Chapters disappearing - freaking out

I am freaking out. On a major deadline. I have used Scrivener for my last nine or so books, so I’m not a novice user.

Today I realized two chapters I wrote have reverted back to earlier unfinished versions. I’m just sick. I have to write this darn book in eight weeks and can’t afford to lose work. What should I do?

One clue: Two weeks ago my laptop was in the shop and I had to use an iPad for about five days. I set up a sync with simple text as well as something else. I don’t need those syncs any more.

I have a Time Machine backup, but when I look for key words, like “harbor seal” I don’t get a match.

I also use DropBox.

When I tried to find earlier versions on there, I saw this:

Version history of ‘Third book (April’s Newest Macbook’s conflicted copy 2014-03-13).scrivx’
‘Third book (April’s Newest Macbook’s conflicted copy 2014-03-13).scrivx’ has only one version - the current one. If you make changes to it, you can later restore it to an older version via this page.

Is all my work just freaking gone? What should I do to stop more stuff from disappearing?

April Henry
New York Times-bestselling author

Also, I can’t quit out of a project - Sync with external folder just hangs and doesn’t finish.

I have done a save as and renamed the file (so now it doesn’t try to sync anymore). I found an older version that had the missing chapters in it (perhaps tellingly, it had the word “original” appended to it.) I am not sure why it did not show up in pervious searches, but I am not arguing. I copied over the missing chapters and added them in.

The presence of conflicted files inside of the project is definitely a red flag. That means that the copy on Dropbox has been edited on more than one machine that was offline or not up to date at the time. This is actually very easy to do accidentally. You may close a Scrivener project on your desktop and then hit the sleep button, then switch to the laptop and you’ve just gone out of sync because the desktop never got a chance to upload the last changes in the project (it was put to sleep before Dropbox was done). On the other side you may load a project before Dropbox has finished downloading it. In either case Dropbox will play it safe and duplicate the conflicting files so that you can sort it out yourself.

With Scrivener, it’s just better to avoid getting things out of sync in the first place as resolving conflicts can be a pain. We have an article on best practices for using synchronisation. The numbered list in the middle of that contains the guidelines you should follow.

Problems like that can cause work to appear to be “lost”. It’s not actually lost, it’s just inaccessible to Scrivener because the newer version of the file is called “21 (blah blah conflicted copy blah).rtf”, while the old file is properly called “21.rtf” and ends up getting loaded when you click on it.

So, it is not crucial that these conflicted files be resolved. Scrivener will just completely ignore them so they aren’t hurting anything. But you may want to go through your whole project (you can do this on your Mac by right-clicking on the project in Finder and choosing “Show Package Contents”), particularly the Files/Docs sub-folder, and make sure nothing important is in the conflicted files. You can toss out the conflicted .scrivx file, too. Just make sure the project is closed when you do this—and I would also make a backup before messing with it.

April also sent an email to our support address. We seem to have traced the problem to a combination of synchronization errors. After her computer got back from the shop, she restored a Time Machine backup, but that didn’t include the work she did in the external folder via the iPad. Then it’s possible that syncing with Dropbox made a bad situation worse.

It seems to have been resolved by reviewing both the external folder and the Dropbox version for sync conflicts.