Working with no text is actually something I enjoy. I think that every story can benefit from it (though I don't recommend flushing the chapters in question!). For me, this takes three different forms:
- Talking about principles. This is when I try to hone aspects of my story by walking away from it and talking about it with friends.
- Echo listening. This is when I identify the strongest lines of my story by seeing which ones pop up in my head when I'm not looking at the text.
- Constructing a structure scaffold. This is when I try to rethink my story on a structural level without getting bogged down in the text which is already there, as an aid to revisions.
Echo listening is a different kind of tool. I use it for the most part as a guide to editing, to show me what kind of things I should try to keep no matter what (even if, for example, they need to be moved to another location). It's also a good test for poetic meter (which I don't usually bother to count out explicitly) and what sounds good.
Building a structure scaffold is enormously useful. Some of you out there may simply sit down with a blank page and start to write, but I almost never do that. I generally have an outline - and by that I don't mean something that is numbered with Roman numerals and indents. Sometimes it's just "this has to happen here," "X goes to this place," or "Y realizes A." Especially when you have a large unwieldy chapter with lots of words that need organizing, walking away from those words can help you identify the most logical progression, which elements are core elements of the story drive, and which are peripheral. This then makes it much easier to go back to the chapter and reconstitute it without getting caught up in the flow of the existing words - to see which ones are truly necessary to core drive, and which are not.
All of these are useful for reconstructing lost text. Because of all my talks with friends, I retain a lot of the information that we've discussed about the way the story is supposed to work. I bring this to my blank page and then use echo listening and the structure scaffold that I remember to put things back together. Currently my reconstruction file is up to ten pages worth of good lines interspersed with notes on scene and structure elements that I remember coming up with. And now that I have those, I'm much less scared about regaining my lost chapters than I was when I was staring at a blank "Document 1."
I hope they can also give you ideas for dealing with text loss, or with revisions.