About halfway through writing my novel Painting by Numbers, I began to develop some peculiar writing rituals and routines, brought on I suppose by the repetitive and somewhat compulsive nature of the process. Most of my weird behaviours were pretty harmless (give or take the odd vineyard of Rioja), but one habit turned out to be near-catastrophic. I came to rely on one USB to collect and store all my drafts, edits and workings. I began to believe that if I didn’t use this particular memory stick, I wouldn’t be able to move my book forward. I carried the stick around with me everywhere. Once it even survived a full wash cycle and fast spin in the hotpoint. But then, whilst in Spain, researching the book, I stopped in at an internet cafe to check my email and write up some scribbles I’d been working on. Lo and behold, I left my cherished USB in the cafe and didn’t realise until I got back to the hotel. When I returned later that evening, it was, of course gone.
So for the next two or three weeks I scrambled around, frantically re-tracing my writing pawprints, trying to piece together all the work that was missing. Luckily I had some drafts saved on my PC at home, but I must have lost around 50 pages or about 15 – 20,000 words. All in all, I’d say it took me a total of about two months to get back to where I had left my common sense in the internet cafe that afternoon. And even today, I still catch myself searching through files and notebooks, cupboards and drawers looking for those bloody missing drafts.
So the moral of the story is:
Don’t get into bad habits when it comes to saving your work. Copy and save every change you make- I would recommend at least three places . For me it’s my PC, my laptop and a not so obsessively adored memory stick. And just to be sure to be sure, every three months I copy all the data from one memory stick to another.
And yet… I still can’t help but wonder where that beloved memory stick is now, and if the original drafts and fragments of my story still survive somewhere, in amongst the accumulated rituals of some other writer’s obsessively weird life.