Lost – Ode to a Manuscript Gone Missing

No, this isn’t a post about Lost, the TV show. It’s a funeral for the ending of a story that is lost. The last two chapters of Blue Belle of Scotland, a romance / suspense novel I wrote about five years ago, have gone missing, and try as I might, they seem to be permanently gone.

Me, working on Blue Belle of Scotland on my Alphasmart in Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland, where the book is set.

Me, working on Blue Belle of Scotland on my Alphasmart in Tobermory, Isle of Mull, Scotland, where the book is set.

I evidently wrote the chapters on a lap top, because there is no trace of the chapters on the hard drives of either of my two desktops. I probably wrote it on the A drive, a floppy disk, so I could later insert it into either of the desktops and continue writing no matter where I was, and which computer I was writing at.

Why would any sane person have 2 home computers, two laptops, and an Alphasmart?

Midway into writing the book, I married a wonderful man, a pastor, and started the delightful, but crazed existence I’m still living – in two different houses, 45 miles apart. Some nights we sleep in one house, some nights in the other. Some people have one house in cold, snowy Iowa, and one in warm, sunny Arizona. We have two in Iowa, come rain, snow, sleet, or hot, muggy weather.

When we married, Mark had been the pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church and lived in the parsonage in his little town for almost 4 years. I had owned and operated the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House and lived in an adjacent cottage in my little town for over 12 years.

Neither one of us wanted to give up our job or our house, move to the others town, or drive 90 miles round trip every day. Because of the unique natures of our jobs, both of us felt like we needed to be present at our own house – in our own town – at least part of the time, really, most of the time.

And so we hatched the plot – two houses in two towns.

My only requirement was that the beds we slept in be identical, so wherever I was, I would feel like I was sleeping in my own bed.

So, a bit of mattress juggling, and two new memory foam mattresses later, I moved half of my clothes over to the parsonage and made room in an extra closet for some of Mark’s clothes at the cottage.  We each bought two sets of deodorant, two toothbrushes, a bunch of extra underwear, and an overnight case for transporting those must-have-at-both-houses-can’t afford-to-buy-two things back and forth.

For the most part, the plan has worked amazingly well. My husband, Mark, makes the drive more days than I do. It’s not that we prefer the cottage to the parsonage, it’s that he is better at long-distance driving, and I work more evenings, checking in guests and serving them dinner. When I do get to spend a few days at the parsonage, away from the B&B, it is a wonderful retreat, a place where I can write all day long, in my nightgown, if I want to.

But things do get confusing after awhile. Anything I’ve written since we got married is a jumble of chapters edited here, there, and everywhere. I write in the car between houses, when Mark is driving. I start a chapter at one house, on one computer, and finish it on another. I have a system of saving things to a disk, or sending the file I’m working on to the other house as an email attachment, then saving it to the hard drive, renaming the files each time, so in theory, I know which is the most recent version.

But there are those times you leave one house in a hurry, or arrive at the other frenzied, and have to hit the ground running. Obviously, the system is not foolproof or the ending of Blue Belle of Scotland would not be gone.

Why this loss is affecting me so deeply, I don’t know. I’m currently reading The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. The main character loses his daughter, his faith, his peace of mind. That’s loss. Losing the ending of a book is nothing in comparison. I mean, I’m a writer. I can write it again, can’t I? Maybe, by some stroke of genius, it will be even better.

And yet, my loss haunts me. I wrote it so long ago that I honestly can’t remember what I wrote. All I know is that is was good stuff, riveting, probably the best thing I’ve ever written. I agonized over it. I sweated it out. It was hard to write, a new style for me, action-packed, edge of your seat suspense.

It’s been so long since I wrote the first part of the book that I feel totally incapable of writing a coherent ending. I barely remember the names of the characters, the twists and turns of the plot. I like my endings to mirror my beginnings. How can I do that when the images are so blurry I can hardly see?

I want it back.

All I can do is accept that it’s lost.

6 Comments

Filed under books, fiction, life, musings, Sherrie Hansen, writing

6 responses to “Lost – Ode to a Manuscript Gone Missing

  1. Gee, I feel for you. I’ve never lost a whole chapter, but twice while working on “Carpet Ride” I accidentally (aka stupidly) copied a backup file over the only copy of my current work. I lost about two days of plotting and writing. The second time it happened I almost just stopped out of frustration. Like you, I was convinced at the time that what I lost had to be some of my best work. We’ll never know.
    Hope it turns up somewhere, Sherrie.

  2. christinehusom

    When I was writing Murder in Winnebago County, I lost 25 pages. No idea how. Plus the disk I had it saved on was corrupt. I spent a lot of time and money trying to recover those precious pages which was close to 10% of the entire finished manuscript and was 25% of the book completed to that point. I rewrote, but never felt it was quite as good as it had been, plus I couldn’t remember everything I had written–I had an idea of the content of most of it, but not all. I hope you find yours, Sherrie! I still remember the near panic and ache I felt in my heart when I went to my computer and those pages were gone.

  3. dellanioakes

    Sherrie, I feel your pain! I’ve lost chapters, which bites totally. I once lost an entire book – well, it wasn’t finished, so I suppose it amounts to the same thing as losing chapters, but try as I might, I couldn’t find it. We were getting an upgrade & I didn’t have a chance to salvage everything before my intrepid husband took it to the tech. While there, he said, “Go ahead & wipe the disc, reload whatever you need to…..” Ask me how grateful I was after THAT upgrade! I rewrote the book and it came out better than the original, but I had over 150 pages already typed.

    My consolation (though slender) is that when you rewrite those chapters, they will probably be better than the originals.

  4. Aghgh! I’ve never lost quite such a vital file, but I do keep losing stories, and my only excuse is that I get kicked off computers by sons and forget which one I stored them on.

  5. That is certainly a writer’s worst nightmare, Sherrie! I’m 2 laptops removed from some files that I’ve never transferred over–screenplays written in Wordstar. Who knows if I’ll ever get back and retrieve them. Take a little comfort in knowing that you’re a more advanced writer than when you first wrote the words. Try reading the manuscript from page one to get back into the rhythm. I’m sure an ending will come to you–perhaps better than the original.

  6. Sherrie Hansen

    Thanks for all of your comments and inspiring words. I will get over the loss and start writing again, I am sure.

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