Saturday, June 26, 2010

Google Docs and Some Help From My Friends

My Mac is Back!

On 12/7/09, I finished the first draft of my novel. Since that time, I have been busy editing it. Only three copies of the first draft existed in the world, the night I went to work on my copy of the first draft (which, technically, would be a fourth copy of the first draft, except that I had done a massive amount of editing on my copy). Two copies went to friends, who live on opposite sides of the globe, and the reactions to the draft were almost as far apart in terms of response.

One friend basically liked it. The other read 16 pages and said something along the lines of "When the hell does the story begin, these first few pages are valuable real estate and oh by the way that was a cheap trick on page 6. A real person wouldn't do that! I won't allow it." I'm paraphrasing, but it was along those lines. (Thank G-d she didn't read the cheap trick on page 29!) I mention the latter because while I was glad that the first friend liked the book, I didn't hear copious amounts of love, and the comments from the second friend I found terribly helpful in that terrible massacre sort of way that makes one feel like wrist slitting is an option but only in front of a couple friends who can save one's life.

Both of the people who read whatever part each read are brilliant writers and multi-published authors. They are very different in their styles and content, and I like to read both of them. So anyway, when Mrs Clinton, I mean, Ms. Congeniality, expressed her dismay at the first 16 pages, I immediately knew her comments were exactly correct. No really, I was glad to be saved from myself, and though another person might have put it...ah, differently, I've always counted on this friend for the unvarnished, jesus-that-wood-is-peeling truth. I was assured I could do better. So I asked the first friend to stop reading until I could send her a hugely revised version. She agreed.

I began to revise. I revised on my my copy of the first draft. I did not back those revisions up. One night I tried to open Safari and the Grey Screen of Death showed up. Ten minutes later, the grey screen had a large question mark in the middle of it. The question mark symbol was probably Apple's sense of humor, as in 'what are you going to do now that you're really f***ed?'

My iMac hard drive had gone to heaven, and I was in hell. However...

I knew that my Beloved, Karyn, had one of the three existing first draft copies on her computer, but I was not absolutely positive that I had sent her what I had sent the two friends. I kept thinking I had sent her one of the earlier pre-loved versions. Then too, there was some remote, very slim, don't-really-get-your-hopes-up chance that what was on my crashed hard drive could be retrieved. It's the all-in-one iMac with a big screen, and it had to be sent off to Apple for repair. It was gone over two weeks, so I was in a state of shock and not knowing what I had or didn't have, and I didn't want to talk about it. I knew I could get a copy of something from my friends, but I kept telling myself Apple might be able to save my stuff.

But...I knew. I knew it was not coming back. I knew everything on that computer was gone. All my favorites. All the links to my research. I knew I was a dope. However...

I also knew that I had one hard copy of the first 87 pages of revisions. I like to print things out. It's archaic, wasteful and so non-green as to be nearly purple, but there you have it. Two days before my hard drive crashed, I shredded six complete versions of the first draft---the pre-and pre-loved first drafts. But, oddly, or not, I had not shred the 87 pages of newest revisions. Probably because I hadn't yet had the chance to hold them lovingly in my hands and pour over every word like I knew what I was doing.

And then the refrigerator conked out. Karyn thought it was because she put a quart or two of very hot hummingbird food (see photo in prior post) in the freezer. She figured she had broken the thing...and yet, it still pours ice cold water at the touch, it makes ice cubes and crushed ice, and the refrigerator part works. I don't see it rewriting my book, yet, but....I should mention here that the iMac is barely over a year old, and the GE Profile refrigerator was bought new when we moved into our new house seven years ago. In both cases, I felt, it was far too soon for expensive machinery to break down, never mind go completely kaput. Naturally, the warranty on the refrigerator was over. But wait! A moment of possible redemption: I had purchased an additional two years warranty on the iMac!

Great, so now I had to buy a new refrigerator and probably write a whole new book. The both of us were moping around for a few days, each thinking she had broken a must-have appliance. Not quite. The end of the story is that my computer came back to me the other day, with a brand new hard drive, and I have been able to piece the book back together, including revisions. The new refrigerator will probably be purchased next week, unless a $150 an hour repairman can get it in right working order, and I can't say enough great things about Google Docs.

Why? Well, as it turns out, I had transferred the entire book to Google Docs, including the 87 pages of revisions! I don't remember doing it, but I must have done it a few days before I shred all those old copies of the manuscript and before the hard drive crashed. But I didn't know that for the entire two weeks that the Mac was in the shop because I was too depressed to contemplate the whole thing and too mad at myself for not backing up my work in more conventional ways. Then there was the part about how the remaining 400 pages needed some heavy editing.

I was so blue I began reading Yahoo headlines and Twitter for the in depth analysis; I gained five pounds, and Karyn is soooo sweet she said it was probably because I wasn't typing. What could I do? I nodded, crossed my fingers and hoped to hell I had remembered to take the Starbucks pastry bag out of my car. I was so down, I looked at complex algebraic notations on WolframAlpha for entertainment. I was so sorry for myself I almost took the clause about future book residuals and book rights out of my will, figuring there wouldn't ever be any. I was a mess. I had thrown myself under the bus I was driving. I was sad.

And now I'm not! ::humming What a Difference A Day Makes:: I owe it all to Google Docs. I owe it all to Karyn for staying calm, supportive and being so damn kind she moved her iMac over to my side of the library table. I owe it all to the two friends who did and didn't like the first draft and who didn't and definitely didn't love it.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!


Robin Mizell said...

A horror story! I live in fear too, but it's not the files on my hard drive that concern me. It's the email. For documents, I use Dropbox, which is free and effortless. Once in a while, I notice it's syncing the files. Otherwise, it's invisible.

dorothy said...

That was a tragic experience.Well next time i advice you to always make backups oftenly because with backups,files are easily secured from such damages.I use Safecopy backup.This is because i know my hard drive can crash any time.Safecopy is cheap and offers a free unlimited 5GB trial version.With my files backed up here,i don't spend money on data recovery and this has saved me from spending tons of money.

T.T. Thomas said...

Thank you both! Yes, Robin I downloaded Dropbox right after you wrote that. Dorothy I'll be checking out Safecopy, too, because, in my case, one can never have too many backups!

I'm so happy, I'm thinking of re-decorating in here.