The Journal: A Dreary Cautionary Tale

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* A Dreary Cautionary Tale: Save Your Work
* I also looked on the bright side
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“We have described our use of artificial intelligence (AI) to provide you with valuable personalized advice.” from the Terms of Service of a corporation with which I’m acquainted

A Dreary Cautionary Tale: Save Your Work

As you know, I always try to share the bad as well as the good, the setbacks as well as the accomplishments. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if you’re as stupid as I am, you need to hear this:

Save. Your. Work.
Often, and in More Than One Place.

When I first started writing this post (yesterday, on December 3), I could barely breathe. Here’s what happened:

Yesterday, while beginning the writing day with a cycling session, I decided to recast the first few paragraphs of Chapter 15. I highlighted those first few paragraphs, then wrote three quick new paragraphs to shoot the timeline forward by a few weeks.

All well and good.

But I experienced that tingly little feeling in the back of my mind that told me maybe my critical, conscious mind was trying to intrude. I always pay attention to that little alarm. So I cut the three paragraphs and pasted them into a Notepad .txt document for safekeeping.

Then I figured I’d go back to the original version.

To do that, I would close the “flawed” document without saving it, then open the version I saved at the end of the day on December 2, go back to Chapter 15 and start cycling through again. Simple, right? I’ve done it lots of times.

So I did that. Only when I opened the document again: I found I hadn’t actually saved the document the day before.

So at 24,000 words into the novel, I hadn’t saved it after a record day of 7,467 words. That’s typically two days’ work for me. Gone.

For a little while, as you might imagine, this was a big deal, a major, severe disruption. When I opened the document, it went only through the opening paragraph of Chapter 13. The word count is right at 19,000 words.

(Yes, I’m aware of the discrepancy between the work being 19,000 words two days ago and only 24,000 words one day later after writing over 7,000. It has to do with cycling, deletions, etc. that have also been lost.)

As you might imagine, I was almost ill. For a long while it was literally an effort just to breathe.

So originally I set out to recreate Chapters 13 through 16. I figured my reverse outline would help at least a little in that regard, providing cues for what happened to whom when. (Yeah, I saved that. Go figure.)

But a reverse outline is just that: A Reverse Outline.
Its purpose is to remind you of what happened for reference,
not to rebuild a manuscript or otherwise guide you into the future.

Literally within a minute or so of moving to the writing ‘puter and looking at the manuscript, then my reverse outline, I realized I can’t simply refer to the reverse outline and rebuild what I’d written. Why? Because I tried and it felt like “work.”

That’s when I realized using the reverse outline in that way is exactly the same as using a regular outline. Duh. It actively invokes the conscious, critical mind.

And I really can’t do that. If I do, I’ll be bored to tears and the story will sound contrived, because it will BE contrived. And it will suck canal water from all 48 contiguous states.

So instead, I deleted what I’d written in the reverse outline for Chapters 13 – 15. Then I went to the beginning of the manuscript and started reading through, allowing myself to touch it as I went: cycling.

I got through the entire 19000 words (see the word count for Day 5 below) and frankly, I already feel a lot better. I’m basically home free. Crisis averted.

The over 7500 words I wrote on December 2 are still gone. I’ll just mark that up to practice, then move ahead today, writing into the dark.

I still hate that I was stupid enough to lose such a large part of the original story. Now the story will be a little different than it would have been. And it will take me a little longer to write this novel than it would have taken had I saved my work and not cost myself these extra two or so days.

But hey: Them’s the breaks. Be careful out there.

I have to add, I also looked on the bright side. This manuscript I messed up is Book 3 of a series. I lost only 7500 words, and I lost only two or three days of writing time. Out of a 50,000 word (or so) novel (and a 150,000 words (or so) series, that isn’t bad, especially the way I’ve been writing lately.

Also, Books 1 and 2 are already written. Book 1 is published, and Book 2 will be published later this month. And even with this setback, Book 3 will be published in January at the latest.

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Math for Writers” at Selling all rights to your IP for a novel to a publisher is like handing over the deed to your house if the publisher agrees to publish your book. Except the IP is potentially worth a great deal more than your house.

See “Needing a Reader and Copyeditor…” at If some of this sounds contradictory with his recommendation to use a first reader and a copyeditor, just take from it what you read between the lines. Also, I personally recommend at least two first readers: one male and one female. They provide different points of view and sensibilities.

See “The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Writers 2020” at I’ve all but abandoned social media.

See “How to Reduce Your Workload with a Facebook Auto Poster” at

See “Five Mistakes That Even Experienced Social Media Managers Make” at See PG’s take on this one. I wonder if any of those “mistakes” is included as good advice in one of the other articles?

See “#DisneyMustPay” at

The Numbers

The Journal…………………………………… 1030 words

Writing of The Journey Home: Part 2 (novel)

Day 1…… 4955 words. Total words to date…… 4955
Day 2…… 5068 words. Total words to date…… 10023
Day 3…… 6513 words. Total words to date…… 16536
Day 4…… 7467 words. Total words to date…… 24003
Sigh. Closed without saving after Day 4……… 19000
Day 5…… 0792 words. Total words to date…… 19792 (cycling)

Total fiction words for December……… 14772
Total fiction words for the year………… 467303
Total nonfiction words for December… 3000
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 188210
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 655513

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… 7
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 13
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 52
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 214
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

2 thoughts on “The Journal: A Dreary Cautionary Tale”

  1. Hi, sorry to hear of your loss. Admire the way you set about restoring the loss as you have. Suffered a similar loss several years ago — which is why I now only use Pages and Scrivener for fiction — both feature autosave. You don’t even have to think about it — every 2 seconds your most recent changes are saved, and on all your computers (and iPhone, in the case of Pages). If, for any reason, I lose access to my stuff on my writing ‘puter I can go open up my non-writing ‘puter and access it from there and painlessly restore it to the writing ‘puter if I need to. Can you not tweak your set up a little so that the day’s words are also saved on your non-writing ‘puter?
    All the best, sincere regards.

    • Thanks, Bill. Yes, I probably can. I’m using Word 2010 (I like it) which is not supported by Microsoft anymore, but I’ll check it out. Strangely enough, I’d forgotten to check for autosave.

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