Chapter 32 – Writing 404: Page Not Found

In this modern age, writing and reading is moving more and more towards the digital form. The problem is that ones and zeroes aren’t always that reliable.

Picture by Catalina Olavarria
Picture by Catalina Olavarria

Ebooks are popular, the internet is full of writing tips, and authors from all over the world can interact with each other with a few clicks and pushes of buttons. You can write on anything from notepad to dedicated writing software, boost your efficiency with sites like Write or Die and Written Kitten. Cloud services store your works, you can post them online, send them off to competitions or publishers as email attachments. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, WordPress… Easy and convenient, until they’re not.

Storing all my stories and notes on the computer is easy but at times also scary, as it should be. I should take regular backups but I don’t always remember. And memorysticks can fail. Hard drives can break. Dropbox could tilt. So many horror scenarios but at the same time they’re all so rare and “never happens to me” that taking precautions doesn’t always seem that important. But it is. I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard of people losing their work because something happened to their main storage device.

But pen and paper isn’t foolproof either. Notes and papers can get lost, accidentally thrown away, ruined by several means (for example dogs)… I wish I had all my old stories I wrote as a kid but most of them probably don’t exist anymore. Neither does my first computer written stories either though. I can trace back my writing on my computer for years and years, but still, there are pieces missing. And it’s so easy to delete them.

One rule I’ve tried to follow as a writer is that I never delete a story even if I don’t like it afterwards. I can’t understand those who delete their work. Isn’t everything a learning experience? I don’t read a lot of my old stories because they’re just not good, but I still like having them around. If nothing else, I can at least look back and say, “Wow, I’ve improved since then!”

With computers, it’s easy to follow your development. Write the story in file Awesome Story, first edits to Awesome Story edit, second edits to Awesome Story edit2, and so forth. That way you can always check back and see what has changed. Very good if you end up changing a scene that doesn’t feel right in the end; you can easily revert back to the previous version. I know a lot of people like to edit by hand and I’ve done it too, but it’s just not that convenient for these types of changes. Then again, there are a lot of writing/editing moments that aren’t always convenient, so why not?

It’s impossible to avoid using computers as a writer these days. While some publishers still want to receive new manuscripts in paper form, I can’t think of one who would accept a manuscript that has been handwritten. So at some point you need to make your work digital but when that happens, make sure you take care of it.

Notebook
This beautiful notebook is now full of words, yay!

I’ve mentioned before that I love collecting notebooks and journals, but despite this I write shamefully little by hand. But now I’ve made an exception! My inspiration notebook finally paid off and it is no longer empty. In fact, it’s full. From front cover to back cover, it’s filled with the first draft of the sequel for Awoken Dragon. It’s not the complete story because the notebook ran out of pages, but still a major part of it.

It was odd to write by hand. I haven’t written that much by hand in years, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never written a story that long by hand alone. My hand did protest a bit and more often than not my fingers were stained with ink, but it was also fun. Like a little adventure. It was nice to create the words myself instead of just smashing buttons in the keyboard.

But I know what awaits me. Typing every word to the computer. Well, not every word. I did make some errors and mistakes, and decided to change some things afterwards, so I need to clean those up while moving it to the computer. And when I do, I’ll create at least three files and save them in different places.

How many of you handwrite your first drafts? If you write on the computer, do you still print the story out for editing? Or do you do everything digitally? What about backups, how often do you backup and how many different places do you store your works in? Have you ever lost your work due to a hard drive crash or a broken memorystick?

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3 thoughts on “Chapter 32 – Writing 404: Page Not Found

  1. I usually write ideas and short texts, like poetry, by hand. Sometimes I really need to write by hand if I get stuck – putting pen to paper seems to rewire my brain a little differently and get my writing going again. There’s something organic about writing by hand (or doodling until the words come out), so I think my texts flow better when initially handwritten. I also use handwritten notes to revise for the same reason – to look at the text differently.
    I definitely don’t store backups regularly enough, but I try to save files to my Dropbox when writing, so I don’t end up losing anything important. Hasn’t happened yet, and hopefully never will, fingers crossed!

    Like

    • That rewiring thing is interesting. Handwriting does feel different and sometimes it gets me inspired in a new way, but I haven’t thought about it much before. Maybe I should try switching to pen and paper when I next hit a writer’s block, see if that gets me going.

      I’ve edited one story by hand and I liked the reality of it. Using different colored pens for underlining and gathering ideas on post-it notes was almost like a crafts project, and it was a nice change. But for the most part computer is easier for me. I can write faster and do as many revision files as I like. And I’m awful at keeping papers organized.

      Do you revise on the computer and use the handwritten notes to help you, or do you sometimes edit the whole thing on paper before moving it to the computer?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I mostly revise on the computer with handwritten notes, but then work out difficult bits on paper before typing them. Printing out text definitely helps, and I agree that doing some of the work by hand feels like a crafts project – lovely! And I’ve recently discovered the joy of post-its. Now I can’t believe I’ve edited longish works without them!

        Liked by 1 person

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