The Traveler’s Gift—The Lost Chapter

Oct 24, 2012 | Writing

We often hear tales of authors having “lost” chapters that, for some reason, just didn’t make it into the book. For years, they sit locked away in some mysterious desk drawer, gathering dust until they are finally unveiled to the public in dramatic fashion. Well, friends, today is the day I unveil the story of (drum roll, please) the lost chapter from The Traveler’s Gift

I was desperate, willing to do anything.

The voice on the other side of the phone crackled through and quoted the price—the job was going to be incredibly expensive, payment due in advance, no refunds—whether they found it or not.

What exactly was “it,” you ask?

The Traveler's Gift Tag“It” was Chapter Three of The Traveler’s Gift, the first novel I had ever written, and it was gone. Twenty-four hours had barely passed since I had finished writing the chapter, which described David Ponder receiving the first decision for success from President Harry Truman. I had powered up my computer ready to start on Chapter Four only to discover that the Truman chapter was totally gone.

It has to be here, I thought to myself. I mean…please, God…it has to be here.

After determining that it was, indeed, not, I gave my assistant, SB, a panic-stricken phone call. 

It was the middle of the night.  “Andy, it has to be there,” she assured me. “You just aren’t seeing it.” (SB was very aware of my limited abilities with computers).

In the morning, she came to the house and searched through every last file folder on my hard drive while I stood around acting like Ricky Ricardo did when Lucy had the baby. There was no trace.

And so, several hours later, at the peak of my desperation, I was on the phone getting a price quote from a company that specialized in retrieving lost files from computers. The stakes were high—remember, I was going to have to pay whether they found Harry Truman or not.

As far as I was concerned, there was no other option. This was the first novel I had ever written and I really had no clue if I even knew what I was doing. I couldn’t imagine trying to reconstruct what I had written. Therefore, we boxed up my computer and shipped it off to the company. A few days later, we found out the verdict: the file was gone for good…along with the money I had spent to attempt its recovery!

To this day, thinking about that experience gives me an empty feeling in the pit of my stomach. When people ask me about the worst things that have ever happened in my life, I list my mama dying, my daddy dying, and losing the Truman chapter. Ha!

For six weeks, I didn’t write another word. I had spent so much time researching and pouring myself into that chapter that it was incredibly difficult to get my mind back to starting again. Eventually, however, that seventh decision found its way into my head (I will Persist Without Exception) and I forced myself to sit down and rewrite the now-infamous Truman chapter. I wish I could say it was easier the second time…but it wasn’t. It was infinitely more difficult.

So you see, the “lost” chapter from The Traveler’s Gift was never actually found. It was rewritten!

What’s your story? Tell us about the most important thing you ever lost, and to what lengths you went in order to find it.


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