Tuesday, 1 April 2008

What if...


When I first started writing, I painstakingly wrote in neat long hand. I would only use pencil so I could make corrections without spoiling the appearance of my writing. When I was satisfied, I typed it up. I always kept a hard copy of everything I wrote, just in case my computer failed.
Gradually as my confidence in my writing grew, I became less dependent on my rituals. Now I find I can "create" in long hand or on the keyboard with equal facility. I prefer the keyboard as my typing is faster (and neater) than my handwriting. Despite the increased speed, I still tend to produce about 2,000 words in a day. More than that seems to exhaust my brain!
I no longer feel compelled to print out everything I write. This has probably saved a small forest. It has also saved on print cartridges, not to mention the time I (still) spend shredding discarded versions of my MS.
There is still one ritual... I weaned myself off the hard copies by using a memory stick. One day someone warned me that these are not 100% reliable. My work is now saved on not one, not two, not three, but four memory sticks. Neurotic or logical? If one m/stick could fail, why not the second? The odds must be the same each time... Are four enough? I know it's bonkers, but what if I used only one memory stick and it failed just as my computer died on me? After all, without my "What if" imagination, would I be writing crime fiction in the first place?
ps
It is not true that I spend longer saving my work than writing it.

56 comments:

Bill Clark said...

Since memory sticks/flash drives/whatever take so little time to save one's priceless creations, I can well believe that you indeed do not spend more time backing up than writing.

And cheap? (Yank for inexpensive) You bet. (Yank for spot on) Radio Shack (nationwide Yank electronics chain store) sells 2GB flash drives for 20 bucks (Yank for ten quid). At that price how can you not afford to buy a whole slew of them?

However, I have not heard that they are all that susceptible to failure. Of course, all hard drives (of which I suppose these are a variant) do fail sooner or later, but usually not within the lifespan of a computer that will no doubt be replaced by a newer, faster, fancier model within 3-5 years. My only failures were on computers that were at least a decade beyond their normal lifespan, not to mention the fact that I left the window open a crack and the bloody rain came in sideways during a Nor'easter and drenched the poor things.

I'd be interested in knowing of documented cases of memory stick failures that didn't include water, tea, scotch, or bubblegum. To use four seems more than ample, although if one has four, why not go up to seven and have one for each day of the week?

If you do this, the first one to fail will undoutedly be the Friday stick, as Chaucer so convincingly demonstrated in the Nun's Priest's Tale - "And on a Friday fil al this meschaunce," etc. BTW, we should all pause and give a brief word of thanks for the life and works of good old Geoffrey, whose simple tale of a cock and a fox took place on this very day way back in the 1370s - you can tell from the internal evidence that the story is dated March 32 - perhaps the earliest April Fool's joke in literature. Geoffrey rocks!!

gilly said...

hiya thanks for visiting my blog im gonna have a proper look at yours tomorrow it looks interesting, very, i have m.e. and get weary so im off for a rest bye.

Leigh Russell said...

BILL - Oh no! water, tea, scotch or bubblegum - there go my four! I'd better get another one forthwith (not really in common parlance, but it sounds so great when you try to say it quickly). If we both kidded each another about words that are in common usage on our own side of the pond, do you think we could alter the language as she is spoke? - ripples across the pond - On reflection, is that ever so slightly inflating our individual influence? What am talking about? I can't even understand myself tonight! This is hardly going to encourage you to buy my book when it comes out... moving swiftly on..

I do actually have a story of a computer that sadly died. I won't say more... It was my daughter's computer that I was using at the time... She still doesn't know the whole story... (I instantly revert to a child again - "It wasn't my fault")

GILLY - sorry hear about your m.e. You're not excused from keeping in touch, now I've found you!

gilly said...

thanks i,ll be there .

Elizabeth Platt said...

Actually, I think you're very wise to save all your stuff several times over. I know of one writer, a very successful one, whose computer died on her along with both of her memory sticks all in one afternoon. She has gone back to printing all of her stuff off and taking it with her, just to be on the safe side. I'm not quite that bad, but I do have an external hard drive and a memory stick that I take with me most of everywhere.

Mima said...

Leigh, I think it is about what you feel comfortable with, as long as you are happy then I think that however many times you back up is ok!

Debs said...

I hadnt heard that memory sticks were unreliable. I save to disks and also to two memory disks. I also write on a laptop - in the shed with no internet connection and therefore no interruptions - and then save to the computer in the house too.

Sounds like I'm pretty paranoid about losing work now that I've read back what I've just written.

Leigh Russell said...

A computer and two memory sticks failed in one fell swoop? It reminds me of Macduff when he hears his wife and children were all killed - well, not quite so traumatic - but even so! How terrible!

BernardL said...

Anything supplying peace of mind over lost work is invaluable. I date and save WIP files on CD's and DVD's, and other computers. I'm a fanatic on saving... and a little nuts. :)

Bill Clark said...

is that ever so slightly inflating our individual influence?

Impossible! Our influence in the blogosphere cannot be overrated. Particularly when we sprinkle our posts with Chaucerian gems - talk about altering the language as she is spoke! If it weren't for Geoffrey, we'd all be speaking some barbaric Northern gibberish instead of the gentle, civiliz/sed West Midlands dialect that he made into the gold standard of modern English.

'Ray for Geoffrey! 'Ray for us! Preservers and embellishers of the language as she is spoke!

*Bill and Leigh clasp hands across the Atlantic and take a deep bow*

Leigh Russell said...

BERNARDL - you're so right. Can't try too hard for peace of mind. I don't think that's nuts at all. Nuts is what happens to you when you don't save stuff fanatically enough...

BILL - amusing as ever. Glad to hear you don't think we're all degenerating into barbarians. I wonder...

Charles Gramlich said...

I have files backed up on two computers, a memory stick, and a dvd.

Leigh Russell said...

I don't know why, but I'm finding it fascinating learning how many backups other people keep of their work. Perhaps I thought I was the only person who kept more than one. It's reassuring to discover that I am, actually, quite normal. Unless, of course, everyone who visits my blog is weird...
(cue spooky music... ooOOoo ooOOoo)

Monique said...

You are so right. Not neurotic at all. I'm writing on a very old computer and DC (husband) now wants me to have an ibook so that I can be connected as well as he. What did I find? Huge problems. Nothing works on that old computer anymore and I have to type everything on this computer first before transferring to the ibook. So Leigh, the more memory sticks you have, the better. They are pretty cheap after all.

Bernita said...

Pays to be paranoid.
I'm lucky right now if I manage 200 words a day.
Thank you for stopping by my blog.

Akasha Savage said...

I always back up my MS on my laptop, my computer, my memory stick and also print out two copies; one I keep at my house, the other I give to my mum for safe keeping. I heard of someone once who lost everything in a house fire!
Just how paranoid can we writers get?
:)

Leigh Russell said...

Hi AKASHA - I used to keep a hard copy of everything but I have a few MS on the go and I change them so often - tinkering with a word here, a sentence there - that I began to suspect I was single handedly laying waste to a forest - not to mention the £££ I was spending on ink cartridges and the time spent shredding discarded drafts. Now I save electronically and only print if I want to check a hard copy.

spyscribbler said...

You know, I need to do that! More saving would definitely be good. Did I ever tell you about the summer where three computers (where each computer was backed up on every other), and all three went down at the same time?

I lost six years of business stuff. It sucked! I think my writing was safe, though, but I need to back it up more.

spyscribbler said...

(By the way, a flash drive will survive the washing machine!)

kmfrontain said...

I use both a memory stick and DVDs. A memory stick fails less often if you tell it to turn off before pulling it out of the port. There's a function in Windows for this. Most of the fails I've heard of happened because the user didn't know the stick was still communicating with the port.

Leigh Russell said...

Hi KMFRONTAIN - I always click on the 'safe to remove' icon before I take my memory stick out. I've been told by someone who ought to know that it's not necessary to do so, but I always do.

SPYSCRIBBLER - I'll take your word for the washing machine. That's quite amazing. I take it you speak from experience!

Lesley Cookman said...

Hi Leigh - I know we've bumped into one another in blogland before - but you left a comment on my last post calling me Judy! Just thought I'd let you know I'm Lesley...

iMac G5, flashdrive and iBook G4. If everything fails - ah well. I can't get any more paranoid about it, too much else to worry about! Like organising this year's Crime Writers' Association conference at the end of the month...

Leigh Russell said...

Sorry Leslie. I was reading about Judy on your blog and had that name in my head. Not enough room in there for two names, clearly!

Leigh Russell said...

And now I see I've spelled your name wrongly, Lesley... sorry!

Lesley Cookman said...

Handsomely done, Leigh!

Must get around to doing a new blog post myself.

Lesley

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Anything can fail; that's the hard reality. The question is how likely is it to fail -- and that's the one thing no one can answer.

The Tour Manager and I watched our hard drive melt or something a few weeks ago. One second it was fine, the next, the computer refused to see it. Wild. And he works in computers for a living.

Bruno LoGreco said...

How about backing up to a CD? 750MB - Create a CD Library and you are good to go - Or are you? What if there is a fire, then what? You might want to consider storing off-site (away from your home) maybe a company like Blue Mountain for ultimate protection of your work.

:)

The Wisdom of Wislon said...

Hi there,

Better to be safe than sorry when dealing with your work :>)

I've read that saving on CD/ DVDs is good too:>)

Eryl Shields said...

I don't save anything! I still write in longhand as I hate typing, so I have a paper mountain. Once something is on the computer that's where it stays, but now I'm thinking perhaps I'm being a little foolhardy and may, right now, save all my files onto DVDs or/and a memory stick.

Actually, I'm wondering if there is such a thing as internet storage, I'll ask my son who knows these things.

Sleepy said...

Good to see you back!

fizzycat said...

Thanks for comments. We rear the taddies up the good size tadpole level, then place them in pond at first feeding them so there is no sibling cannibalism. Its answered better on the blog really, we do our best to keep them going but certain animals are heavily under suspicion for removing froglets at intervals. One made it last year from a beginning of around 6 tadpoles.

gilly said...

hiya i cant wait for cut short to come out just my kind of book.
safe scary i call them..cos you can sit in the chair being scared witless but know in reality you are safe.
bye.

Bill Clark said...

Backup upback...er, make that update.

1) Yes, you should always dismount the flash drive/memory stick before removing it from the computer and putting it in the washing machine. On Macs you do this by dragging its icon to the trash; you then usually see a message telling you it's safe to remove your portable drive.

2) Latest Radio Shack price is $30 (15 quid) for a 4GB drive - the price is coming down!

3) As the proud possessor of a brand-new MacBook, I splurged and got a 120GB portable USB-powered hard drive - it's about the size of an skinny, elongated playing card and less than half an inch thick. Fits right in the old shirt pocket. $100 plus tax. Apple's new Time Machine immediately took over the first time I connected the drive, asked if I wanted to back up, and made me click on "yes" - the *only* work I had to do. In less than an hour it was all done. Future backups will only entail new or modified files, and will be much quicker. Talk about painless!

I would probably not have done this without the encouragement of your post and the comments. To come to the point - and yes, I do have one - THANKS!!!

Bruno LoGreco said...

I love my Mac. I could never ever go back to PC world.

Casdok said...

Glad you have saved a forest!!
Thank you for your comment! How exciting!!

polona said...

gosh, and i still haven't backed up my photos since november...

hey, thanks for letting me discover you :)

The Lehners in France said...

Hi CF, you popped in to me, so I popped in to you. I'm not a writer, don't read much, but like to write silly poems and spend most of my time with my animals. Switch off now "tout le monde" I did read a couple of Ian Rankin books last year, left by visitors and thought they were great. I also read the chrysalids by John Wyndham and enjoyed that apart from all of the religious Stuff. I can write my name backwards and forwards with both hands. So what's strange about that?

CrazyCath said...

Hi Leigh! Thanks for visiting my blog! I am what I call a "frustrated write" - I love writing but never seem to get the time and haven't the confidence to think I might even get published! I also love crime fiction, so I am waiting for your book to come out!

I'll have a proper read of your blog later, but just got this post for now. I only have one memory stick. I didn't know they could fail! I think I'll buy another tomorrow...

ChainingMagic said...

Very interesting blog!

Jeni said...

Thanks for visiting at my place and your comments about my granddaughter. I tend to agree with your assessment but people also then think I am biased. Ok, I am! So sue me!
Congrats on your book too! Hope it goes on to become a best seller for you!

Jeni said...

Thanks for visiting at my place and your comments about my granddaughter. I tend to agree with your assessment but people also then think I am biased. Ok, I am! So sue me!
Congrats on your book too! Hope it goes on to become a best seller for you!

Leigh Russell said...

SUSAN HELENE GOTTFRIED - (I hope I've spelled that correctly) - a melting hard drive sounds nasty. As for your comment anything can fail - that's scary! I think that's why I enjoy fiction. Like GILLY says, it's "safe scary".

BRUNO - CDs. Hmm. That's where it all gets a bit technical for me...

WISDOM - bamboozling me with technical knowhow again. I must investigate this. Then I can worry about the computer AND the memory sticks (all 4 of them) AND the CD failing...

ERYL - internet storage sounds like a good idea. A virtual version of left luggage lockers at a mainline station?

SLEEPY - hi, blogbuddy.

FIZZY - sibling cannibalism, one in six survival rate... makes my crime fiction seem very tame!

GILLY - safe scary is exactly right. When my children were little, and played goodies & baddies, my youngest did not want to be a baddy, but was scared to be a goody in case the baddies got her. So she became a "good baddy". I think, on balance, I'm probably a "bad goody"...

BILL -
1) I just have a small icon which brings up a message "safe to remove hardware"
2) 4 GB?? I recently bought a cheap memory stick for £8. It was 1 GB but I've been told text takes very little space to store.
3) Now you're just showing off!

BRUNO - People with macs always say they're the best. I use an umbrella.

CASDOK - Thanks for commenting. I must admit, I still recycle and shred sackloads of paper. I'm not sure how!

POLONA - photos are irreplaceable.

LEHNERS - I like Rankin. I studied the Crysallids at school. It's an amazing book, and ahead of its time. As for the writing - sdrawkcab epyt nac I... (I cheated - I wrote it out forwards first & copied it.)

CRAZYCATH - not so crazy?

CHAININGMAGIC - Thank you

JENI - Thank you. Thank you.

gilly said...

hiya everyone "safe scary".?
the goodies and baddies is so very true..
you cant win with either really, but we were brought up to believe good triumphs over evil so...
our only hope is to choose good everytime.
bye..

Sweet Irene said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving such kind comments. I thought the only decent thing to do was to stop by yours and bookmark your page so I can visit you every day. Ciao...

ChristineEldin said...

LOL!!!
I'm afraid of those memory sticks. They look too much like candy or cigarettes.
I back mine up on email. But maybe I should have two email accounts?
:-)

Leigh Russell said...

CHRISTINEELDIN - What sort of candy cigarettes did you used to eat??? And forgive my asking, but are you the Church Lady I haven't been able to find?

Babaloo said...

You're scaring me now, Leigh. I never even considered that my memory stick could just die on me. Although I should know better, really. Everything will fail sooner or later. But I already have two external hard drives with my photos backed up. Is that enough? I sure hope so.

Thanks for popping by my blog, by the way! I'm now exploring yours. And I'd love to see these purple boots...

San said...

Delightful post. I believe that compulsiveness has served you well, my dear. You entertain the possibilities of ruination and shore up remedies. Attention to detail--a necessity for a writer I would think.

Leigh Russell said...

Thank you, San. I never saw myself in quite such a positive light! It's lovely to have a visitor who's wearing purple. On that basis, I'm sure we'll be great blog buddies. (Trivial? Moi?)

Leigh Russell said...

I just discovered my name listed on Euro Crime, which looks like an interesting blog.

Bill Clark said...

Happy Sunday, Leigh!

I replied to your latest over on my blog. And then I found the most delicious post by Malicious Intent and cribbed it in toto. So my fortnight of holiday is over, it seems.

Nick Ryan said...

Saw your comment over at my blog, and popped here to have a butchers. Well, you get a lot of comments certainly, can't be bad!

If your publisher has a press release or you have any info about your book, do send it (when launched?). And yes, interesting to see the trials and tribulations of a fellow scribe :-)

The Wisdom of Wislon said...

back again, how's the scribblings?

Leigh Russell said...

Thank you, NICK.

Hello WISDOM. Scribblings have become a bit tired lately... I've nearly completed Book 2 but I've somehow lost my frantic "must write 2,000 words a day" drive. I'm tinkering with Book 2 but will work on it again seriously over the summer.

I've been working on another idea, about a private investigator this time. I think I work best with a few ideas on the go - flitting about between MSs.

Strangely, I'm not worried that I've slowed down. I know I'll get going again in a while but in the meantime, I'm feeling rather switched off. Which means, of course, I have no excuse for not blogging more... but life gets in the way sometimes, doesn't it? and I have been doing some (long overdue) clearing out at home... and overeating, which always makes me feel sluggish (oh the excuses! Now here's a topic I could write about indefinitely... procrastinators unite!)

Bill Clark said...

procrastinators unite!

Great idea! Are you free tomorrow? Or the next day? Or the next day...

Mima said...

Thanks for popping over to my blog - where have you gone to - are you hiding? I hope that all is going well with you - just read the last few comments so I know that there is nothing seriously wrong! Take care.