Your best hope is export to .idml (Remove minor corruption by exporting), but by the time you get a corruption message it's probably not going to solve the problem, so be prepared to start from the earlier version and redo some work.
I would, were I in your position, probably export the stories to ID Tagged Text and place those into a new document, then add back all the images. To export to tagged text put the text cursor anywhere in a story, without selecting anything, OR select all of the text you want to be included in the export, then File > Export ...and choose InDesign Tagged Text from the type dropdown in the dialog. It dosen't matter if you choose abbreviated or verbose as the tye in the next dialog. Tagged text is placed like any other file, and it comes in all styled.
No matter what else you do, start doing a Save As to a new filename once per hour or more frequently if you are at major change points as you edit. This will give you a chain of backup versions you can fall back on if the problem gets worse.
If you can get it open again, try exporting as IDML. Close the document giving you trouble. Open the IDML and rename the file. I periodically Save As to a revision name (appending -01, -02 etc to the filename).
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Peter, re your last paragraph - an important reminder for all of us, and I would add also back up regularly to an external disc, stick, cloud or device - you never know when your computer is going to fail, be stolen or whatever.
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External backup is extremely important. On Mac you have the built in Time Machine, and on Windows there is a built-in module as well, but I use a third-party program, currently Shadow Protect and back up my data every night to an external drive. I hate to tell you how often I go back to extract an earlier file, and in the case of hard drive disaster, or when setting up a new system, I can have all of my customer data restored in an hour or two. I keep data files on a separate drive from the OS and Programs (those are on the boot drive) and I back up the system itself once a week since it changes less frequently. Rather than have to go through eight hours of system and program install, I can throw in a new hard drive, boot to my restore disk, and have the entire customized system in place again in about 45 minutes.
Backup only works, though, if it actually runs, and that means the computer must be turned on. Some backup software will work in the background while you do other things, but in my experience most times this causes system slowdown to some degree. I like to leave my machines on overnight so they can do all of the maintenance stuff while I'm asleep.
Thanks, folks. I have been making backups to dropbox every few hours with different names, usually the date and time. So I was able to access a not-to-much older version which was working well and bring that up to date. And finish the project! (for now; it's off to a proofreader). I'm pretty inefficient about lots of things, but backing up obsessively is part of my M.O. thank heavens.
It was good to hear that these problems are fairly common. Peter, I'm going to take a look at Shadow Protect. I do have Carbonite and time machine but I love the idea of being able to back up my system as well.
As far as I know, Shadow Protect is not yet available for Mac, which is too bad. Great product.
With time machine you ARE backing up your system.
With DROPBOX you can allway return to a previous version, at least when you access from their web page to your site, you can choose a file and recover an older version
So you have everything you need.