The date was January 4th, and the year was 2017. Yes, this happened yesterday. I have spent most of the new year working on a new story. Three full days, to be exact. I had just finished the first draft, and I was very happy with the way that it had turned out. I was about halfway through rereading it, highlighting portions that I wanted to consider changing, and thoroughly enjoying the feeling of accomplishment. Three full days of writing, and I was proud of the results.
Then, quite suddenly and to my extreme horror, the entire document turned into asterisks. No more words, no more story, just page after page of endless asterisks. I quickly saved the document (turns out this was a bad idea, but it was reflex, habit). I closed the program and reopened it. All asterisks. My heart had dropped into my stomach as i search for solutions to the problem. It turns out that this particular bug has struck before, and I quickly learned that the only true way to recover my work (because I do not auto back-up my computer with Time-Machine) was to download a file recovery software and dig for the old version of the document.
Fortunately for me, I have my computer auto-save a copy of my work every minute instead of the standard 10 minutes. These auto-saved copies get deleted with each new manual or auto-save. But still, it allowed me to run the disk recovery, find thousands upon thousands of deleted files, navigate to the .docx and .doc files, search through hundreds of them until finally finding the version which was saved just before the asterisk invasion. So after a few hours lost, and a fair amount of stress, I was able to recover EVERYTHING!
Not everyone is so lucky. Here are some things that I plan to consider (and you can too!) for protecting my work from technology related catastrophes:
- Use an automatic back up (such as the Time-Machine software which I already have and stupidly chose not to use) to avoid having to dig through hundreds of deleted files again.
- Keep the disk recovery tool on my computer, just in case. It saved my ass, so I suppose it has earned the right to stick around. (I used Disk Drill as it is compatible for Mac and Windows, and is incredibly easy to use.)
- Regularly replicate writing files to an external source, flash drive, external hard drive, Drop Box, anything that you can access from another computer in the event of catastrophic failure (Maybe someone ran over your computer with their car, for instance…)
- Set the word processor to auto-save every minute. This is easy, you just go to Word–>Options/Preferences (depends if you use a Mac or PC)–>Save then make sure the autosave is enabled and adjust to every 1 minutes.
- Set the word processor to AUTOMATICALLY SEARCH FOR UPDATES. I didn’t know this, but if I had installed all the updates, the asterisk bug was fixed a long time ago, but I never updated my word processor. Of course I didn’t know that any such thing as an asterisk bug existed. Moral of the story, dear children, is that: what you don’t know CAN hurt you. To make sure your word processor auto-updates, click Help–>Check for Updates and then adjust your settings as desired.
I really hope this helps somebody avoid some pain and suffering.
Who else has had computer problems ruin their writing projects?