Scrivener deletes my content

This is very bad.

Twice now Scrivener tells me when I try to save “there was a problem with saving the project” and won’t let me save. It does let me close the window for the project however and when I re-open it I don’t arrive at where I was the last time I saved but the project opens with only the (empty) waste basket.

I lost an entire novel project with several chapters written and loads of research and plotting material. We’re talking at least 100 pages worth.

I paid for this program. This is very very bad.

How much space do you have on the drive you’re saving to? Are you trying to save to an external drive (network drive, USB key, cloud server?), and if so are you sure the drive is connected?

This sounds like a hard drive problem, not a Scrivener problem.


Has there been any followup on this post? It sounds odd and unlikely, but if storyseeker really has had such an experience, it’s kind of scary. Any further news on this Keith?


I’m with Katherine, thinking this points to drive-issues rather than Scrivener issues. Saving to a non-existent (because not connected) disk will not save anything at all.

Also, whenever a program says ‘I can’t save’, it may be good not to close it, but to use the backup function and at least verify that it backed up to your desktop (or where-ever local) before closing the program. Perhaps also use Time Machine for backups, I hear it’s pretty good for these things.
It doesn’t help when you’ve already lost something, but for everyone that hasn’t, please please please do backups. You really don’t want to lose that novel after you finally wrote it…


I opened the file from a connected lacie external hard drive (one of those that looks like a Mac mini) and then saved it to the internal hard drive. The first time I may not have saved to the internal drive before I did work, but the second time I know for sure I saved to my internal drive before I did a lot of work which then Scrievener refused to save.

Even if there had been some error in opening/saving this, once the projct is opened and I see a hundred files sorted into folders and I’m adding to it and havig a ball, th program still should not be telling me “there was a problem saving the project”. The program would only let me click OK on that error message and would then pop up again immediately, not letting me save to another location.

Ok good news. Good, but weird. I just discovered that when I pick my project out of recent items - let’s call it myproject.scriv - it opens up as described in my initial post; completely empty. But I just checked my folder for the project (located in Documents, and I’m running OS X 10.4.11) and discovered there is now a project there with the same title but with a date and time added in brackets: project [9/21/08 10/15 PM].

Did this happen when I chose “Back up project to”? Why not let us use the good old “Save as”?

I’m extremely relieved but am still jittery about writing anymore in Scrivener unless someone here tells me I’m fine. I’m nervous about folders and files disappearing on me or being saved under project names I never asked it to choose for me. Really, I want my “Save as” function and I want to keep the original name when I do.

“Backup Project To…” is the Scrivener equivalent of “Save As”, yes - hence it shares the same Shift-S shortcut. Backup automatically adds a timestamp to your filename (which I and many others find extremely useful) but you can of course delete it from the file name in the save dialogue popup if you wish.

This isn’t advised unless you also backup as a .zip file, though - if you save as a .scriv file and delete the timestamp, you will be trying to save over the currently-open project file, and that will almost certainly cause errors.

In fact, I now wonder if this isn’t perhaps what happened when you first encountered the problem.

In short: don’t work off external drives, only use Backup To when you actually want to make a backup, and don’t delete the timestamp from the filename when you do.

I’ve been in Spain for a wedding since Thursday and only just returned, so apologies for not being able to reply sooner.

What you see in the binder is a representation of many files on disk inside the .scriv package. All of those files are not loaded into memory (which would be a waste of memory) but only called into memory as and when they are opened during a specific session. Thus, the location from which the project was opened must remain available for it to be able to save correctly. If the disk from which it was loaded becomes unavailable, it will no longer be able to save. Scrivener relies on the OS X file system to tell it whether or not it can save. Unfortunately, the file system gives no specific information in this regard. It simply says “YES” if it could save or “NO” if it couldn’t. If Scrivener receives the “NO” message, it spews the equally unhelpful “The project could not be saved” message. If you can’t save in this location, there won’t be much to save elsewhere other than a partial project because Scrivener can no longer find the project that has all the files in it.

The file with the date and brackets after it would be a backup created using “Backup To”. The next update allows a “Save As”, which has been complicated up to now because of the way Scrivener users a project format (a folder containing many files), unlike most document-based programs.

The best thing to do is to ensure that you save to your internal drive. External drives can become disconnected and thus cause problems; they are also generally slower. Then close the project and copy it to an external drive, or use Backup To, to store your project externally.

From the description I cannot be absolutely sure what happened in this instance. Hopefully some of the above helps; any other information you could provide would certainly be helpful, too.

All the best,