Lost work after Scrivener crash

Scrivener crashed on me for the first time I can remember. And when I reopened it, it was like I hadn’t used it at all in months. I lost half my novel. I have it set to automatically backup to dropbox and also to make a zipped file every time I close it, but the last zipped file shown was from two weeks ago. I can see a list of all of the automatic saves that were done today to dropbox, but it gives me no option to open them in scrivener and I get a screen that says the file can’t be previewed when I click the links directly. When I try to open the document on my linked laptop I get the popup that says the document seems to be in use on my desktop and might have been closed improperly last time I used it. It gives me the option to make a copy of the document or continue, but I have no idea what would happen if I chose either option at this point. I am afraid to do anything further without help. I will show you the screenshot of the list of autosaves to dropbox. Does anyone know how to open something like this? Please help me get my words back!

The .scrivx file only holds the “table of contents” of your project, not the text itself. The text itself is a number of .rtf files, one for every single document you had in the project and they are in a subfolder under the .scriv folder.

Thank you so much for the help. I found the files you mentioned and just hope that everything is there. It’s crazy how far back the crash took me, though. I guess I should open my latest zipped file from a month ago and then update from there using the rtf files, but the fact the crash seemed to almost revert scrivener to a previous update, or something equally huge makes me unsure how to move forward with it. Does it mean my Scrivener program is corrupted?

Have you had your project open in Scrivener for 2 weeks? If so, then Scrivener hasn’t been making automatic backups, because you haven’t been closing it. That would explain why the last zipped backup is from 2 weeks ago.

Yep. I did. Which was obviously a mistake.

There is a setting in Preferences that tells Scrivener to make a backup every time you make a manual Save. If you have your project open for weeks it is probably a good idea to activate this. But if you are used to hit command-S fairly often this will erase all older backups unless you also increase the number of backups Scrivener keeps, but if you do that your disk could be filled fakrly auick if you have large projects.

In short, you need to know what you are doing

Well, I thought I did, but apparently I did not. Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll make changes to how I do things, but it does give you a false sense of security with the way it lines up all those saves. And the fact I can open it on my phone and read it. Obviously I don’t completely understand what I need to understand. At this point it would be interesting to hear from others who have had a massive Scrivener crash and whether the program was reliable afterward. And specific suggestions of changes to make (other than close and zip more often, which yes) would be great. I’d really rather not hear more about my shortcomings and failures, and lack of understanding, though. I am well aware of them…

There are a couple of very small steps that you can take to make sure that this doesn’t happen again. Apologies if these are things you already know. Scrivener does have an auto-save function, but it’s important to recognise that this is different to the backup function.

The first thing is to make sure that you are not backing up to Dropbox, which I take that you are from your original post. The recommended location is Users/username/Library/Application Support/Scrivener/Backups. You can set the location in Preferences here:

I prefer to backup on project close. Some prefer to do it with each manual save. Scrivener gives you a couple of options for backing up. You can see my settings above.

I prefer to back up on project close, but have also trained myself to remember to manually back up at the end of a writing day by invoking the Backup Now command (CMD-Shift-B).

Lastly, always make sure your Time Machine is attached to your laptop/desktop on a daily basis. Clone your hardrive regularly and store the clone in a separate location to your laptop. Use a backup service like Backblaze as yet another layer of security.

In terms of reliability, Scrivener is excellent. I recently had a crash (first in a very long time) where text I had entered just moments before was present when I relaunched Scriv. From everything I’ve seen on this forum, text will only be lost with a mistake on the user end. Which also reminds me, if you are working on Scriv iOS as well, make sure you’re following best sync practice. Lots of errors occur there when people don’t allow projects to sync fully on one device before opening it on another.

Good luck with your future writing, hope you recover your text.

Thanks so much for the helpful tips. I do have Time machine set to back up daily, but need to look into cloning the hard drive. And maybe backblaze. I just need to figure out ways to save it as a zipped file to multiple locations and then test all of them to make sure I can open them if things go wrong. I am definitely not tech savvy and definitely take things at face value rather than thinking to test what seems like it’s there.
My thought is maybe I have saved it in some complete form I could access but don’t know how because I just followed a checklist setting it up in the first place.
it stinks to stare at this stuff and have no idea what to click.

And if the huge crash was because of my user error Is there a scrivener health protocol I can find somewhere and follow? I sent a crash report to Literature and Latte and explained that it happened after I hit undo three times in a row using keyboard shortcuts. I’ve done the same thing many times before. Is there some way to prevent it from going nuclear on my end?

Anyway, I appreciate the good wishes and help!

Someone else might chime in here and let me know if I’m wrong, but if you have daily Time Machine backups, then you might be able to recover your work. Have you looked in Time Machine? Step by step guides to recovering work from Time Machine are here: support.apple.com/en-ie/HT209152. In your case, you would be navigating to your Dropbox Folder from the last save before the crash, finding your Scrivener project within and clicking restore. Save it to a separate location, open it and see if it has your lost work (or as much as possible).

In terms of having multiple locations for zipped backups, the strategy I outlined above would give you four separate locations with minimum effort: your hard drive, your Time Machine, cloned drive and Backblaze. Four is a pretty safe number in terms of backups! I use Carbon Copy Cloner to clone my drive, which you can very easily set to clone your drive on a regular basis and remind you if you haven’t done so.

As for a Scriv health check, I don’t really know what you mean, but can say that there are any number of obscure and impossible to divine reasons for crashes. With Scrivener, in my experience, they are extremely rare. You mentioned having the programme open for a couple of weeks. While modern operating systems and software are supposed to handle being left open for days on end, I always think it better to quit programmes that I’m finished with for the day, and do a complete shut down every few days. just to clear out the system. That might be a legacy of being a certain age! But really, if you find you need to add something to a Scrivener project after shutting it down, how long does it take to get it fired up again? Seconds. Best of all, it’s designed to bring you right back to where you left off.

So my advice is to get into the habit of shutting down both programme and computer regularly. Even that isn’t fool proof, so make sure to put a backup strategy in place as soon as possible.

Thanks so much! I haven’t had the chance to check Time Machine yet, but I’m hopeful it will be there. Thanks for the link to help me do that, and the suggestions for keeping things working after I’m up and running again. I really appreciate the time you took to help me. It was very kind of you.

You’re very welcome. Fingers crossed for the Time Machine recovery

This concerns your future use of Time Machine ™, not recovery. As a supplement to what’s been said by Kinsey regarding TM, there are helpful, best practice tips on its usage with Scrivener in the Scrivener manual, page 71.

You’re not limited to running it (or other backup tools) just at the end of the day. If you’ve been particularly productive and think the writing flow can afford to be interrupted for a few minutes, close the project and do a TM backup.

Thank you too, SC! I will try to dig in and find what I can salvage and then attempt to set things up properly using all of the advice shared here. I really do appreciate it.

One of the advantages of Backblaze is that you don’t really have to do much except be connected to the internet. Backblaze will copy your whole hard drive (encrypted) and then only copy changed files as they change. It operates in the background without you really knowing about it. Website here: https://www.backblaze.com/cloud-backup.html