The Day I Lost My WIP

by limebirdkate

I was alone at home, working on my novel on my laptop, when I heard a strange clucking noise. As I don’t live on a farm nor do any of my neighbors keep chickens, I was immediately intrigued. I went outside. Sitting in the road was some sort of game bird.

Around this time, a couple of my neighbors came out, because they could hear the strange clucking, too. After a quick conference, we determined this bird had either lost its way from the wilderness behind our quiet neighborhood, or it was someone’s pet that had escaped.

We decided to capture it.

We cornered it up against one of my neighbor’s houses and enclosed it with some chicken wire fencing. The bird took one shot straight up in the air, sailed over our heads, and landed safely out of reach. Hmm.

Meanwhile, another neighbor had done some calling and found out that a local farm had lost a bird –a guinea hen. The farmer asked us to please keep it safe until he arrived.

Keeping it safe meant eleven adults chasing this bird around our neighborhood. We tried several different methods: trapping it under a rhododendron bush, forming a circle around it, throwing a net upon it. No such luck. The guinea hen was two steps ahead of us the entire time. And because it could fly straight up, then over our heads, we were useless.

Finally, the owners of the guinea hen arrived, and now thirteen to one, it should be a breeze to get this thing. I couldn’t wait. My novel was waiting for me…

We managed to back it up into somebody’s garage. A quick request to close the door was issued, and granted. The guinea hen clucked in alarm at the sudden noise of the garage door closing. It made a dash up into the air, its wings smacking paint cans and ladders and ropes. It tried to make a get-away. The farmer hip-checked his guinea hen into the wall of the garage. The bird, dazed, fluttered to the cement floor. The farmer swiftly gathered the bird into his arms, and all was well again.

We bid each other goodbye, and I headed back to my quiet house, to my novel.

The screen on my laptop was dark.

Ominously dark.

I frowned and slowly pressed a key. Nothing happened. I checked the outlet. It was still plugged in. Tried a different key, you know, in case the other one was having an off moment. Still, nothing. Then I noticed the keyboard was kind of gloppy looking. I gazed steadily at it, fearing, fearing, fearing…

I unplugged the laptop and lifted it up. Something oozed out of it. A thick, clear substance that dripped to the floor. Oh God. I turned the laptop upside down. The thick, clear substance poured now. It poured out of my laptop, making a slimy puddle on the floor.

It all came together so very fast for me, especially when I noticed lots of the same thick, slimy liquid on my windowsill, saturating the arm of my couch.

My dog, Fryar, an english setter, a bird dog, had been watching the entire bird-chasing from my window.  He had jumped onto my couch and drooled all over my windowsill, my couch, and my laptop. It must have shorted out after it had been subjected to enough drool. The entire computer sizzled and died, along with the latest draft of my novelβ€”which I had neglected to back up!

Needless to say, I was a wreck for weeks. From that dreadful day on, I have been very careful about backing up my writing.

Does anyone have a story to tell about when you lost your writing?

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40 Responses to “The Day I Lost My WIP”

  1. Oh gosh Kate, this made me laugh so hard and then want to cry a bit for you. I honestly know exactly how this feels as I did this, but with an essay at University.

    I had left it to the last minute ( as per usual) and was in the library to no idea what time, but for some reason I hadn’t been saving often (I usually CTRL S every sentence out of a weird habit). However, I was so tired and exhausted but I had finally done it.

    Then my laptop died. I lost it all. Needless to say, my head hit the desk and I wanted to cry. I had to start from scratch on no sleep! Great post!

  2. I haven’t lost my writing yet, but I almost lost my laptop… this is an excerpt from a blog entry I posted in June of this year: “I managed to somehow lift my coffee cup to my lips yesterday morning and subsequently twist the mug in my hand and DROPPED it on my laptop. It then spun coffee and dregs all over the laptop, the table, it even splashed me. Unbelievable.
    So there was I, dishtowel in hand, holding the laptop upside-down over the heater, trying to literally pour the coffee out of it. Thankfully it’s still going strong – though some of the keys like to stick every now and then!!”
    My right arrow key still goes crazy at the oddest moments, thanks to that!! More recently my laptop started blue screening constantly, but I managed to back-up via another program before formatting it all – MUCH to my relief, as the novel I’ve been working on for several years is on this hard drive!!!!

    • Hi Eutopickathleen,

      That’s a funny story. You’re lucky you can still use it (kinda). I’m glad you were able to back it up, too. Watching an author as she realizes she’s lost her novel is not a pretty sight!

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. I know I clicked “like” but my feelings are far from that! You poor thing.

    I now use Dropbox. If my laptop crashes and I lose my USB … well that’s me gone. Yes, ME.

    Dropbox is this fantastic program. It’s a “cloud” program. If you don’t already have it, I suggest you use it. It’s free and you can access it from anywhere. So if you lose your memory devices and all your computers go down, your writing is still floating somewhere on your own cloud.

    Never lost again!

    • Hi Novel Girl,

      Oh, cool. No, I have never heard of Dropbox. I will definitely check it out. Right now, I run around with memory sticks in my purses whenever I am away from my laptop. But I like the idea of my writing floating around somewhere on my own cloud!

      Thanks for commenting.

      • No worries. My dad suggested it (he, like, builds computers although he doesn’t describe it that way).

        I always worried about losing my work before. I mean if my laptop went down, it would only take one run of bad luck — to lose my USB — and my novel would be goneskis.

        It’s fantastic. You can access your work from wherever (you can relax about remembering or forgetting that USB).

  4. YES – I have Dropbox too! Definitely a lifesaver!!

  5. Those stories scare me to death. I once lost a mere week’s worth of work and it ruined my month.

  6. My biggest fear!! I have my entire novel on a jump drive and a voice in the back of my head keeps telling me I better make a copy and stick it somewhere safe in case something should happen to my drive. At this point, my beta reader also has a copy so I’d be somewhat protected but there are other bits on there I wouldn’t want to lose!! Your poor dog, he must’ve been going absolutely bonkers wanting to help you catch that bird and thinking, “Silly humans, NOT like that!!” LOL

    • Hi Kathils,

      Haha, OMG you just made me laugh. I’d bet anything that’s exactly what was running through his mind.

      It’s so funny, even when I have several copies in various places, I still shudder at the thought of having to go through that again!

  7. I started writing a novel last year, my first attempt at doing any actual writing, I had drafted the first 20 or so chapters in a notepad and kept it with me at all times in case I had ideas and such, took it to work, I some how always manage to slack off to do a bit of writing, wrote the first few chapters on the computer.

    One night I left my notepad in my bag, headed to Sheffield to watch a mates band play and left the car in the car park across the road. Stupidly left my bag on the front seat of the car, some dirty little ingrate saw it and thought “Im having that”, broke into my car, stole my bag (Which had the notepad in there, my headset for work and various other things), my sat nav and my iPod.

    Didn’t care about the smashed window or the missing items, just the notepad. I never had the heart to continuing writing that novel since 😦

    • Pete, that’s a terrible story! I’m feeling so sorry for you because it sounds like that experience just sucked everything out of you in regard to that novel.

      I hope that one day you can turn that around and go back to your novel…maybe even use that robbery as a scene to get back to writing your story. I think that would be wonderful retribution! πŸ™‚

  8. Were you able to reconstruct what you had written?!

    I am ultra careful about multiple forms of backups – flash sticks, DVDs, but not the cloud (yet). I hate to date myself, but I started computing on mainframes, which could be considered an archaic form of the cloud. They would fail. The backups could fail. Cloud servers can fail, too – even with redundant systems.

    So I would back up my cloud back up with a physical drive (or two, or three). And keep a recent backup somewhere other than your home. I bring regularly updated DVDs into my office. Leave one at a friend’s house, or with your parents. It takes a few extra minutes every few days. But that’s a heck of a lot less time than reconstructing 10,000 or 100,000 words!

    • Hi JM,

      Unfortunately, I could not reconstruct everything that I’d lost. It amounted to several weeks’ worth of writing. Ugh.

      You are quite smart. I think I need to follow your lead. And you’re right, the short-term inconvenience of backing up all your writing is much less stressful than the long-term nightmare of losing 100,000 words!

  9. I work in an IT department for a large company. I’ve seen the horror of lost work. I am a meticulous back-upper.

    My cat has managed to walk across the keyboard of my laptop, exactly once. Fortunately, I have a habit in working in a cloud environment so my document was in good condition minus the ‘,l’;okjhsuysg6rdctsdarf’ at the end. The cat won’t come near the laptop now.

    • Hi Leila,

      Oh yes! I know all about a cat’s fondness for tiptoeing across the keyboard. Luckily, when that happened all he did was type in the same kind of gibberish that you experienced! He did not do anything more than that.

  10. I had a similar experience to limebirdbeth! My best friend shared a dorm (and classes) our sophomore year of college and we had a project to do in English – I don’t remember what on now. Anyway being the way we were we put it off until the last minute. We literally worked on this thing in shifts up through the night, I’d nap an hour and she’d do some work. She’d nap an hour and I’d do some work. Then probably about 2 hours before class my computer crashed and we lost our entire powerpoint presentation.

    Makes me wonder if machine knows when we are putting things off so they can teach us a lesson about procrastinating!?

    • Hey Laura!

      I’m laughing even though I shouldn’t! You must have been devastated, but at least you were in cahoots with someone so you could share the burden of the tragedy.

      Haha, these days I wouldn’t be surprised if computers are built in such a way to keep us on our toes!

  11. A couple of years ago, my previous laptop (an evil little thing) had to be reformatted because the hard drive was all wonky. I had everything backed up to an external hard drive, so no big deal. But I was working on a literary magazine with a couple friends at the time, and needed some files. I plugged the hard drive into my friend’s computer. The cord was short, and she ended up knocking the whole thing over. It fell about three feet and just…died. Because it was running at the time, everything on it–about 2 years of my life–was lost. Writing, photography, course work, everything. I ate a lot of ice cream and stayed in bed all weekend, mourning. Still hurts to think about…sigh.

    • Verified, it hurts to read about it! Two years’ worth of all your work, not just a novel?! If that had been me I would have been in bed with ice cream and a bottle of bourbon. Well, two bottles.

      Thanks for sharing!

  12. Oh Lord, I cringed when I read your post! I have also learned the hard way to back up my writing after going through the same thing. The details are fuzzy because I was too traumatized by the incident – I have since buried it deep in my subconscious…All we can do is push through! πŸ˜‰

    • Hi Wren!

      Exactly. Isn’t there a saying that goes something like this: “that which does not kill me only makes me stronger”? That’s how we writers have to look at losing our WIPs. We’re just getting stronger!! πŸ™‚

      Thanks for commenting!

  13. I’ve lost my work before, there’s the rush of blood to the head…did I save that? No? NOooo! It’s crippling for a while.

  14. This one time right after I got my first laptop in eighth grade — after my parents not entrusting me with one for years because I was “just a child” — I was sitting in our family room, typing on the couch, when out the corner of my eye I caught sight of a spider, making its way down on a thread of silk from the ceiling.

    I’m terrified of spiders.

    So then, of course, I did the only logical thing to do, and screamed and threw my brand spankin’ new laptop all the way across the room. It hit the wall with a thud and powered off on contact, but then the spider was still there, hovering in front of my face, so not only did I potentially ruin my new laptop but I also still had to deal with the spider.

    I continued to scream, but at least managed to skirt around the spider on the couch and go running out of the room, flailing my arms in the air like in a cartoon.

    Luckily, the laptop was fine outside of a few scratches to the casing (thank God), but I still had that heart attack moment when I thought it was dead and I’d lost everything on it. I HAVE lost my writing a few other times (including an especially horrific tale involving a document that refused to save any new changes, much to my surprise after I thought I’d been revising a novel in it for the past week or so), but usually thinking about that spider makes me feel at least *slightly* better when I’m all uber upset about it.

    But anyway, now that this comment is getting way too long — I’m really sorry about your WIP. Any chance of recovering SOME edition of it?

    • Hi cavyheart,

      That’s a funny account! You are soooo lucky your laptop survived the impact! But apparently you’re not so lucky with the evil document! That’s terrible.

      No, I couldn’t recover any of the new changes that I’d made between the time I backed it up and the time my dog drooled all over my machine. So, I lost several weeks’ worth of writing. I still cringe when I think about it, but it does help to have written this post and see that I’m not the only one who has been less than careful with her work!

      Thanks for commenting!

  15. oh no!!! and that’s so stinkin’ funny! I mean if you had to loose your WIP at least you lost it in a funny way that made for great book fodder – just think how awesome that will be in your next WIP πŸ˜€ And I think I’d better go back up all my books now…. just in case – we don’t have a dog or a bird anymore, but we do have 6 kids – and three toilets….

    • Hi Goofy!
      True, the best part about this entire tragedy is that I have been able to laugh about it, and make other people laugh–and think!

      Yup, better go check your toilets…:)

  16. I’m so sorry to hear that story. I’m a techie so I’m honestly more hurt to hear about your laptop than anything else. But the work is pretty bad. I know that feeling. I dread that feeling. I’ve never lost my writing because I keep a backup on Google Docs, but my animation was much more difficult to backup because of its size.

    Due to the huge file, my computer often restarted because it struggled to keep up with the hefty program I use to animate. Once, I lost an entire semester of my work because my computer not only restarted, but couldn’t handle the large data. The files were labeled as corrupt and I could only watch as my computer automatically deleted the files. I felt the heat in my face as I lost what would take me months to redo.

    I hope you weren’t too far along in your story.

  17. Hi Kashif,

    Ugh, having to watch your computer automatically delete your files must have been truly awful! Now I don’t know what’s worse–being aware of losing your work while it’s happening, or being too late to do anything about it.

    I was far enough along in my story to remember this event for The. Rest. Of. My. Life.

    Thanks for commenting!

  18. Nooooo! You poor thing. I’ve lost one short story due to my stupidity, but like you I learned from that and now back up in my e-mail and three external drives. πŸ™‚

    I wish I did not get such a laugh from your story, but you did a nice job painting the picture. πŸ™‚

    • Laugh away! These are the kinds of stories that are great to share at cocktail parties. And I’m glad your loss wasn’t too traumatic! Thanks for commenting.

  19. Oh, no! That is both a great story and a horrible one. (By the way, I laughed out loud at this one: Keeping it safe meant eleven adults chasing this bird around our neighborhood.)

    Thanks for sharing, though, Kate. As hard as that experience must have been, we all learn from them, don’t we? πŸ™‚

    • Hey Mayumi, haha, yeah I thought you’d get a kick out of it. You’re so right, proving the old adage “we learn from our mistakes”.

      I still think back to that day chasing the bird and get a chuckle out of it. Something to share with the grandkids.

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