NOOOOOOO! Why did I do that?!?!

So, I was working on a novel. And then my hard drive went boom.

Ok, I thought. I’m a smart guy, I have a backup from last month.

Only… I didn’t. I don’t know what happened, but my backup didn’t exist. The closest one I had was over three years old.


Oh well. I had an outline from my notes I printed from Scrivener! I can use that as the blueprint to recreate the book!

Only… I didn’t. I had the outline for ONE CHAPTER. Oh, man. How did I do that? Oh well…

So now I’m trying to recreate my plot. The characters are easy, the setting is mostly easy, and I remember the bones of the plot–but a few things I’d committed to notes are gone, and even the stuff I remember now has to be rewritten. Fortunately I had a printout of some chapters, but only some.

Learn from me: BACKUP OFTEN. I can’t believe I, who grew up with computers, blew this.

Many, many commiserations …

My wife and a friend have a website that includes video interviews of people in the food business. This summer they managed to persuade a very private VIP in that and many other fields who “doesn’t give interviews” to give them that privelege. The interview — over an hour — was recorded on an SD card, which our non-computer freindly friend gave to me to copy onto a thumb drive that he could pass to the recent film-studies MA graduate who was going to do the editing.

I did so, our friend subsequently erased the SD-Card, and the editor copied the AVCHD data onto his mega drive where all his video stuff was held and gave the thumb drive back. Friend then erased the thumb drive.

I then get a panic phone call from my wife in London. “You did say you kept a copy of that interview video on your machine didn’t you?” “Yes, I did. Why?” “'Cos Tim’s hard disk with the interview on has crashed completely, and he doesn’t have a back up and there’s no way we can even dream of asking the VIP to redo the interview! You’ve got the only copy of it!”

Tim, the editor, had lost not only that interview, but all his portfolio of work he had done during his years at university. He was sending his disk to a friend in Belgium, in the hope that something might be rescued from the crashed drive, as he couldn’t afford to take it to a commercial firm to recover what they could from the platters.

So yes, BACK UP, and back up the back up, and back up the back up of the back up, and …


Commiserations as well, I know that feeling of things going from bad to worse all too well.

I have shifted to using both a HD backup (well cloning actually, once a week) and a cloud backup (instantaneous). I got myself a 30GB cloud account with SugarSync and have been very happy with its customisability (compared to DropBox) and generally smooth operation. I had a small household theft a few months back (just two HDs) which made me acknowledge to myself that on many occasions both my primary data, and its only back-up, are all in the one location. Not a good system.

I hope the rewriting of the novel has some positive outcomes.


Mr. J.

Your plight brings to mind an incident that occurred in the autumn of 1998. Someone very close to me, was preparing the final draft of her thesis prior to her graduation. This, she was doing on a computer built by a computer science student at Keel University.
She had something like eighteen days in which to complete the thesis, have it printed up at a printers, and hand it into the college. She was on schedule with no foreseeable problem ahead her. Then, the hard drive died. Every scrap of data she had was on the dead drive.

With the few days grace that the college allowed her, the ensuing 3 weeks was a nightmare for her. Pushing everything to the very limit, she managed to complete the thesis, and hand it in. The emotional and physical impact upon her was devastating. Even to this day, with any mention of the incident, you can see the effect the memory has on her.

It was recalling this incident that caused me to question whether my initial response to your post was in fact insensitive and inappropriate. It was meant to bolster, what I perceived at the time, as a mildly sanguine response on your part, to your bad luck. I thought it best to remove it.

However, and this chimes with geoff’s sentiments, it did occur to me that serendipity may be at work here. The fact is, you haven’t lost anything. That is true because between your ears, you have your own hard drive, and your own key logger. It’s all in there still.

How would it be, bearing in mind the above, if you went back to a new canvas, with a new palette, and began again with nothing but your initial germinating idea, but only after…not eschewing as such…but reassigning all you have so far achieved, to the role of adviser, informing your judgment rather than dictating your response?

Could what ensues be markedly different and superior, in any way whatsoever,to what would have been the final draft of your earlier endeavour?

I hope this makes sense :confused: :blush:

And, no doubt about it, you will get over it. :wink: As I’m sure you’re already aware. :slight_smile:
Good luck

P.S. I’ll refrain from reminding you to back everything up frequently, and to a place of safety.

One can only sympathise, but I don’t think the essential problem is wholly confined to the “computer era”. My memory is vague on this, but if I’m not mistaken, T. E. Lawrence left the completed manuscript of “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” on a railway station platform and had to rewrite the whole thing. So you are in very good company.

There is one ray of light in all this, though admittedly a rather thin one if you are faced with doing all the work again – the second version might even be better than the original.

Best of luck with it,

PS: to Fluff – I don’t want to sound discouraging here, but recent research in psychology suggests that human memory is not like a “hard drive” or a “key logger” – it is a reconstruction, not the playing back of a “recording”. That is one of the reasons why memories change, and why there are gaps. And in my case recently the gaps seem to have become larger than the material between them. If you read the work of Elizabeth Loftus it is quite alarming to find how easily people fill the gaps with things that didn’t actually happen. Should be required reading for all thriller writers (and historians).

Mr m, in the Psychology firmament, as in the cosmos itself, we’ll witness the birth of stars, the luminosity of some, outshining and obscuring that of others. Ultimately, Mr m, we’ll possibly witness their eventual transition to supernovae, thence to black hole, and relative oblivion. Undeniably, the influence of the residual black hole upon its immediate environs is quite profound, but no more so, I would argue, than neighbouring black holes, whilst all around, the brilliance of other stars vie for our attention and adoration, which we bestow, according to our predilections, prejudices and biases.

The theses of the lady in question, garner their admirers and detractors, as do most expositions of supposedly brilliant scientific research, and even more so, upon aspiring to, or having attained learned treatise status. Adoration or disparagement, Mr m, bestow no guarantee of factual accuracy, or lack thereof. And besides, Mr m, I doubt that the state of brains like our Mr J’s, have caused Ms Loftus much perturbation.

Apologies to Miss Austen, Mr m, but, ‘Tis a truth universally acknowledged, that the finest psychologists on this planet…are cats.’ and since I’m a cat, you can take it as read, that you are in safe paws, and when I say Mr J’s brain is his hard drive, that’s as good an analogy as you’re likely to get. As for data input, from his earlier endeavour, I think it’s safe to assume that went without a hitch, and is safely stored on his cranial hard drive.

Data retrieval in certain cases, can, prove problematic, as Ms Loftus will attest to, however, in the case of our Mr J. we have to assume that his computer’s hard drive going tits up, hasn’t left him traumatized, to the extent that he’s begun fantasizing (actually, it could be a big bonus if he was).

Anyway, as your good self and Mr geoff and I have pointed out, the new version could prove to be superior to the original.

So! Chocks away Mr J! Let’s put these theories to the test. Wot d’y’ say?

Sorry, I should have assumed more knowledge. One never quite knows who one is meeting here! But it’s a fault of mine – I once explained to an electrician how to wire something up. Not that I knew at the time that he was an electrician.

I agree about “fashions” in research. There was once a time when pigeons pecking lights seemed to be of great importance. And a friend of mine told me he was once on a plane going to a conference with many “leading lights” in memory research at UK universities. One of these commented to him that if the plane crashed it would probably set back research into memory by many years. He somewhat incautiously replied “Oh, I don’t know – it might even advance it.” I gather this did not go down well. None the less, I find the Loftus research fascinating, perhaps because I used to do research in history, and made much use of eye-witness accounts. When I moved to psychology and came across Loftus and others, I wished I had known about it before, and wished that more historians had known about it.

As for the hard drive / human memory analogy, I personally hope that we will get a better one eventually, and I’m still not convinced that it is a particularly good one, but that is a matter of opinion. About 18 months ago, I found myself at a friend’s inaugural lecture holding a sock full of different coloured sweets representing memories (I was sitting in the front row, so I became an obvious choice of assistant). I found that a much nicer analogy, and it was undeniably more tasty.

But whatever human memory is like, I really do hope that Mr J can extract the maximum from his.

Best, Martin.

It is possible to recover data from a crashed HDD. I don’t know how important the data is for you, but it’s an option.
There are software tools, but they can damage the drive even more.
And there also exist specialised companies that are able to recover the data, but they aren’t cheap.

i have nothing to add to this conversation, but it looks like a nice warm place to sit down for a while

waiting to pounce …eh?! :wink: