A manuscript – paper or electronic – represents more hours of a writer’s life than most of us can contemplate losing. But for electronic ones there is a further hazard: having your only machine-readable copy be too old for contemporary computers. The longer it takes from the first word to a published version, in this day of rapid technology change, the more it is possible that your oldest files – the ones you haven’t opened in a long time – are lost.
I have at least one complete mystery novel on 3.5″ floppy discs in Macwrite written on a Macintosh. I have a single bound copy of the finished manuscript, and a box in the basement which may contain another. That’s it. DH tried reading the floppies into a Windows machine with no success. That novel is not a high priority – and I do have two paper copies in the event I want to try to publish it again. And I can read it into text with DragonDictate (since I can SEE the words). Or scan and use OCR software plus hand corrections. I haven’t even really tried reading the floppies – they haven’t gone through computer guru offspring yet.
The WIP is another matter. I’m determined to finish Pride’s Children, and post it on the blog’s free fiction page as I edit each Chapter. The manuscript consists of current edited files for the first chapters, the original revised drafts on paper (filling two banker’s boxes), and, I was hoping, digital versions of the third draft.
I have completed – thanks Scrivener AND MS Word 2004 for Mac – the scary process of getting an up-to-date copy, into Scrivener, of text that I have been creating since early in the century, on at least four different versions of Macs, starting with a Macintosh I named Excalibur (I can’t remember what it was!), an iMac, and a Powerbook.
The files were so old, some of them, that Scrivener couldn’t open them. Eek! Fortunately, I imported them to my then-new Macbook in 2006 (!), and haven’t lost them, and Word 2004 (my default wordprocessor until it doesn’t work any more) successfully opened these files so ancient they didn’t have DATES in Finder – and were Read-only – and created new versions in .doc format which Scrivener had no trouble opening.
All I lost, during the Scrivener import (it translates to .rtf for import), was Word’s Hidden text feature. I had used it to put my structure, in Hidden text so it wouldn’t print or show if I didn’t want it to, into the same files that held the text. I have decided to keep the structure, in Scrivener, in a parallel set of files, so Hidden text isn’t necessary any more. Scrivener, with its capacity to handle large projects with lots of files in one place, now contains every word – text AND structure.
Scrivener even seems to have imported Styles from Word: the files have the same look as they did in Word. I have to dig into that next.
But something I have been avoiding for YEARS, and fearing for YEARS, is now done.
And I didn’t have to OCR or DragonDictate stacks of paper which contain my backup of a novel which now runs at around 350,000 words. Yup. And which will be divided conveniently into a duology, because with Dramatica for structure, the ability to split was built in a long time ago.
Dramatica changes more slowly – I’m on my second incantation (Dramatica Pro 4.0?). There is a more current one which I may upgrade to when I’m finished, but the present version is working fine on the Macbook (I know, I know – ancient software), and I’m assuming (careful there) that the newest version will be backward compatible in reading its files when and if I buy it.
I am a slow adopter of new versions, and tend to make the new version (of things such as Firefox) LOOK as close to the old version as the developers will allow, if forced to upgrade because things don’t work, or work too slowly. Not one to go out and get shiny new objects – because I can’t afford the learning curve.
Unless forced to. I decided to do Scrivener because it comes with the ability to produce ebooks in various formats, and also seems designed to handle future formats.
I don’t object to progress, per se, but I don’t pursue it for its own sake. The cost, to my slow brain, has to be worth it. I can’t often afford the energy and time required to upgrade along with software and hardware, but instead tend to skip as many generations as I think I can get away with. Only this time I almost waited too long.
In this case – adopting Scrivener – I was also conscious of the huge disparity in technology over the last decade. Even my Macbook – Version 1,1 – is an anachronism, regardless of the fact that I doubled its RAM (to 2GB!) and upgraded its internal HD from 60GB to 750GB (all by my lonesome – with help from all kinds of info on the web and on Youtube – yay modern learning).
Now off to do two things with this massive Scrivener project (which BTW doesn’t seem to slow Scrivener down at all – compared to working with my own file system and in Word, I am amazed already): 1) create the file which I may copyright as a WIP, so that I can 2) start putting the edited novel up on the Free Fiction section of the blog.
I am on my way! Comments from writers who have navigated the process of copyrighting novels serialized online especially welcome – after digesting the NOLO Copyright Handbook I can think of at least THREE ways to do it, and none of them sound exactly right.