Back It Up

Keep Your Writing Safe

Put on some Mozart and reading glasses because we’re talking about a serious topic today. Sit down, and focus all your attention on these words. Don’t fidget in your chair. Don’t think about what you’re going to watch on Netflix later. Don’t even think about your WIP.

Yeah, it’s that serious.

Ok, breathe. Focus. Listen.

Back up your writing.

It’s happened to us all. We spend hours, days, weeks, god forbid months on a project, and then poof it’s gone. The tech-fairies whisk it away as though it never existed at all, and we’re left staring at an error screen and begging time to reverse.

If it hasn’t happened to you, it will. Trust me. Unless you heed this warning.

When you think you have backed everything up and there is no way your work can possibly disappear into the cyber-abyss, back it up again. I know my work is secure, and I still get knots in my stomach when my Macbook gives me the spinning wheel of death.

Yeah, Mac-users, you know the one.

Because nothing deflates creativity faster than losing hours of hard work. It doesn’t matter if you have the thing memorized. You do not want to write it again. You just don’t. And you can’t write anything else until you’ve had proper time to mourn. You’re not an animal.

Once you’ve gone through that—the tears, the begging, the swearing to all that is good and pure you will write every single word longhand for the rest of your life—you have a little voice in your ear, whispering with each word you type, “Cmd-S . . . Cmd-S.”

So here is the system I use to make sure my words are never destroyed by technology failure. I have three lines of defense.

First Line of Defense: Scrivener

If we’ve had a conversation about writing (or about anything, actually) I’ve probably mentioned Scrivener. I love it. So much. I am actually restraining myself right now because this isn’t a post about Scrivener. This is about backing up your writing. So I’ll keep this to two points.

First of all, Scrivener autosaves. Seriously, you never have to Cmd-S while you’re using Scrivener. It saves during natural pauses in your typing, plus on exiting, so your file is always up to date.

Second, Scrivener is built with novelists in mind, which means it doesn’t crash every half hour once you break 20k words. (Microsoft Word, I’m looking at you.) Having a reliable program to write in is definitely step one for keeping your stuff safe.

Second Line of Defense: Dropbox

I remember the day I discovered Dropbox. All of my worries turned to dandelion seeds and floated away. It was incredible, and no, I don’t have it on film. But I promise that if you have never used cloud storage to secure your writing, it will have the same effect on you.

Nearly all of my files are organized in my local Dropbox folder, which syncs automatically, keeping copies in the cloud updated. So I open “Awesome Writing Project,” write words, save, and close out, and the file is automatically updated on the cloud.

Now, if my laptop happens to—I don’t know—fly through the window during a fit of rage induced by writer’s block and caffeine, my files are totally fine. Plus, Dropbox saves versions of your file each time you save. Accidentally erased half your work, saved, and closed out of the file? Normally, that shit is gone! But with Dropbox, you just log in to your account online, click on previous versions, and restore the version pre-erasure.

Of course, Dropbox is not the only option for cloud storage. Others include Google Drive, iCloud, and OneDrive. I definitely suggest researching and choosing the best option for your own needs.

Third Line of Defense: External Storage

Because I have absolutely no faith in technology, I have one final line of defense. Every six months or so I break out my flash drive and dump my writing folder into it. Just in case. I’ll also update this backup if I finish a big project, like a novel. So at the very least I know that my biggest completed works are safe.

If after all that, the stars align to destroy my writing, my backup, and my backup backup, I suppose I’ll just smile and shake my head because obviously that piece was not meant to be part of this world.

Just kidding. I’ll scream and break things.

Now go back up your work!

Photo by Sean-Franc Strang

October 28, 2016
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