularly malicious virus.) So I packed it up and took it into the store I used to work in, and after a forty minute diagnostic the verdict was in. Praise the lord, it was simply clogged up to the max with dust, which was stopping the fan from turning and making it overheat and shut itself down! A quick blast with their air-jet thingy and, like Lazarus, my beloved old 'puter rose again.

So yeah, a stressful month - but all of this has convinced me I am meant to write this novel. Even if it takes me years, even if I end up self-publishing it because no-one in the Legacy Publishing industry wants anything to do with it - hell, even if I end up never publishing it at all and just moving on to something else instead. And since it fights so hard to live, no matter what, I've realised it needs a little more respect than I've been giving it so far. It's planned as Book 1 of The Renegades Trilogy, so I can't keep calling it The Renegades; it needs its own, stand-alone title. And in keeping with both the theme of the novel itself and its ability to keep getting back up from every little setback, it will be known from this point onwards as Redemption.

Well... until some agent or editor somewhere tells me it sucks and suggests changing it to something else, of course. That could happen. But I'll chew on that gristle if and when it gets served up to me.

So come on, Redemption - we've got an appointment. You and me, at my computer, now. I'll bring the chocolate.

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