The last ten days have been, frankly, mental. No need to bore you with little details. You’ve heard about the massive Japanese quake (any of you who follow me on Facebook know I was in the gym at the time and it seemed like the place was coming down – oops, detail!). You’ve seen so much video of the tsunami wiping out towns you’re probably desensitised to it. You know about the nuclear reactors and the expats fleeing Tokyo. You probably even know about the sudden absence of almost everything worth buying from the supermarket shelves. Yup, it’s been nuts. We’re still getting quakes every day and the reactors are still threatening to nuke us all. But overall, I’ve been fine. At least the gym was open.
That said, the Fates waited until today to kick me straight in the jewels. The worst thing that has happened to me personally (and I apologise if it seems trivial against the background of all this suffering and calamity) is that, about an hour and a half ago, my beloved computer absolutely betrayed me. I just lost my latest short story… and it was due for submission tomorrow.
When I say lost, I mean lost. There’s nothing to recover. All the work I had done – and it was a lot – vanished in the blink of an eye because, for some bullshit computery reason, my word-processing software stopped responding just as I was about to begin the second last paragraph of the whole story. Yup, you read that right. The second last paragraph!
The cartoon expresses exactly how I feel right now. Kudos to the artist for capturing my mood – if you want credit, dude, identify yourself via my contact page and I’ll be happy to give it. I’m a tornado of rage and despair. If my gym membership included Sundays, I’d go purge, but it doesn’t, so I can’t. Instead, I’m going to curl up into a ball and make noises like a frightened dog.
Or maybe I’ll just keep venting via the blog.
Black Library readers will no doubt be aware that a similar, much worse, thing happened to Dan Abnett once. A story of legend. It was during the writing of Honour Guard (one of my favourite Dan books, incidentally) that it occurred. Basically, thanks to his computer being a complete c… er… bugger, he lost the whole frikkin’ book. Gyaaargh!
Dan has already advised me to dust myself off and get straight back on the horse. It’s the only thing to do. For his part, he says the second writing of Honour Guard made it a much, much better book. It is brilliant, so I’m inclined to believe him. Here’s hoping the same happens with Survivor (provisional title, folks), though you’ll forgive my pessimistic skepticism just this once.
As of tomorrow morning, I start all over again. At least I still have my scene sheets. It sucks ass in a major way, but I’ve learned my lesson. Thus, the title of this post; Rule Number One.
See, there are loads of websites out there with guidance for writers. Lots of successful authors have compiled their little list of tips and whatnot. I love those lists. They sometimes help me get through writer’s block by reducing everything to the basics, by keeping it simple. But there’s a rule missing, I reckon, and it’s important. Extremely important, in fact. What is it? This:
Do not trust your computer!
That’s it. Don’t trust it. I know it works most of the time. It makes your life easier. You play games on it. You watch movies on it. You love it. I love mine, too, despite everything. But I won’t trust it to be safe and predictable ever again. Just tap an accidental key or two at the wrong time and BLAM! Back to square one!
If you’re a writer, or aspiring writer, the first thing you should do next time you switch on your machine is this:
Make sure your software is set up to save very regularly to a backup folder.
Seriously. I now know first-hand just how utterly shitty this situation can be, and I wouldn’t want it to happen to you, too!
Finally, a big thanks to all of you who wrote mails and messages to see if I was okay after the disasters. It surprised me a little, but it meant a lot. Thanks!