Monday, June 25, 2007

Backing up Your Work

By Josi S. Kilpack

Ask any writer that has learned to properly back up their work the hard way and be sure to bring Kleenex. Having your words be sucked into the cyber abyss is an experience I wouldn't wish on my best competition (Okay, maybe on my BEST competition). And it's happened to me, more than once. The first time was on my first book and the only reason I lost it was because I didn't know about the 'undo' option in Word. Yes, that's embarassing to admit. I would lose entire paragraphs nearly every day, because I typed so fast that I would block out a passage and keep typing before I could realize what happens. When I found the 'undo' option I was releived, and completely ticked off. Fast forward a few years, and I dropped my laptop and fried the mother board. Miraculously I could get the machine to turn on for two minute increments and was able to save the three manuscripts I had on it before it died for good. When I got a new one and had my hard drive transfered, to save all my other documents, the computer store made a mistake and didn't save it right. By the time I figured it out, my old hard drive had been reformatted.
And yet, a high percentage of writer's don't back up on a regular basis and some just don't know how. So, here are a few options for you to consider.
Hard copy--This means you print it out so that you have a physical copy. Not advisable unless it's a short work like an article, essay etc. because you'll use up a lot of paper. And, hard copy isn't very efficient due to the fact that should you need to 'restore' your file, you have to retype it in by hand, for a 900 word article, this isn't a huge deal, but for 60,000 words of a novel . . .
Extra Hard Drive--You can get a second hard drive installed in your computer, or network another computer to your system, and get programs that will back up to it automatically on a regular basis. Should something happen to your main hard drive, you have the second one on the same machine and your back up copy is easily accessible. The drawback is that it can still be vulnerable to viruses that might affect your main drive and if your computer is stolen (which rarely happens, but ya know...) you've lost your back up too.
External Hard Drive--this connects through a USB and you manually save your work to this drive on a regular basis. To protect it from viruses, you won't want to keep it hooked up all the time, only when you're backing up. This can be a pain, and it's in the same location as your main computer, but it can be transported and put into storage if necessary as well.
Jump Drive--These are USB port devices that are small enough to fit on a key chain and yet go up to more than 1 G of memory. These are very convenient and prices start at around $20. Many writers love this option, not only for backing up, but if they are using multiple computers for their writing. Some writers even keep their works only on the jump drive, not saving it to the hard drive of any computer. However, with a jump drive you risk making changes on one machine, and improperly saving it on another. Pay strict attention to how you use your jump drive. They are also very small and easily lost.
CDs--If your computer has a CD or DVD burner, you can burn a copy of your work onto a disk and should you need to restore it it's easy to open the file from the disk. Of course, it's not perfect either. If you were to back up to a CD every day, for instance, you'd go through a lot of CDs since generally you can only save to it to a CD only once. CD's can also be lost or improperly saved to.
Email server--Many writers I know back up by e-mailing the ms to themselves at the end of each writing session. The attachment is then saved on your e-mail server and should you need to restore, you can go into your server and replace it. This is one of the easier ways to back up, but you'd have to be consistent (as with every other option). And keep in mind that some e-mail programs delete messages from the server on a regular basis.

Regardless of which option you choose, the key is to be consistent. Some writers back up every time they write, other's back up once a month, some don't back up at all because it's a pain or they don't think of it. However, it will only take losing your work one time to convince you that the few extra seconds are well worth your while.

Back up copies should ONLY be used to BACK UP because they will replace your current version. Label them as back-ups so that you don't accidentally open it as your current version.

Happy Writing!


Annette Lyon said...

Do it, do it, do it! Big bold letters, yell it to the world! Back up your work! Great advice everyone should listen to.

(Can you tell I learned the hard way? Never again!)

Heather B. Moore said...

I've learned the hard way too. I have an email account just for my backup manuscripts. I email it to myself at the end of each writing session. Then I delete the older versions. It's wonderful because I can access the updated version from anyone's computer.

Lu Ann Brobst Staheli said...

Excellent advice. I've been using two computers (a desktop and a laptop) lately, so at least one version of my novel is on both computers. I also have much of my writing on a flash drive. When I feel I'm as done with a book as I can be (until an editor decides to accept it), then I burn the book onto a CD and keep those stored in a special folder. I also print a final draft hardcopy which I put into sheet protectors and a notebook. That way at least my family sees I've written another book and it looks published, even if it's not yet.

Anna Maria Junus said...

I have an external hard drive and it's easy to plug into my laptop.