Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I Was So Angry ...

I hate my computer! If I could figure out how to put a little picture on my blog entries I’d show one on fire. Or being smashed with a crowbar. I have had to re-write a novel from the start. It is due in a few months and is moving as if it had aircraft carrier-size anchors attached to both ankles. But it is moving. I had a particular struggle with a crucial scene in which there was a physical struggle, a half-accidental death, followed by the arrival of suspicious police – and there were nine people in all, and each had to be described and quoted. Complicated! But I did it, I had it all done. I wrote the next two chapters and was outlining the one after that. The way I’ve been doing this book is to keep writing forward, and now and then go back to tweak or polish a previous chapter. Day before yesterday I went to look at that perfect chapter one more time, gloat over it – and it was gone. It had somehow been replaced by the succeeding chapter, though the succeeding chapter was also in its correct place in the file. My webmistress and dearest friend and companion sat at the keyboard and struggled for hours to find it, but it’s gone, wiped out, vanished. I was sick with anger and disappointment, could not bring myself to even sit at the computer until late yesterday evening. And I found, to my horror, that I can’t recall big hunks of the missing chapter. Normally, when I have to re-create something, the original is all there somewhere in my head. It’s as if I memorized it. It’s infuriating work, writing something that was already written and polished and reworked and tweaked into perfection, but I can do it. That isn’t the case this time. It’s as gone as if I’d never written it in the first place. Well, not completely; the first scene just rolled out effortlessly. Then the screen of my mind went dark. All I can think to do is go to the end of what I’ve written and work forward from there and trust this important chapter will slowly come back to me.

This is why authors go mad.

That was written this past Saturday and I’m feeling much better now. But here’s another reason authors go mad: At the Sisters in Crime meeting Tuesday evening (it’s Tuesday night as I write this) the speaker was a homicide investigator with the BCA (Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Minnesota’s state-wide investigation arm). I had used BCA in the book coming out this winter, saying they helped investigate a very suspicious burglary in Excelsior. I couldn't seem to connect with anyone at BCA when I was writing that part, and even their web site wasn’t very helpful, and I didn’t know where else to look, so I just made it up – and I was wrong. First of all, the investigative team would be from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, not BCA. Second, they no longer have that little white van but a huge motor home they got from a big drug bust. It even has a name, Higgins, after a former head of BCA. That would have been a cute, telling detail – except I wouldn’t have used BCA at all if I’d done my research properly. I am SO BUMMED about this, I should have been more persistent. I HATE getting details wrong, because it annoys me when I’m reading another author and he or she drops a clanger like this. It spoils suspension of disbelief for me, as this will for a knowledgeable reader. And it’s too late to fix it, I’ve even finished with the galleys. I didn’t get to hear the BCA investigator's talk, but I caught the man, who is Eugene A. Leatherman, Jr., Senior Special Agent (isn’t that a great name and title?), outside Once Upon A Crime mystery bookstore and got to talk to him for awhile. He says he’s procrastinating over a novel of his own.

By the way, another person at the meeting was the Dakota County Medical Examiner, a very pretty and petite woman who told me how to kill someone with a double-zero steel Skacel knitting needle – I used that in Sins and Needles. She’s nice.

The reason I didn’t get to hear the talk is that Tuesdays are my evening to deliver injured and/or orphaned wild animals to licensed rehabbers in the area. This is a slow time of year, but there were two squirrels that needed to go to Forest Lake – and the man who met me there to pick them up needed to talk about his son, Josh, who was killed in a truck rollover almost exactly two years ago. The boy was on his way to report to his unit going to Iraq. Nice man, his description of his son made him sound like a very fine young man, so it’s a sad loss.

Plus, it made my computer problem and detail error seem piddling things, hardly worth getting more than annoyed about.

You never, ever know what lies in store.


Monica Ferris said...

Now I feel silly. That problem with the BCA at the burglary scene isn't in Knitting Bones, it's in Thai Die -- which is the novel I'm currently writing! So it's fixable! I am . . . well, I don't know what I am. Confused, maybe. Writing books too close together. Becoming senile. Whatever, the problem is perfectly fixable. Whew!

Camille Minichino said...

I'm not sure this will work, but try this link:

I like to think our common problem is doing so much without a large staff to take care of the logistics of life!

And doesn't it seem we're always doing galleys for book #1, the edits for book #2, and writing the third?

Camille Minichino said...

The link is to an image of a computer on fire. You have to copy and paste as a url to get it.

I'm afraid if I post the image as usual in a blog, I'll bump Monica's whole blog, and then she'll need an image of a burning ME.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Oh, Monica, I feel for you over losing that chapter! I had something like that happen once. Nowadays, every morning I send my entire bookfile to myself via my email system. That way, a copy of it is always on their servers. I have unlimited storage, so that isn't an issue. Peace of mind! I also think it's difficult to manage multiple projects, such as one book in galleys and one in the Word Processor. So don't be hard on yourself!

Monica Ferris said...

Kathryn, I'm going to have to take your advice. Thank you.

And Camille, you are right, we need a huge staff, some to save our work, some to trudge through the reams of research we've collected for just the right nugget, some to massage our shoulders and feet, and yet others to do the housework. Wouldn't it be loverly?

Linda O. Johnston said...

My sympathy and empathy are coming your way! Sure, we can write stuff again, but it's so hard to face losing it. I do try to back things up, but the technology keeps changing.


Deb Baker said...

I've lost work the same way. It's an awful feeling. Now, after each writing session, I send it to a gmail email account (free) where it stays on the server just in case something blows up at home.

Ellen said...

Monica now has a 500 GB external hard drive with automatic backup software, set to save up to 100 versions of each file (if there are that many).

In accounting, that's called an audit trail; in police work, chain of custody. In writing, peace of mind.