Saturday, November 22, 2008

Adventures in playwriting

So today I was finishing up a short avant-garde play script. (My character in Lusternia is a well-known playwright, so I have to produce plays every so often.) I was using a QuickPad Pro to write it: this is a handy little device that runs an ancient version of DOS with a word processor that only works in plain text, but it's perfectly suited to writing on the go since it is light, extremely portable, boots up instantly, and runs for weeks on AA batteries. I can use it in the car, like on the long drive to CostCo, or in other places, like while waiting for the movie to start in the theater. And indeed, waiting for the trailers, I finished the play, and was very happy with the result. I actually found myself crying as I wrote the last lines.

The play is very short, only four and a half pages printed, but it took a lot more work than you'd think because it's very avant-garde and experimental, and I kept going back to change my mind about how I wanted to handle roles, costumes, scene changes, etc.

After the movie, on the way home, I wanted to start going through it for a second draft, to clean things up. All my writing depends on lots of rewriting. Feeling like I needed to be sure I didn't lose anything, I went to copy the play first. But I didn't have the external data card with me, so I sought to make a copy in main memory.

Doing so, I got some partial error message, and then... the play was gone.


I spent about fifteen minutes trying to recover it, and being distraught; and then I set everything else aside and started rewriting it from memory. I didn't let any time pass, I just poured it out. And thankfully it went quickly. The just-under-an-hour trip down from the movie theater, I was typing the whole way, and I finished mere blocks from the house.

Sometimes when I have to rewrite in a situation like this, the second time never feels as good as the first did. But since it was short enough, and I did it quick enough, I think the second time came out just about as good as the first time would have been after my first pass of rewrites. So thankfully, no harm was done. What a relief too. Losing something I wrote, when it's happened before, has made me feel so heart-sick.


rethoryke said...

Ouch. I'm glad you were in a mental space where you could remember the gist of what you had written and were able to hammer out something that captured your goals to your satisfaction. There's nothing like thinking you've got something saved and then discovering much later that something has gone seriously wrong with the "Save" function.

The most vivid memories I have of that are from when I was doing all my work on a little TRS-80 Model 100, and saving to cassettes or little 3.5 disks. What I didn't know was that my disk drive was becoming unreliable, so disks that had stories, papers, etc, became unreadable... and not everything had been printed out.

From where I am now, not a gigantic loss, but back then, oh the woe...

litlfrog said...

There are few feelings that bring complete, unpleasant focus like fear of a lost document. I'd put it up there with realizing you've messed up at work and talking to the police.