Friday, December 23

When Was the Last Time You Backed Up Your Writing?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week's Refresher Friday is a reminder that as the year comes to an end, it's a good idea to backup and save all the work we did.

It's that time of year again, when many of us are carting our laptops around and writing in strange places--be it for NaNo Write Ins, or traveling to see family over the holidays, or sneaking out of the house while family is visiting to get some work done.

With all this mobilizing, the odds of a backpack slipping off a shoulder or chair and breaking something go way up. All it takes is one unexpected moment for damage to befall that computer we love so much. If that damage prevents us from retrieving thousands of words of our writing...oh, the horror.

If you don't have a reliable backup system in place, take a few minutes today to set something up to protect your work. There are plenty of free online options (I'm a big fan of Dropbox), but even a USB drive that you copy files over to after each session can save your writing if the worst happens.

(Here's more on why failure to backup your work is the single biggest mistake writers make)

It's also not a bad idea to swap copies of your work with a writing buddy via email a few times a year. That way, there's a copy of your work offsite in case of disaster. This is especially handy for older work we don't always back up regularly. Sure, maybe you haven't touched that novel in over a year, but it would probably break your heart to lose it.

Here's a more detail discussion of backups and potential options. If you have options you like, please share in the comments.

Looking for tips on planning, writing, or revising your novel? Check out one of my books on writing:  Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, your step-by-step guide to revising a novel, and the first book in my Skill Builders Series, Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).


A long-time fantasy reader, Janice Hardy always wondered about the darker side of healing. For her fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The Shifter, was chosen for the 2014 list of "Ten Books All Young Georgians Should Read" from the Georgia Center for the Book. It was also shortlisted for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize, and The Truman Award in 2011.

Janice is also the founder of Fiction University, a site dedicated to helping writers improve their craft. Her popular Foundations of Fiction series includes Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a self-guided workshop for planning or revising a novel, the companion Planning Your Novel Workbook, Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft, your step-by-step guide to revising a novel, and the first book in her Skill Builders Series, Understanding Show Don't Tell (And Really Getting It).  

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16 comments:

  1. As a long time writer who has lost work to computer meltdowns over the years, I know the heartbreak of not being able to rescue all that precious work. So now, I save every chapter each day to OneDrive, which works seamlessly with Word, and an external portable hard drive that stays plugged into my PC at all times and can hold not just my manuscript but any research or other materials I need. Once a week, I copy everything to Dropbox and my little USB drive that has almost enough memory to back up my entire computer. It's a little bit overboard but after a couple of bad "burns," I just want to make sure I never feel that pain again!

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    1. Smart. All it takes in one bad experience to make someone a little obsessive about this. I've had several catastrophic failures over the years--never fun.

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    2. I'd like to add that with one drive you can write on the cellphone or tablet and sync it to edit in your pc. I loved the Windows Phone keyboard and used to write a lot,but recently I had to change to an android and the experience isn't so great. But it's totally feasible to write some scene excerpts with a good smartphone.

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  2. I make a full back up of all my work before I shut down the computer for the night, Then I place them on two flash drives and two cloud drives. I'm not taking any chances :D

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  3. I use SugarSync to back up my work and it's been fantastic. I choose which folders I want it to backup (no special folder needed so I can keep my saving structure as is) and it automatically syncs any file in those folders with the SugarSync cloud. I'm able to get to those files via the web or I can sync my folders across multiple machines so I can work on documents on my laptop or my desktop and always have the most recent copy available. Best of all, I don't have to remember to copy a file to another folder or remember to run any software. It saves as I save. I love it. :)

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    1. I love the auto sync functions of backup programs. Convenient and a good way to keep the files safe.

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  4. I always back up my work on a flash drive. Each chapter as I finish it. And sometimes even just halfway through. Not taking any chances.

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    1. Good plan. Don't forget to backup that flash drive once in a while, too :)

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  5. dropbox is all i use now. used to save to flash drives, but dropbox is very easy (set up my scrivener project folder inside my desktop's dropbox folder and it syncs every time it is opened, be it from my laptop or desktop).

    google drive i've used for a few other projects, and it is nice (particularly when collaborating with other people), but i mostly just use dropbox now.

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    1. That's the same setup I use. As long as you give it time to sync up it works great.

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  6. Janice, this is amazing advice. A few months ago my laptop crashed. Thankfully I'd previously uploaded my full manuscripts to iCloud. However, I did lose a lot of little documents. Now I use Carbonite on both our desktop and my laptop. It automatically backs up my files whenever I go online. Boy, I wish I would've done that earlier!

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    1. It's so easy to forget or let slide. My husband reminds me all the time and I still slack off from time to time.

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  7. Macs come with Time Machine which will backup on the hour or longer. Always have it set to go to an external drive in case of disaster.

    For cloud storage, pick a site that offers software that will automatically upload at specific times.

    As a super paranoid person, I also keep a flash drive in my safety deposit box at the bank. That's also a good way to store pictures, contracts, etc., that you wouldn't want to lose in a fire.

    I offer other ideas for emergency planning here:

    http://mbyerly.blogspot.com/2016/03/are-you-ready-for-writer-emergency.html

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  8. I lost the revised version of my novel as well as a ton of other documents when my computer died during an update. I hadn't backed it up and I only have the earlier draft of it now (this happened years ago). Thankfully, it was after I queried and decided not to pursue publication on that project, but it was still heartbreaking. Even if you do backup, make sure you keep close track of everything. I put a revised version of my manuscript on a flash drive, then later on deleted it to put a more up to date version, only to discover I had deleted the wrong thing and couldn't get it back! I had to rewrite a huge scene. Actually, it turned out for the best, but it won't in every situation!! Now I'm SUPER careful about backing up and keeping stuff straight.

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  9. Besides regular backup, I often email my writing to myself., for easy access.

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