Second Draft

How We Do It: An Interpolation (and cautionary tale)

Posted in Writing by Michael Skeet on Thursday, April 15, 2010

Some of you, constant readers that you are, will have noticed my recent silence. There’s a story behind that…

Jill and I are writing Demon Gate using Google Docs. There are advantages to this (and disadvantages, of course), and they will be the subject of a future How We Do It post (I promise). I can, however, speak very clearly to one perceived advantage of using Google Docs.

I have, until recently, been spending a lot of my free time working on the final revisions to a project that predates Demon Gate. My agent has, in fact, been waiting for the last draft of this novel since late December of last year; various interruptions caused by my day job have prevented me from spending as much time on these revisions as I wanted.

As of mid-March, however, I was finally able to make the time to do the work, and was making very good progress.

Now, I’m somewhat nervous about backups, so I have a tendency to do so somewhat excessively. I’m not precisely scientific about it, though: what I do is work on a file that lives on my USB drive, and every few days I copy that file onto the hard drive of my of my computers. Yes, I use several computers (four, at last count); doesn’t everybody?

Anyway, at the end of last year my business bought a couple of new machines, and these new machines run Windows 7 and Office 2007. I am still learning some of the ins and outs of the way my normal practices work on this new software. And so it came to pass that, on 17 March, I went to back up my novel…

…And accidentally copied the destination file onto the source file. In other words, I replaced the current version of the novel with a version that (thanks to my rotation of backups) was over two weeks old.

I wiped out some 200 pages of revisions.

It’s easy for me to write about this now, a month later, because in the interval I have restored (more or less) the lost revisions, and finished the final draft of the novel. And I’ve become a lot more careful about the way I back up my files.

The point of this post, though, is that with Google Docs the whole back-up issue sort of goes away. Or at least it mutates into a different sort of issue (who ultimately has possession of your work?), but that’s an issue for a later message.


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