Picking Up the Trail


Have you ever lost anything important to you? Have you ever been in the middle of a project and suddenly had the last pieces disappear? You know how this sort of thing happens. You’re working along, saving your work, backing up your files semi-regularly because hard disc failures always happen to somebody else. You find yourself in another room tending to a chore when that most dreaded sound is invading your personal space, that click, click . . . . . click; repeating itself again, then again.

Worst fears realized, your hard drive has just failed and twenty-five years of work as a computer technician isn’t enough to revive it. Despite all your efforts at CPR (Computer Part Regeneration) your system is in failure mode and you have to rely on your last backup for your work. It doesn’t matter that you know better, you’ve let your defenses lapse and the last hundred pages of one novel is gone along with two hundred of another and six months of personal financial records.

Do you have a careful outline of both stories to help you pick up the pieces and rebuild after the forest fire you just made of your work? That works well with one of my two novels that went up in smoke, but the other was developed by the characters themselves and not by a carefully planned layout. The good news is remembering the story line and where it led as it wove itself to conclusion. Yes, the manuscript was complete and in the process of editing for presentation when misfortune torched it. How to rebuild, remodel (it won’t be an exact duplicate, my memory isn’t that good), and complete it is now the challenge, new hard disc in place, computer humming along faster and better than before.

First step is to make sure the same misfortune doesn’t befall me again. The work is now saved not only on the hard drive and the new back up drive, it is also on a flash drive that travels easily on my notebook computer when it isn’t resident on my USB port. Next, go back to the beginning of the story and edit from page one, enjoying, refining, improving, and rediscovering the actions and events. Most importantly, remembering where the story was leading and I was recording when first I traveled the trail which now ends at the edge of a chasm.

So I set out, one sentence at a time, one conversation at a time, one breathless paragraph at a time to recapture the magic I felt the first time I told the tale. Yeah, I hear you out there asking why bother to finish this story when I have others in my mind that I could write instead. Only an author can decide whether it is worth the effort to finish what you started, to rebuild what was lost. I suppose it depends on whether you believe what you have written is worthwhile or is better off being tossed aside. I’m told Tabitha King rescued Stephen’s Carrie from the trash can where he had tossed it. We know it became a great success, but only because he finished it. My tale may never be the success his turned out to be, but I’ve just finished reading and editing what remains of mine and I can’t toss it out with the trash. It is a story I was asked by my readers to tell, and I’m glad they asked because it has led me places I’m glad I visited and hope they will enjoy as well.

The most important lesson I ever learned is that when life kicks you in the teeth and plants your face in the dirt, you need to stand up, straighten your clothes and move forward. “Why me?” has only one answer: “Why not?”


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