“Before the invention of Xerox, I’d have a copy made of my manuscript and put it in someone else’s house, on the assumption that two wouldn’t likely burn down at once.” Irving Wallace from Ocala Star-Banner, 9/23/1982
My biggest fear as an author is to lose changes to a WIP or discover the only copy of my manuscript had been destroyed. I think it’s a holdover from the days before I got smart and learned to back up my backups. I also now subscribe to an online data backup service. I had some scares and have had a few instances of losing some of my work but never an entire manuscript.
An article in the April Grandeur Magazine reminded me that other authors, prior to the age of the computer, have not been so lucky. The article was about Edna St. Vincent Millay during her stay on Sanibel in 1936. While she walked on the beach with her husband, the hotel they had been staying in burst into flames due to a kerosene heater. It was first reported that she had perished in the flames, but fortunately she survived. However, the only copy of her manuscript did not. The article goes on to say,
“The woman who wrote, ‘There isn’t a train I wouldn’t take, no matter where it’s going,’ is presumed to have then gotten as far away from the scene of bad luck as possible.”
I can’t blame her.
Even though there are times I find myself cursing my computer, I can’t imagine life without it, especially after reading about some other horror stories.
John Stuart Mills had to inform Thomas Carlyle that his manuscript, The History of the French Revolution, had accidently been thrown into the fire by a housemaid.
Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man, was well into his second novel when a fire destroyed his house. He lamented that he didn’t have a carbon copy. After the experience he bought a copier and fireproof files.
Ray Bradbury had twenty short stories stolen when someone broke into his aunt’s car. “They were after the briefcase, not my stories. But eventually I said, “The hell with it, I’ll do them over. If you can’t remember the idea it isn’t much of a story.”
Len Deighton once lost a manuscript in the mail between Ireland and England. “It was a terrible blow,” he said, “because all I had was a copy of a much earlier draft. I had to go back and try to remember, something that’s like running up and down on an escalator. Afterward he would show up at a shoe factory at the Irish village where he lived and the management would bring the factory to a halt while the author ran off a copy of his manuscript on the duplicating machine.
Many years ago William Buckley arrived in Peru with half of the completed manuscript of Cruising Speed in his briefcase. He was on an unofficial mission so when he noticed the briefcase missing, he let the ambassador think it contained the latest CIA plot to overthrow Allende. Soon everyone was looking for it and the briefcase, complete with manuscript was eventually found in the middle of the airport. He’s one of the lucky ones.
Have you ever lost part or all of a manuscript? How do you protect your work?
Be sure to visit next Monday when Alan Orloff, author of the recently released Diamonds for the Dead, will be my guest blogger. Though we haven’t decided on a topic, I can assure you that whatever Alan writes about will be fun and interesting. To find out more about Alan, visit his blog, A Million Blogging Monkeys, and website.
And if you are in the Naples, Florida area on Saturday, April 10, I hope you’ll visit the Authors and Book Festival sponsored by the Naples Press Club. I’ll be signing copies of The Ride at It’s All About Me on 5th Avenue between 3 and 6pm. You can find a full list of participating merchants and authors here.
Thanks for stopping by.
Tags: Irving Wallace, Edna Millay, Len Deighton, Bradbury, Alan Orloff, Naples Press Club,