Thursday, May 24, 2012

You'll Never Write the Same Way Twice

The last post talked about cutting your words for content, but what if you had to re-create your words out of nothing?  What if you spent hours and hours on getting the paragraph just right, only to find that you had to start all over again with just your notes to guide you?

Some people will laugh at this absurd scenario.  Meanwhile, back in the real world, the rest of us are well aware of the ultimate nightmare - you've lost your work and have no backup.  All the magic you've created has vanished.
Admittedly, this was a much bigger problem in the days before auto-recover.  It used to be that you had to be diligent in saving your work, page by page, because if that dreaded power outage came and you hadn't backed your stuff up in a while, you were out of luck.  However, that doesn't mean it can't still happen.

This usually occurs when you back your stuff up on a CD or thumb drive, and the data becomes corrupted(plus, like a moron, you backed it up in only one place).  Has this ever happened to me?  Um, of course not...what would give you that idea?  No, no, no, I'm very meticulous and such an amateurish thing could never happen to a brilliant mind like mine...ok, so it could.  What's it to you?

The point is that we've all lost things.  What I've discovered through the years is that in trying to re-create it, I've never written things the same way twice.  I may have my notes and known the general direction I wanted to go, but I never quite recapture the magic I had before.  Words will change, descriptions will be different, and even dialogue won't remain constant.  The longer and more detailed the piece, the less like the original your new creation will appear.
I've mentioned my first attempt at a novel a few times before, but what I've never said is that I re-wrote the intro to that awful piece of garbage several times.  My first attempt was in my sophomore year of college, on a notepad.  That original masterpiece fell by the wayside somewhere, so I wrote it all over again.  A few years later, when that intro was lost within the dungeon of unpacked boxes at my first apartment, I re-wrote it yet again.  I probably did this half a dozen times, and although the basic plot stayed constant, the intro was never the same.  Even the one page prologue - one page, people! - changed from version to version,  Sometimes it improved, and sometimes it didn't, but it amazed me how things that were constant in my head morphed when I tried to put them on paper.

Never rely on memory to hold your writing in a "forever format."  Even when you are within minutes of the action, as I usually am when I'm expounding on a point on Facebook and I lose my connection, you don't get it the way you once had it.  This can be liberating at times, but it's mostly just annoying.  When I can't rely on auto-save, I've taken to copying and pasting key points I want to make into a blank Word document so I can put them back down later if the need arises.  And when I finish a story, I save it multiple places - my home computer, my work computer, my home email address under saved files, etc.

Remember, it's much easier to edit and improve on work you already have than it is to start from scratch and try to get the magic back.  Sometimes you're successful, but most of the time you're just retaking the same ground.  As General Patton once said, "I don't like to pay for the same real estate twice."  And if you lose your work, you won't just pay for it twice; you'll pay for a different piece of land altogether.  Little is as frustrating to a writer, and don't we have enough frustrations already?


  1. Oh I really need to do this!! I'm really bad with saving and would be devastated if I lost my work like that. I handwrote my first novel and it's something I'm so protective of because I am so worried I will lose it. So far it's saved in one place on a not doing so well computer. Yes I'm living dangerously. ;)

    1. I learned that lesson the hard way...more than once. :-P