• Losing Your Writing

    Posted Posted by David Duhr in Dos & Don'ts     Comments 18 comments

    On the weekend of April 13, I finished a long draft of the book chapter I had wrestled with all week. I clicked save, then shut my computer. Monday morning, when I restarted, the computer had reset itself to factory settings. Wiped clean. As if I’d just bought it and brought it home.

    A few minutes later, after Justine helped scoop me off the floor and out of the fetal position, I restarted the computer. Everything came back. My computer was clearly having some Monday-morning fun with me. I wasn’t amused.

    My first move was to save the chapter to my flash drive. Then I took my second breath of the day.

    We all have our technology horror stories. This one had a happy ending, and served as a reminder for me to always, always, always back up my work.

    Others of my stories have not ended well.

    What happens when you lose your work? How do you recreate what you’ve lost? How do you prevent such incidents from happening again?

    WriteByNighter Greg B. told us about his process, at least as far as technology is concerned: “When I write a page I copy it, store it to Dropbox and email it to myself, put it on the cloud, email it to a friend and to a ‘fake’ account, copy it to a thumb drive, print it, then copy it into a second word-processing program.”

    That, my friends, is thorough. I’m going to start following his lead.

    This week, we want to hear your worst horror story involving lost work, whether technology wiped your slate clean or you misplaced a writing journal or the dog ate your homework. And how you’ve changed your approach since then.

    Let us know in the comments.


    WriteByNight co-founder David Duhr is copy editor and fiction editor at the Texas Observer and has written for books for the Dallas Morning News, the Iowa ReviewElectric Literature, and others.

    WriteByNight is a writers’ service dedicated to helping you achieve your creative potential and literary goals. We work with writers of all experience levels working in all genres, nationwide and worldwide. If you have a writing project you’d like help with or an idea to get off the ground, check out our coaching, editing, and publication services.

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    david lemke

    Years ago I took online classes with Writer’s Studio in NY for three semesters. I’d forgotten about the thirty od stories I’d written until I remembered one I wanted to use for something. They were all gone. Fortunately I’d had a separate back up. It took a lot of time searching, but eventually I found the files safe, buried deep in old file existing no where else other then there. It took a lot of work to retrieve them all but I have them all. Since then I’ve included them in my anthology

    Barb W.

    I left a notebook on a plane, cross country flight, that I wrote in for about four hours, one long journal entry outpour. I put it in the pocket and it slid down, and I forgot about it. Until I got home! I was frantic, and sat for what seemed like all day with United. They had it, and mailed it to me. I have no idea where that journal flew to next, or who may have read it. I have nightmares of United staff sitting in a breakroom reading my diary out loud in dramatic voices. But it had… Read more »

    Glynis Jolly

    The 1st draft to my first and [so far] only novel was written three years ago. I let it rest kind of like what you’d do with bread for two months. When the time was up I went to my cloud and brought out the file. I opened up yWriter and began to read over the story. When I needed to break because of other activities I had to get done, I closed the program. At least I thought that’s what I did. When I opened up yWriter again, the story wasn’t there. I was so upset that I closed… Read more »

    Elissa Malcohn

    Four years ago I was getting chemo, which meant I was drinking at least 10 glasses of water per day because chemo dehydrates you something fierce. One of my pre-meds was steroids, to increase appetite. I pretty much bounced off the ceiling until the steroids wore off. I work from home, so I was also multitasking during this time — and my water sat beside my computer. Next thing I knew, my water was IN my computer and my keyboard was having a nervous breakdown. Minutes later, everything was fried. I had to get a new computer (my tire blowout… Read more »

    Barbara A Mealer

    Yes it is harrowing when you loose everything. I had a computer stolen with everything on it before the cloud was popular and lost everything….my pictures and videos from while I was in Europe, my writing, my journal, my life. That was the first disaster and there was no way of recovering from the fiasco. The second time, my computer crashed. Total blue screen right after all my vowels dropped to the bottom of the screen. Yep a virus. I was lucky in that I had this computer geek who was able to extract all my important stuff without the… Read more »


    A year or two ago a Windows update destroyed my laptop. After the failed update, the laptop wouldn’t boot. I took the laptop to Discount Computers to have a new OS installed. They asked me “Do you want your data back” (hahaha) to which I said “Yes”. When I picked up the laptop, they showed me the one single file they had been able to retrieve. That one file was the draft of my novella. All else had been lost. Yeah, now I back my stuff up much more frequently.

    Jerry Schwartz

    I’m actually not that worried about my writings, because I generally compose them, at least in outline form, in my head before typing them. It would be painful, but I could probably recreate any of them. I do back up my entire system, nightly, to an external drive. I also back up my documents, pictures, etc. to a cloud every night. Why both an external drive and a cloud? Because I don’t want to see a big pile of ash where my computer used to be and a smaller pile of ash where my backup drive used to be. If… Read more »

    david lemke

    Forgive me for not being entirely up to date. Still have a dumb phone ( a flip phone) and Windows 7. I’m afraid of the cloud; how secure is it? how difficult is it to get your stuff back? What if the cloud dies a tragic death? and finally what do you do if it monsoons or ice storms? I have an external memory and I have some stuff on USB drives. Should I keep those in the garage? :)

    david william lemke

    Shortly after a divorce, I was working on a book so I borrowed my x’s computer. After writing 33 pages, the hard drive bit the dust. It took a long time to re-create what I lost after I was finally able to afford another computer. For years after that I would copy to USB drives every week or so. When I next needed a new computer I got an external backup drive which backs us every couple of days. I don’t believe in the cloud. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe it exists. I means I don’t trust it to… Read more »

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