Bad news: As you know, my computer died and I lost all my files. It's all a great loss, but the worst part is my fiction. I haven't written much of anything since the kids were born -- writing novels takes a lot of brain space that I just haven't had to spare -- but I had several drafts that I was saving in the hopes of getting back to them someday. Most important were my three novels. Novel #1 is a completed, polished second draft. No worries for that one -- my mother has a hard copy. How to get it back as a digital version is still tricky, but at least it exists. Novel #2 is complete as well, but it's going to have to be rewritten I think. But that's okay too -- when I finished the first draft, I emailed it to several people to read. I still have it in my Gmail account. But novel #3 wasn't finished, and so I hadn't shared it with anyone. I couldn't even remember how much of it I'd written. Eighty pages? One hundred? More than that? Had I ever rescued my characters from the life raft they'd been sitting on for, oh, six years? Yes, it's actually the oldest story, abandoned the longest. I'd written myself into a corner that I was going to need a lot of research to get out of, and I was just waiting for some real free time to do that. And this file was nowhere to be found. I searched every folder in my email account -- nothing. Maybe there might be notes for it in the attic in a notebook, but maybe not.
Good news: Losing the files motivated me to get back to writing. I lay awake for several nights (those of you with kids KNOW what a big deal this is) trying to remember the plot and figure out where I wanted to go with it. I had some good ideas. Time to get writing. As I was trying to remember the time period in my life when I had written it, something occurred to me. I hadn't been using Gmail at the time. I'd been using Yahoo. And at the time -- back when I was in college -- my email account was my main location for file storage. I emailed myself all my important files at the end of every semester, so I could take them home with me. Might they be in there?
Very good news: First thing in the morning I searched my Yahoo mail and hit pay dirt! Novel #1, perfect and complete. Novel #3, missing some of it (not sure how much) but the majority of it was there! As a bonus, some pictures from high school and a few poems.
Bad news: Ugh, I forgot how truly terrible my writing was in novel #3. I always sound pretentious in a first draft, but this is awful. I'll probably have to rewrite the whole dang thing. (But at least I have the 80 pages that I had written, so I can remember what the plot was like.)
Good news: Novel #1, though, is excellent! I don't mind saying so myself, because when you've let a novel sit for six years, it's kind of like reading someone else's novel. I couldn't remember, as I read it, what was going to happen next. Luckily my style was not so horrible in this one. I changed some formatting and added some explanatory sentences as I read, but that was it. As I have every time I've read the book -- including the time when I was writing it -- I sobbed at this one scene. I can't not cry. It's the saddest thing I've ever read. I wonder if it would be sad to anyone else or if it's just a me thing.
More good news: I have gotten to work in earnest on novel #3, which is a sequel to #1 (#2 is a completely different genre, and I am still stuck on how to revise it .... perhaps it needs to age a few more years before I can look at it). It's taking awful amounts of research. But the wonderful thing is, we have Wikipedia now! When I started this book, I checked out dozens of books from the library and found that every single one of them skipped the information I needed. Now I can find articles on every topic I want, links to primary sources, and a whole organization dedicated to the specific topic I'm talking about. AWESOMESAUCE.
The past six years have given me enough of a break to see this story with new eyes, cut out the stuff that didn't fit, and radically change the plot. The thought of losing it all gave me the courage to just start writing again.
Those of you who like to write, I have a recommendation for you. The next time you get writer's block, might I suggest waiting six years and then taking a pickaxe to your hard drive?
Just kidding. Go back up your files right now. Do it. And then dig up that old Word 98 file, dust it off, and see if you still like it.