life stuff / writing

Scary Story

This is a scary story.

You know when you’ve been working very hard on something – put all your heart and soul into it, plus more hours than you can count, given up things you’d really like to do in order to work some more – and at last you can see the end in sight? It might be an art project, homework, your university dissertation, or making a giant Lego statue of a horse for your little sister.

Or it might be that book you’re writing.

Things might have gone a bit wobbly in the middle but you’re pretty happy with how it’s turned out. You’ve worked hard and fast on the last stages, so hard that it’s all gone in a whirl and you’re not quite sure how you got there.

And then you add the last touches, the topmost Lego brick. Or the full-stop on a final sentence that you’re rather satisfied with. You sit back for all of a second, permitting a tiny moment of triumph.

Then – yeeeeeaaaaaarrrrrgggghhh* – disaster strikes.

(*This cry was so long and loud you probably heard it wherever you are in the world.)

For me it was a book – the second in my Nancy Parker Detective series, which had to be delivered by a tight deadline. Due to uncontrollable circumstances (no lie!) it had taken much longer than I planned to get to the point of being ready to send. As the date loomed I wrote furiously. The night before the final day I said to my husband, ‘Only the last chapter to do tomorrow and a few little bits to tie it all up.’ Foolish optimism. That ‘last’ chapter stretched into three and the ‘little bits’ took ages to tweak. I was concentrating too frantically on the words in front of me to make it extra-safe by pressing Save or backing it up on a memory stick.

Late afternoon, and I typed the last full-stop. The very second afterwards my screen went dark and – horror of horrors – an error message popped up. ‘This computer has had to shut down.’


It can’t.

Oh yes. It could.

What perfect timing: perfectly devastating.

There followed a massive meltdown on my part, only partly relieved by some Rescue Remedy and a cup of tea. The computer agreed to restart and I discovered it had only lost the last few lines of the 4,167 words (good, bad or indifferent, I now had no idea) that I had written that day.

I pressed Send right after retyping those lines. Not with any sense of relief or achievement – just in fear of it happening again and not getting it all safely back. I was a trembling jelly.

Next time, I think I’ll make a giant Lego horse instead. What could possibly go wrong?


Nancy Parker’s Diary of Detection by Julia Lee came out last month.

2 thoughts on “Scary Story

  1. You brought back a terrifying memory of the exact same thing that happened to me…right down to the last chapter turning into three, and the computer shutting down. (Although I discovered Rescue Remedy long after my disastrous day.) I’m so glad you only lost a teeny bit!

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