Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Nasty Bug

For several months now, I have been beta testing a writing tool called Scrivener. This was a Mac only tool, which is now being ported to the PC. Thus far, my testing of Scrivener has been very smooth, but last night I encountered one of the nastiest bugs I have ever encountered while using software.

I want to be clear that I am very positive on Scrivener. Despite the bug I encountered last night, I still plan on purchasing it, so my remarks here should not be seen as disparaging. The reason for my post is something along the lines of a Public Service Announcement, a warning to others who may also be testing Scrivener. On the whole, Scrivener is a wonderful product. I am not an organized guy, just look at my sock drawer, but Scrivener helps me stay organized while I write. I also love the separate areas for Research, and random notes that I made while writing.

As I stated on Sunday, I am now keeping track of my word counts on a daily basis so I can report to my blog on a weekly basis how I’m doing. The way I’ve been doing this is to go into Scrivener at the start of the evening, and copy out the current number of words I have in my manuscript. Then, at the end of the evening, I put the new number of words I have. Using a little elementary subtraction, I have my word count for the night. I dutifully did that tonight, and then went to the area of the manuscript I was working on last night. When I got to the end of my manuscript, my jaw hit the floor. I couldn’t find the scene I had been working on when I closed up shop last night. I flipped back to the blog draft where I was keeping my running count.

The verge of tears.

My beginning word count for Tuesday matched my beginning word count for Monday. Someway, somehow, everything I had written Monday night was gone. I jumped on the Scrivener forums, and lo and behold, the first thread is titled “Saving Error”.

The users there are trying their best to communicate to the Scrivener devs just what happened. I wasn’t able to add much, and even if they figure it out, I’ve still lost all my work from last night.  Thankfully, this damage is partially mitigated by the fact that I tend to write my story out with pen and paper before transferring it to computer. Now, I will have to do some dumpster diving (okay, just trash can diving) to find those notes.
But last night, I remember really being into the characters, and writing a couple of scenes extemporaneously. I’m sitting here trying to rack my synapses to remember what I wrote. Maybe as a I start to rewrite from my notes, it will jog something deep in my cerebral cortex and I’ll remember.

The important take away from today’s post is that if you are using Scrivener (beta 0.22) right now, be very careful and back up your work. I have decided to take my manuscript back to Word for the time being until Scrivener is ready for prime time. Again, I knew the risks when I signed up for the beta. I'm not mad at Scrivener, or their Developers. I'm a Developer myself, bugs happen. I'm just trying to deal with a very tangible sense of loss.


Laurie Tom said...

Scrivner is good stuff. I wrote my most recent sale on it without too much of a hassle, but I haven't really used it since because it's still very much a Beta.

Being paranoid I copied and pasted everything into my other word processing program after each days work just because I was afraid of running into what you did.

But once they get the kinks out of it, I'm pretty sure I'm going to pick up a copy. I find the full-screen mode really boost my productivity since I can't see anything else in the background. :)

Steve - Kestrel's Aerie said...

OUCH! That hurts...I've been in the same boat before, and I know exactly the gamut of emotions you felt. As a loyal Scrivener user, I would like to emphasize this bug is only in the Windows version (beta), and is not in the Mac version.

However, I have encountered a situation in the Mac version that probably is encountered in the Windows version as well.

I save my work to Dropbox (and Scrivener automagically creates a backup ZIP file each time I close it, which is saved to a local drive). The reason I use Dropbox is because I switch back and forth between my desktop and laptop computers. You can really screw things up if you switch between computers without closing Scrivener in one machine before opening it in another.

I did this once, and fortunately, I'd made a couple copies of the scene I was working on, so I was able to salvage my work. However, my Dropbox copy of that scene was quite corrupt.