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How to delete an entire novel in two seconds

July 13th, 2011 · No Comments · Blog, Writing

It’s conventional wisdom that at least one thing will go wrong on your wedding day. The key to the day is how well you ride that out. (And what it is. If the bride doesn’t show, that’s a hard one to overcome.) Our wedding went off smooth. Everyone arrived on time, no one passed out during the ceremony, the DJ was great, we busted some moves (clunky, white people moves, but moves) on the dance floor, and we had such a great time we actually were among the very few remaining when the reception ended. Good times.

Our glitch was still out there, lurking (though it probably hadn’t technically glitched yet). It didn’t surface until a couple of weeks later, after we got back from our honeymoon, when our humbled and apologetic photographer informed us he had lost some of our pictures. “Some” turned out to be almost everything from the end of the ceremony to the formal start of the reception, meaning all but about three of the posed family shots in the church, the ones of us getting into the limo, and others of me and my wife in the flower garden outside the reception hall.

It was the early days of digital, and our photographer had made a crucial error copying the photos from the memory card to the computer. Assuming they had all copied over okay, he wiped the card clean for re-use on his next shoot. They hadn’t. He hired an expert to try to retrieve them. They couldn’t. Those pictures were lost forever.

We contemplated, very briefly, attempting to restage them, but it wouldn’t have been the same. First off, most of my groomsmen had come from out of town. Second, we would always have known. Every time we looked at the phony wedding shots, we’d be reminded of the reenactment and not the wedding. So we tried to forgive him and moved on. It was an honest, if completely asinine, mistake. I won’t mention his name, but it rhymes with Chug Dannin, and it comes up from time to time when my wife and I talk about wedding photos, which we still occasionally do even nearly seven years later.

Last night I pulled a Chug Dannin.

On my new novel.

I’d finally finished the first draft, all 96,200 words of it, and was copying it from one computer to another via thumb drive. It’s so routine that I don’t even need to look at the screen anymore. Do you want to replace this old file with this new file? Yeah, of course. Wham. Bam. Done.

Only when I go to open the file on my new computer, it’s a blank document. Zero freakin’ KB. What the hell? I pop the thumb drive back in. Zero freakin’ KB. What? The? Fuck? Lots of things are running through my head about now. None of them good. Some of them involve crying for a couple days or throwing myself in front of a bullet train.

Fortunately, unlike Chug Dannin, I hadn’t wiped out my original source, the other computer, where the intact file yet existed, all 649 KB worth. Hang up the phone to the suicide hotline. Crisis averted.

I berated myself for a bit anyway for having committed not one, but two terribly careless errors. First, I hadn’t checked the thumb drive after moving the file to confirm it was all there. Second, I had wiped out a good, albeit it slightly older version, with the bad document, without noticing the size of the replacement file was 0 KB. Inexcusable. I don’t forgive myself. But I’m relieved to have gotten away with it.

Lesson learned. At least until the next time I do something stupid.

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