Things That Get My Back-Up

by | June 6, 2022 | General | 4 comments

On the third of June I was sat in front of my PC, wrestling with edits from a recently completed chapter. The document itself was roughly 23,000 words of a developing idea: a WIP I’m currently calling Seagulls from Hell.

The seagulls in my story had just been getting frisky. They’d done something that only the naughtiest seagulls in the world would be likely to do. And I felt as though the story was progressing in exactly the right direction.


The screen died, as did every other electronic device in the house. The silence was sudden, eerie and inescapable. “Powercut,” I muttered. I smiled because I didn’t know those were still a thing. Deciding I was probably wrong I checked the fuse box to see if the safety switch had been activated.

A neighbour came to tell me his daughter had been on the phone to the electricity company and they expected to have the power back up by 9.00pm. I glanced at my PC monitor to see what the time was then, and realised the PC monitor wasn’t working because of the powercut.

It transpired I had two hours so I elected to use that time wisely. My desk had been buried under a mountain of paperwork whilst I went through the process of marking dissertations and exam scripts. I figured it was time to give the office a little TLC. I finished the desk swiftly, cleaned a couple of windows, put away some laundry that had been waiting on me and then read a paperback.
The lights came back on without any ceremony and I sighed with a little relief, switched my PC on and tried to remember where I’d been up to with my Seagulls from Hell.

An error box appeared claiming I was trying access unreadable content. I thought, if this is a criticism of my writing style, Microsoft Word have suddenly become brutal and more than a little hurtful. The error box gave me options to try and, like the well-trained Pavlovian rat that I am, I installed devices that were guaranteed to open my unreadable file and patiently tried each one.
I’m exaggerating a little when I use the word ‘patiently’. The truth is there was a lead weight in my stomach and the idea that I’d lost 23,000 words was making me sweat like a priest in a playground. None of the software downloads worked and, with rising desperation I tried one new fresh alternative after another. When I finally managed to get the corrupted document open the contents were nothing but hieroglyphics and gibberish.

It’s no exaggeration to say I was on the verge of tears.

By a strange coincidence, a pop-up box on my laptop asked me for feedback, wanting to know how likely I would be to recommend Word for Windows. My response was: “Since Word for Windows has just crashed and lost 23,000 words of a story I was writing, I think it’s highly unlikely that I’d recommend this product to someone unless I hate their f***ing guts.”

Then my wife came to the rescue. She was calm, patient and just what I needed. I had no backups of Seagulls from Hell. With it being stored on a cloud, I wasn’t even sure I had a copy of the damned file. But she went to the corrupt file and managed to go through the version history. By the time she’d finished her magical computer shenanigans, I was looking at all 23,000 words of my original story. I was still on the verge of tears, but this time they were tears of relief.

And I mention this as a cautionary tale for any writers who are reading this. To be safe, and not have to worry that you’re going to lose a huge chunk of valuable data, you’ve got two options: either regularly back up, or marry someone f***ing awesome like my wife, Tracy.

Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. Lisabet Sarai

    I guess Tracy is taken, right?

    I can thoroughly identify with your panic. I’ve had similar things happen to me. Even though I’m married to a techno-paranoid system administrator, and we have regular backups, and backups of backups, I’ve still occasionally deleted something by mistake that hadn’t yet been saved.

    I’ve started a discipline of making a full copy of my WIP in another directory (called Backups) every time I finish writing for the day. Won’t help if the entire disk crashes… but my stupidity in deleting *.* is more likely to be the problem.

    • Ashley Lister

      Thank f*** for those technos in our lives xxx

  2. Chaz

    I started selling computers for Radio Shack in 1981. So, 40+ years. I’ve been using an old HP Laptop as a capture tool for my media transfer business. Yesterday in the middle of the job the system locked up and required a restart. But it wouldn’t restart. Little light flickered a few seconds and went out. I’m pretty good about backing things up. I use Google Drive. I realized that there were several pieces of WIP that were not backed up.

    Luckily, the next day the system had cooled and it restarted and is chugging right along. I immediately backed everything up to my Google Drive and mentally prepared for the day that computer goes to the great data bank in the sky. 🙂

    • Ashley Lister

      Chaz – I’m not bullshitting you when I say my bowels tightened whilst reading this. I think there’s a chance for a good horror story, or the narrative tension for an erotic story where someone has some compromised data.

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