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What is your favourite writing software?

Mine is Scrivener, nowadays. I landed there about a decade ago, when I began to write plays for companies (as opposed to “in the vague hope that someone might one day stage them”), and quickly discovered that I wanted a software that did the right formatting for me.

And I know, I could have made or found a template in Word – but, while asking around, I was directed to Scrivener, with its variety of ready-made templates. It was love at first sight, and I never looked back. And while I got there for the play-writing templates, I stayed for a number of reasons – one being the various fool-proof tools to save my work. The unfailing automatic save, the back-ups, the snapshots… Oh wonder!

Because the fact is, I’m not very good at this saving business, when left to myself – and, what’s worse, I’ve also been dreadfully slow in learning from my mistakes. The things I’ve lost to careless saving, when still using Word… I don’t even want to think about it!

Well, as I said, Scrivener was a great help on this account, and besides, over the years I’ve learned to email myself drafts and to store copies on separate hard disks… Still, the odd accident happens: I had one just the other day – with Word. Why Word? Well, I’ve found that Word still suits me for the quick and rough work of Draft 0 – and, after all, I’ve learnt my lesson, haven’t I? I save all the time, I periodically mail the thing to myself… what can go wrong?

What indeed? Well, for one thing, it can happen that Word will suddenly decide that my Draft 0 is a read-only copy – but won’t see it fit to share this information with me. So the bloody, evil thing will let me save, and save, and save, and not once will it tell me that no, this is a read-only-copy, and if I want to save changes I need to save it as something else, creating a different copy. So it happens that, when I accidentally close the file (and this I blame on a combination of heat, haste, and extreme multitasking), on reopening I will find it stuck to three days earlier, with no earthly way to retrieve what I wrote since. No temporary copies, no unsaved versions… nothing at all.

Three day’s work lost – just like that.

Suddenly I was nineteen again, with the only copy of a novel’s whole draft (my very first attempt at a novel) locked inside a dead floppy disk, and no way to retrieve it. Oh, it was entirely my fault, then, for not doing at least another copy, for storing the floppy inside a pretty old tin that had contained Spanish cigarillos, found in my grandfather’s desk… A tin. Yes, yes – I know. What can I say? I was very young, not very technically-minded, and the tin was so pretty, and the perfect size…

But this time? This time the joke is, I’ve done nothing wrong. I saved, and saved, and saved… only it never occurred to me to check if the saves actually happened.

Oh fury!

So in the end I rewrote what I could from memory – and I rather think I recovered most of it – and since then I’ve gone and checked, every time I save, that the new file hasn’t turned to a read-only copy just to spite me, and I’ve been mailing it to myself each night. I can hope, perhaps… Devoutly hope, because it wasn’t an experience I’m wishing to repeat any time soon.

What about you, o Readers? What do you use to write? How good are you at saving your work? What do you do to avoid this kind of catastrophe?