January 23, 2011

On the Great Data Blight of 2010

Last August, my trusty Lappy was stolen, after seven years of faithful service. To put it mildly, this is not an experience I recommend.

The robbers who broke into my mother's house probably didn't know how little my elderly PowerBook G4 was worth to them, or how infinitely much it was worth to me. Though--of course--I had backups, they stole a great deal from me. Compounding this experience was the almost simultaneous failure of my husband's computer, taking with it some of my backed-up files.

I am still remembering things that were lost in the Great Data Blight of 2010. Some recent discoveries include every poem I ever wrote (this is probably a net win for humanity), and the 200-page travelogue I wrote about living in my car.

One of the things that I knew right away I'd lost was last summer's revision of a story I wrote at Clarion West. That revision was horrible, but it was extensive, and had taken me weeks to accomplish. I changed the POV from first to third, I added scenes from another character's perspective, and I completely changed the ending. What I ended up with was a bloated (nearly 12,000 words!) mess that I didn't even want to look at. Which, of course, is how it ended up not getting backed up.

Things like that are hard to replace. Rewriting lost fiction is like buying a new copy of a DVD that won't play any more. You've already spent money on it once (or more, if you owned it on VHS first), and you feel like you shouldn't have to again. Once that revision was lost it was hard for me to want to get back to that story. I felt like I'd already done the work.

But of course I hadn't.

Months later, I have finally taken another crack at revising that piece. And while I did occasionally have the frustrating sensation of knowing I'd already written and lost the perfect new scene, overall I'm glad I didn't have access to that miserable draft.

This week's revision is by no means brilliant, but it's better that what I wrote last year, and it's better than what I would have written from that lost draft. However, the real accomplishment is that I feel better now about the theft of Lappy, and the data he contained. I wonder if this is the feeling they call "closure."

I know now that I can rebuild the lost fiction. Better. Faster. Stronger.

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