Do you consult experts about your stories? Do you backup your work?
Always ask experts: they like to be asked for advice, they will know things that might spark off ideas, and it’s always good to chat to people. But be prepared for the ‘oh no, that could never happen’ response. I gave my murder mystery to my mother to read. She used to be a pharmacist. (Beware: spoiler alert!) Although she liked the story, she said, ‘Oh no, they’re red, not white, and they’re not tasteless. And they wouldn’t have had access to those drugs. That could never happen like that.’ My entire, beautiful, complex plot: disintegrated with a few words from an expert.
Apart from that disaster, I’ve had good news. Two stories accepted: one by an online magazine, and one for an anthology. It was a tremendous boost to get an email saying ‘we thought your story was fantastic’. It helped: it blew me out of the doldrums and, with a wind filling my sails, I had the inspiration to return to a novel that has been stuck solid. I was flying along with it.
But then – another disaster! I wrote a scene, I had to cross reference something back to another scene, so I searched for that and it was – gone! Disappeared! I knew I’d written it. An hour of searching and I couldn’t find it. The problem was I couldn’t think of a single word, in that scene, that wasn’t in some other scene, so text searching was throwing up too many ‘false positives’. In the end, I remembered that I had sent the novel to my Kindle. I scanned through it, and found the missing scene. It gave me some words to search for. And I found the scene.
That was good news. The bad news was: I realised what I’d done. Months ago, I’d created a backup copy of the novel. Then I’d continued writing for a few more scenes – on the backup copy! So when I restarted work, on the current copy … well, you can imagine the confusion. Changes in one version, changes in the other, a tangle.
In the end, I used a tool, ‘Beyond Compare’, to find out the differences, and work out what I’d done, and copy the changes from the backup copy into the current copy. There may be tiny edits that have got lost along the way, but most of my work has been recovered.
The moral is, do backup your work. Take regular copies and put them into a backup folder, with dates. Use a ‘cloud’ archive service like Dropbox or Google Drive to archive your computer. But be very very careful to only work on the current copy!