Sunday, 15 February 2015

Of Writing Books And Vicissitude

English: Image of a Viking Modular SATA SSD in...
An SSD in the wild.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have a new computer. It has a 4k screen and is basically very cool indeed. And then out of nowhere the other day that lavish and exquisitely detailed screen went green and the machine died and refused point blank to subsequently undie. It said it didn't have a boot device. The BIOS wasn't seeing the SSD - the solid state hard disk. This, in case you haven't realised by now, is really not very good news at all.

I sat staring at it, screaming inside. My book was on that thing. My novel. The new one. The one I've been fighting so hard to finish.

I have been writing A Simple Irish Farmer for a year now. That's not strictly true, I've had long breaks when I haven't been able to bring myself to face it, struggles with Mr Dunning and Mr Kruger and then (much shorter) runs of correcting what it was that was subliminally bothering me and getting back to work again. And then hitting another brick wall.

People often ask me about writer's block and I've always tried to be helpful but never really suffered myself. Now I'm an expert.

Why this book? Maybe because it's not a Middle Eastern book, maybe because I'm much more aware of what I'm doing as I work now. Maybe because there have been a number of changes taking place around me. And maybe because I'm setting myself a higher standard. There have been other factors, not least of which is everyone's insistence on telling me that there's no demand for books set in Ireland. Apparently the only place in the world that's nearly as unpopular as the Middle East among publishers and editors is Northern Ireland.

'Write a book set in Tuscany,' a best-selling friend told me. 'They holiday there. They understand Tuscany.'

I had another major knock-back when I interviewed a former IRA member last summer, realising that the aim I'd had for the book wasn't really coming through. I'm happier now, but the realisation hit me for a several weeks and had me unable to pick up my keyboard and set to. I'd tinker like an overfed cat playing with a dead gecko. For the last couple of months, though, it's been good. I know where the ending's going, my characters are dancing in spirited unison and a couple of hard edits have exposed the issues and corrected things.

I've been so busy, in fact, that I hadn't made the time to do something I do obsessively with my WIP manuscripts. I hadn't emailed it to myself - my version of making a backup - since the first week of December, in fact. I usually do that every couple of days when I'm working.

Three months' work, about 16,000 words and a lot of editing - on screen and by hand. At least two full edits of the 60,000 word MS. All gone.

I sent the machine off to be repaired and to have the data recovered. And found out that's the bugger with SSD's - when they go wrong, they go very wrong indeed. It's not unusual to see an SSD drive 'brick' and take your data with it. All of it. And that's what mine has done.

I started work again today. It all feels very Sysiphean, tell the truth. But if I do one thing, I'm going to finish this damn book if it kills me. Which, on current showing at least, it may well do.


Dave Edwards said...

Bugger me - I must say I feel for you. I'll buy the book, wherever it's set.

Rupert Neil Bumfrey said...

deepest sympathy on your loss :-(

Grumpy Goat said...

Have you been struggling personally with Messrs Dunning and Kruger, or with people about whom the said gentlemen published their study?

If your life is anything like mine, I suspect the latter.

Grumpy Goat said...

As far as lost data is concerned, I have two, no, three... Among the things I have to say include:
"Been there; done that. You have my sympathies."
"Joy of backups. But you know this."

Devina Divecha said...

OMG I am so, so sorry to hear about this. I can't even begin to imagine how you're feeling. Good luck with the project!

MarkD said...

This kind of a problem could well soon be solved forever with various implementations of a decentralised internet. You rent out capacity of all/some of your harddrive in return for chopping up, encrypting and scattering a given number of copies of your data on other people's harddrives. no need to back up, no prying eyes, no central power (= no password recovery), no terms and conditions.

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