Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pyramid Power

Sharon Wildwind

I am a little spacey today. It comes from living inside a pyramid for the past few days.

Not the kind of pyramid that will sharpen razor blades and concentrate the power of the universe, but one of those I have to do A before I do B, but I have to do C before I do B, and so on pyramidal arrangements.

My husband and I bought a new computer gizmo. Before we can install it, we have to do an operating-system upgrade. The dealer was out of the software we needed, so we waited three weeks to get a copy. It arrived last Thursday. I’d planned to spend Friday morning doing those tedious, but necessary, steps for a safe software installation, and figured we’d be up and running with our new gizmo in time for supper Friday night.

Then my husband said, “You know, of course, that after we upgrade the operating system, your oldest office suite won’t work any more because the new software doesn’t support it.”

The office suite contains not only a word processing program, but also a spreadsheet, data base, and drawing program. That means that anything I wrote, drew, or put in a database or spreadsheet before 2006 was going to disappear out of my universe.


After a pot of very strong tea, I convinced myself that there couldn’t be THAT many files which hadn’t been updated and converted to newer programs in the past six years. A couple of hundred at the most. I could still have our new gizmo up and running by Saturday.

The actual file count for files I would have to look at turned out to be 1,417, including all of the research and multiple drafts for four-and-a-half books and a huge part of my fiber and paper art folder.

I backed up those 1,417 files to a DVD. At least if everything went terrible wrong, I could start over. Then I started dismantling the pyramid one file at a time.

By this afternoon, I was down to one remaining thing. Those four-and-a-half books. For two-and-a-half of them I made the very hard choice to let them go. They’ve been published and the likelihood that I will ever, ever need to need or want to revisit the background research or the multiple working drafts is so miniscule that it wasn’t worth the amount of time I’d have to spend converting them one file at a time.

I can’t let the other two books disappear from my life. I just can’t. They aren’t finished. In truth, outside of a desultory attempt to rewrite a few chapters when we were snowed in during a blizzard, I haven’t touched those books since the summer of 2005. But I’m still so in love with the story and the two main characters.

I occasionally have rather torrid dreams about the hero. It's okay, my husband knew when he married me that he had a rival. I think he likes the guy, too, but I doubt we share the same dreams. At least I hope we don't . . . never mind. Let me assure you that I dream about my husband, too, so it’s not like he’s getting short-changed.

Are those two characters ever in a mess. Not them personally, but the literary world where they live.

I have research notes and multiple drafts being spread out across three (non-compatible) word processing programs, two (also non-compatible) writing programs, and a bunch of different (and not even close to compatible) formats for maps, photographs, timelines, family trees, etc. Thank goodness for copy, paste, and reformat. If I can just stop myself from stopping to re-read huge chunks when I’m supposed to be copying and pasting, I might—finally—have everything in one place. Maybe that will give the books the fresh start they deserve. Hope springs eternal.

And our new computer gizmo? Um, it’s in a bag around here somewhere. I’ll get to it, okay. After I do the important stuff.

Quote for the week
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.
~Toni Morrison, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist, editor, and professor


Sheila Connolly said...

I hear you. I have copies of all my books, including those "in waiting," on at least three different forms of storage. Yes, the characters keep popping into my head at odd times. And I still balk at poaching those plots for something I'm working on now, just in case I might want to revisit the earlier ones. Someday.

At least electronic storage doesn't take up much space! (Oh, right, I keep paper copies too.)

Sandra Parshall said...

I hate nothing more than moving everything to a new computer. The very thought makes me anxious.

I have both electronic and paper copies of everything I've ever written on a computer, and paper copies of older stuff done on a typewriter. I've cannibalized a lot of it for new projects -- and I'm glad I did -- but there's one suspense novel I want to rewrite and publish. If I can't do it in print, I'll do it as an e-book, but those characters are staying in that book. They're not showing up in any Rachel Goddard mystery.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I hear both of you loud and clear. I have paper copies of a lot of stuff as well, but I'm relying more and more on electronic storage so, for some things, what I'm working with is the only copy in existence.

J.P. Hansen said...

Ain't technology great? I think it makes us work harder. In fact, there are studies that suggest just that. Standards for cleanliness in homes were ratcheted up when cleaning gizmos appeared in the 50's. "Housewives" had to work all the harder to keep up. And all these computers mean we can work all the time. I mean, all the time. There is no option but to keep up if you want to be a part of society, but it's hardly progress. (Sorry about the screed. I'm done now.)

Beth Anderson said...

I can't understand why you had to update all of your books individually. If they're all Word files, each suceeding update just updates those files as it installs, and you'll find them all in the new updated format. Maybe I'm not understanding something here, but I've done updates to Word and they automatically converted everything to the new updated version.

Anonymous said...

J. P., what I think we are lacking behind in developing is a sense of who is in charge, us or the computers. I have heard multiple horror stories of companies where employees are expected to read and process over 500 e-mails daily. That's pure insanity.

I don't work in Word, except for converting what I've written to Word when I send out a final copy to someone. Otherwise I work strictly in MacIntosh programs. The one I had to do something about is an office suite that goes back to 1991. That's a twenty-year old program and, as you can imagine, very creaky, and not compatible with the program that I'm now using.