I have quite literally just finished the latest CSI Eddie Collins novel – his seventh in the series. It has gone well, if a little slowly. It went slowly because I don’t have as much time to donate to writing as I’d like. I work full time, as you know, and we have a (nearly) two-year-old who is, quite literally, a tornado. Before you’ve crawled to where her latest wreck site is, she’s two more wreck sites in front of you. It’s never ending; it was funny to begin with, but now my back, knees, and sense of humour are wearing thin. Only kidding – she’s my angel and makes me laugh and cry every day. Mostly cry.
While writing EC7, as it became known, I diligently backed-up my progress with regular email attachments of the document to date, and saved it in several key places online and on the computer. I’ve been caught out by missing chapters before, you see, and I wasn’t about to be caught out like that again.
Except, I was.
When in my home office, I use a desktop computer, and when out and about I carry a tablet and Bluetooth keyboard. And because I use OneDrive, I know my document will always be safe and synchronised. I don’t need to check that everything is sorted for me, it just is. The last time I used the tablet to write in EC7 was in November 2022 – otherwise I use it for notes and any new writing I might have.
Fast forward to last week when I’d reached the end of EC7, and I noticed that my Chapter Profile (a document in which I keep a summary of each chapter) said I’d written a chapter half way into the book, and another couple of small chapters at the end of the book. Right, so where were they?
They were not on my tablet. They were not on my desktop or on the external hard drive. I hadn’t flipped them over to Google Docs to look after, and they weren’t in any trash bins or in my emails. Shit, where were they?
When I’ve written something, I let it go – it’s written, I don’t need to remember anything more than the basics of what was in that piece of work, and this had happened with the several missing chapters. I could remember what they were about – more or less, but I had no idea what details I’d included. By now, I was frantic, worrying that I’d have to try to write them again. If I had to, I could, but they wouldn’t be anywhere near as good as the first iteration – things like this, replacements, never are. You always long for the first one, always worry that any subsequent effort will be a poor effort. And if you’re like me, you’ll always mourn the missing chapters.
I can still remember losing some chapters in early 90s, and my efforts to retrieve them included driving to Otley at silly o’clock to have a computer expert dismantle my machine. I didn’t get those chapters back and losing them cut really deep. That I can still remember this incident is testament to how much it hurt.
Anyway, I lay awake most of the night fretting over my latest missing work, and this is after searching electronically for the better part of a full day and getting the same files with different names all the time. All I got in return from my stupid brain was Cher singing Gypsys, Tramps, and Thieves. If you’ve now got that tune zipping around your head, I apologise. I considered one last drastic thing: moving OneDrive back to a date shortly after the date I’d written the missing chapters – restoring it. Trouble was, I didn’t know exactly when that was: if I restored to a date too early, the chapters wouldn’t have been written yet, and if I restored to a date too late, they might have already been deleted. Tense time.
I would never just go ahead and press a load of buttons that did something so radical as to turn back the time of my OneDrive – think of all the repercussions! While doing my research, I stumbled across something I’d never heard of before – version history.
Version history is just totally amazing. Each time you save a document; OneDrive creates a new version of it. It is magical. It’s hidden, but it’s magical. Anyway, I found it, and I clicked on documents from November, and I found my missing pieces. I have no idea why they’d disappeared from later versions – unless I’d selected ‘do not sync’ or something. Anyway, I didn’t care, I’d found the missing bits. I read them and I almost wept (okay, I didn’t – but I was bloody happy to see them again); they weren’t the staggeringly great bits of exposition my mind had turned them into, but they were important, and they were serviceable pieces that could be made into something good.
So, EC7 is now complete. Take a deep breath, Andy…