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Rules for writing - 1

Updated: Dec 5, 2022

Save your work.

I never know if a reader wants to understand how the sausage is made, but I had life hand me a critical writing lesson today.

I am one of the many novelists who support themselves with a full-time job. So I write in the mornings, before work, when my mind is fresh and the distractions are limited. I use the Pomodoro Method to focus (google it). Which means I write in uninterrupted bursts of twenty-five minutes at a time.

For those twenty-five minutes, nothing else exists but my current work-in-progress. I drop into the world of the story, listen to the characters, and capture where they are, what they're doing, and what they say. And try my best to convey the dangers they face in an interesting way.

I am 33k words into the first draft of my newest work. This morning, I was deep in the flow writing, twenty minutes into a Pomodoro, when my laptop screen went black. Five seconds of confusion later, it presented me with the blue screen of death (the modern, socially-engineered version that contains a semi-colon smiley face and tells me it 'encountered a problem and needs to reboot').

A minute later, the computer rebooted and I had my desktop back. I brought up Microsoft Word, and held my breath to see how much of the story I'd lost.

Luckily, only two pages were missing, two pages I assumed would be easy to rewrite. So I reset the Pomodoro and tried to drop back into the flow, but was surprised that I couldn't recreate the pages I had written only five minutes before. It was like they were never there. New sentences took their place.

Losing those pages and not being able to recreate them was a surreal feeling and a reminder of how fleeting the flow of new writing can be. The final version that you read in an author's published work is a long way off of wat poured out of their minds when they sat down to write the first draft. And the first draft (in may case at least), is not something the writer created, it's more like something they captured as it floated by. being a writer is being a listener of stories more than it is being a teller of stories. And because they can easily float on by if you're not paying attention, when you do pull a story out of the ether, it needs to be preserved.

I backup all my work to the cloud. And that's fine for making sure I don't lose the day's work once I'm finished. but what about moment-by-moment? That precious paragraph that floated down into my mind like a snowflake settling on grass needs to be saved the moment it touches down, or it might melt and be lost forever.

The solution is this -- Microsoft Word offers a feature that when you link your files to their OneDrive cloud app, you can turn on AutoSave and the documents will back themselves up in near real time. Limiting any potential loss from a blue screen of death to the last few words.

Lesson one is on the books.

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