green eggsIs your name Sam? Probably not. Neither is mine. Neither are six of the seven major characters in my work-in-progress, The Midwife’s Confession. But last night, my Word program suddenly decided that if the name Sam was good enough for the guy who really is named Sam in the story, well then, it’s good enough for everyone else, too! While Word was at it, it also decided that the town of Wilmington, North Carolina should be named Sam. Also, the fictional Hunter High School. And the fictional babies-in-need program I’d dubbed Stork Village? Word thought the name SamSam sounded much better.

But wait! There’s more! Like many of my high school English teachers, Word didn’t think I should begin any sentences with the word “but”, which I’m afraid I do all the time, so to punish me, it decided all capitalized buts should also be named Sam.

Yes, this is how I spent last night. I was happily working on a scene when I noticed that I seemed to have written the name Sam instead of the name Shannon. I scrolled back and discovered that somehow, all my Shannons had been changed to Sam. Very weird, I thought, but I could deal with it. I would simply do a “find and replace” function to carefully select the Sams that needed to be replaced with Shannon.

That’s when I discovered the terrible truth. Shannon, Noelle, Emerson, Ryan Ann, Tara and Anna–all of them were now Sam. Wilmington, But, Hunter — all Sam. Stork Village — SamSam.

What to do? I back up my documents religiously and in many different ways (thumb drive,, emailing them to myself, etc), and I have Word set to save every single minute that I’m working. But my last backed up copy had been from an hour earlier and I’d written a ton in that hour, so I decided I would simply have to change the Sams back to their original monikers. If I had this to do over again, I probably would surrender and go back to an earlier version, because the path I chose took nearly two hours of utter torture. 

What to do with a sentence like the following?  “What?” Sam asked, and Sam and Sam both leaned across the table toward Sam. That ripping sound you heard last night was me tearing my hair out!

The problem is solved only for the moment. I don’t know what caused it (a friend believes it’s a virus in the Word program itself, not in my computer which appears to be clean) and I don’t know how to fix it. Knock on wood, it’s behaved itself so far today, but to say I’m a little nervous about what might happen next is an understatment.

In the meantime, I’m thinking of changing Sam’s name. I’d like to never read that word again.


  1. Ingrid King on March 28, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I can’t even imagine what you went through! I’d get someone to check your computer and/or Word program to get rid of whatever virus may have embedded itself into your program. You might even want to consider removing Word from your computer and reinstalling it.

    Thinking good computer thoughts for you!

  2. TigressPen on March 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    I am glad to hear you were able to change all the Sams back to their intended names. If you have a copy of your word program, maybe it’d be safe to uninstall and then reinstall from the original disc. Good luck with the rest of the edits – looking forward to reading the book! And I promise not to think Sam instead of the character names you chose while I read.

  3. chelsey on March 28, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Omg thats aweful! Sorry u had to go through that 🙁

  4. Denise on March 28, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    OMG, how horrible for you! You must have completely freaked out. I know I would have!

  5. Diane Chamberlain on March 28, 2010 at 10:30 pm

    Sam is behaving himself so far today. . . someone told me to copy the whole document and paste it into a new document, so I’ll see if that does the trick.

  6. Cindy Mathes on March 28, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Diane, I cannot imagine what would cause that glitch…Sorry for all your work…Hang in there.

  7. Cindy on March 28, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    I know you must have been frustrated beyond words. glad you have your sense of humor.

  8. Ingrid King on March 29, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    I just came across this blog on Emilie Richard’s site, titled “Play It Again Sam – When Word Processors go Wrong” -I thought I’d share it here. It cracked me up – but that in no way dimishes the fact that I feel for you and the pain you went through. However, I thought you, and everyone else, might get a chuckle out of it:–when-word-p.html

  9. Gloria Bernal on March 29, 2010 at 12:58 pm

    You’ve had some good advise by many… I did not know that Word could get a virus and not the computer. Maybe reinstalling it is a good idea, if it happens again. Good luck, you hard worker bee!

  10. Diane Chamberlain on March 29, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Emilie asked my permission to blog about my personal agony, and of course I gave it. I think she and I should take our show on the road!

  11. brenda on March 31, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Good luck. This English teacher does not let students begin sentences with but or and…I tell them when they are famous authors they can write that way…chuckle…however, for essays…do not do that…they laugh…

  12. clicia Tremblay on July 8, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    I am currently reading “Cypress Point” and there is an adorable Sam there who does not misbehave as badly as your computer.
    Good luck!! Isn’t technology fun!! I still remember the mechanical typewriter….

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