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Monday, August 3, 2009

Safeguarding Your WIP

With three consecutive free days this last weekend, I'd planned to devote myself wholly to writing. I even Facebooked about it:

(probably jinxing myself by even mentioning it) I've cleared the next three days to write, write, write!

Well, jinx myself I did. When I sat down to my WIP, a little munchkin got curious and disconnected my power cord from the AC-to-DC converter. (And for the record, I only knew it was called that because my husband just told me.) My laptop's screen went blank, and when I powered it back up an error message blipped up to haunt me. Windows had failed to start.

Thus ensued three whole days without my laptop. When my technically talented husband returned from his jaunt to New York and ran the gamut of tricks from his bag, he announced that my elderly laptop (I've had it four years) must go to the laptop doctor in an effort to prolong its life. (Yeah, I know - it's old enough to be put out of its misery.)

I'll admit, not having my laptop has put me in a bit of a funk but I've not fallen into the pits of despair. Why? Because there are copies of my WIP stashed away in a couple of different places. And you should do the same.

Backup your documents on a device outside of your computer. Flash drive, disc, portable hard drive, etc.
Okay, so I can hear you now, echoing the thought that ofttimes runs through my head: "But what if my house burns down and my computer and backup drive go up in flames?" Don't panic. There is a solution.

There are places online where you can store your files.

One option is a one-member Yahoo group. As silly as it sounds, Yahoo groups are free and offer huge storage space. (For instance, I've only used 2% of my allotted space for all my documents.) Another option is to pay for a service that is dedicated specifically to file storage. Mozy, for example, will backup unlimited docs for a reasonable fee.

Now the trick is to backup your WIP every time you make changes to it. I'm not saying every five minutes. Once a day will do. But it's important to get in the habit of doing so. (It only takes a minute or two.)

And what if you have to take your computer to the doctor? Be sure to ask them to backup the hardrive before attempting any repairs.

UPDATE: Here's some great info about Mozy from Calista Taylor: "I recently signed up with Mozy.com which offers a free backup service (limited space unless you pay for unlimited). Just sign up, download the software, and it'll automatically backup your files to their site every 24 hours. You don't even need to worry about remembering to do it yourself!" Thanks, Calista!

So, dear reader, I want to hear from you! Have you ever survived a computer crash? And how do you backup your WIP?

Suzsigline2

52 comments:

Matt said...

I try to back my WIP up once a month, but I realize that isn't nearly often enough.

Scott said...

Hard Drive, Flash Drive, External Hard Drive, and Online! These are my normal backup procedures. The Online is once per week, and every other option is every time I finish my writing for the day.

I learned my lesson the hard way!

S

quixotic said...

Hard drive, Flash Drive, External Hard drive, and I email copies of my MS from work to home, saving my sent files so there is an additional back up there too!

Great post.

Deniz Kuypers said...

I have two USB sticks for works in progress, one external hard drive for finished works, but I also use dropbox. It's an excellent application, like the Yahoo application the article mentions. It's basically a secure storage area that you can access from anywhere, plus it allows you to share certain folders with your friends (which is good for writing groups, etc.).

jbchicoine said...

A month ago, I added an impressive 1000 words, interspersed throught my WIP—some literary wonders that occasionally come together in my writing. I was just about to back up on my flash drive when my computer crashed. It took several weeks before I knew for certain that my computer guy could retrieve all my files.

That was scary, but not as scary as admitting that it felt like waiting for a diagnosis on a life threatening illness. Seriously.
I’m not entirely sure what that says about me…

brimfire said...

I use idrive.com. It daily backs up all the folders I selected on set-up. It gives me great peace of mind. Or it did. Since I'm out of country and my internet connection isn't the greatest, idrive isn't working well with my laptop anymore. So, it's back to flash drives and external HDs for me. Oh, and sporadically emailing myself a copy, just in case.

Novice Writer Anonymous said...

I have all my writings on my flash drive. It's a 4 gig drive so I don't think I'm anywhere near capacity on it.

If I need to, I can just grab it or grab the originals of my ms and get out of the house.

I write long-hand initially for everything but my short stories that I've written. So I always have a backup of the original and can edit and revise from there.

Novice Writer Anonymous
Chronicles of a Novice Writer

ElanaJ said...

Yikes, once a day?! I need to get on the ball. When I lost everything last year, the tech guy was able to restore everything to a disc. Then my husband bought me an external hard drive. That's primarily what I use now. I also have my own yahoo group with all my docs in it. I really need to do that again though...

Thanks for the reminder, Suzy!

Calista Taylor said...

I recently signed up with Mozy.com which offers a free backup service (limited space unless you pay for unlimited). Just sign up, download the software, and it'll automatically backup your files to their site every 24 hours. You don't even need to worry about remembering to do it yourself!

With the limited space, I backup everything except for all my pics and music, but even the unlimited option is extremely economical.

Cory said...

My favourite ways to back up my WIP: on my flash drive and e-mailing it to myself. Since I use GMail, that's as effective as any other kind of online storage - and probably a lot quicker.

Amy L. Sonnichsen said...

I just went through a horribly traumatic time thinking I'd lost EVERYTHING. Our computer didn't work when we brought it from China to America, and we had been foolish and optimistic and not backed anything up. The Geek Squad was able to save our files, but not our computer. We now have an external hard drive, but I admit, I still don't save a back-up copy often enough. This post inspires me and I think I'll start my own yahoo group. :)

Abby said...

Last Sept, the power pole in front of my house was struck by lightning, and it went straight to my computer, frying the power supply and motherboard and damaging the hard drive. I didn't have anything backed up.

It was seriously nothing short of a miracle I was able to save all my documents on that damaged hard drive, including about eight years of family photos.

Now, I back up everything to an external hard drive and to a thumbdrive I keep in my purse.

Iapetus999 said...

there are 3 things I do:
o Write in Google Docs. It's always stored online, and you can share them.
o Use Office Live. Your docs live online. You can also share them.
o Use an online email storage like gmail and mail yourself docs.
Wake up and smell the Internet, people.

M. Dunham said...

Now is a great time to mention online harddrives you can use to back up documents, like Mozy or iDrive. You get a free gig to use before paying for it, and a gig for my writing (as of now) is plenty for my writing projects. I'm so grateful.

I back-up online, and just in case, I use an external HD as well.

Myra said...

I bought a brand new Mac and transferred everything over from my PC (then wiped it). The Mac crashed THE NEXT DAY. Unrecoverable hard drive.

Luckily, I have several email accounts to which I regularly send my revised work. Now I have an external hard drive and a flash drive! I also email my work to my CP's occasionally.

Steven said...

With online backups, you can do more than just back up the WIP. Given effectively unlimited space, you can save each day's version separately. Suddenly you realize that the minor character you dropped two weeks ago actually could be valuable in resolving your story -- and you no longer have to recreate her from scratch.

Lynnette Labelle said...

A one person Yahoo group. Great idea! Thanks.

Lynnette Labelle
http://lynnettelabelle.blogspot.com

Mandy said...

Great post Suzette! I use a flash drive to back up after a couple of unfortunate incidents. Sometimes when I leave town I take that little drive with me... just in case. ;)

nightsmusic said...

I too use OfficeLive. It can be set to sync periodically while you're working on the document so you don't lose anything. Plus I too email my things to myself once a week. Gmail gives you ridiculous amounts of storage for a free provider and I can keep my things online.

I've had the crash, learned my lesson. Won't do that one again!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Sorry to hear your troubles, but glad you had backups!

Suzette Saxton said...

You guys are AWESOME! I can't thank you enough for all this great info. Keep it coming! I want to learn everything I can on this subject.

Angie said...

Oh, sorry about your laptop. :( Fortunately I have my own computer geek to handle back ups for me. Once we were hacked, though and lost all our data. It was awful. We paid big bucks to get it restored, but at least we got it back. Have a great day!

PurpleClover said...

I had a problem with this recently as anyone that frequents my blog would know (since I complained and COMPLAINED AND COMPLAINED). :)

I lost my harddrive and it was a physical error so there was no getting it back unless I wanted to call in a CIA task force and even then it wasn't guaranteed but the payment would still be due. I couldn't take the chance. Now I back it up everytime I finishe writing. Seeing as how my laptop has had to have the harddrive replaced twice and the motherboard once and its only a year and a half old. :(

Great post!

Catherine Gayle said...

After experiencing a crash a few years ago and losing EVERYTHING, I now save everything to both my hard drive and a flash drive every day. Once a week, I back up the entire flash drive to a secnod flash drive. I'm also considering using an online storage service, like Dropbox. With that one, you can get up to 2GB of storage for free, or you can pay for larger space.

Rick Daley said...

I use a flash drive. I should use multiple flash drives, I have a drawer full of them from trade shows and other similar business events.

Diana said...

Each night, I e-mail my WIP from my hotmail address to my gmail address, so that it is sitting in one sent box and one inbox. I figure if my computer, hotmail, and gmail are all destroyed, there won't be anyone left to read my novel, anyway.

Yunaleska said...

I feel for you. The past week (and a bit, if I'm honest) I've had a similar problem. My laptop, incompatible with my parents' mac, has been on the blink. Finally got a new one until friday. Yes, I've been twitchy about not writing. (But, being ill meant I wasn't up to it for a few days). And about my wips. I do have them stored online (thanks to a friend who's lent me their details for online storage), and on usbs...but I didn't have them on a machine I could work with.

New laptop solves that almost immediately :) I now backup every single chapter/session. I'm afraid of losing work - its happened before.

Lazy Writer said...

I've been thinking about this topic a lot. Thanks for the suggestions about online storage. That sounds like a great idea.

Jeanne Tomlin said...

Suzette, there is only one place I have to disagree with you. People just won't back up their files if they have to do it manually every time--or by far most won't. Heck, I KNOW how vital it is and I won't do it either.

It needs to be automated and that is pretty easy to do. There are online backup services (I use Mozy because it was recommended to me by an IT Professor who is also a SF writer).

They will automatically backup for you and I assure you they do work because I lost a hard drive and restored from Mozy recently. (mozy.com if you want to check it out and I use their free backup)

I also back up once a month or so to Google Docs on the principle that although Mozy seems to be very reliable something *could* happen to it. Better safe than screwed is my philosophy.

So people might want to check that out. Like I said, it was highly recommended to me and it does come free (or paid if you really have large backups but just text documents don't take that much)

Susan Blossom said...

My IT Manager recommends using Mozy or Carbonite for online backup. Like your other reader said, it can do automatic daily backups. Mozy has free service for 2GB but it's only 4.95 a month for unlimited space. (This is a bonus for photographers like me.) And the best part is the data is encrypted, so that gives me peace of mind.

Suzette, thanks for the excellent reminder & for everyone's comments!

Suzette Saxton said...

It's so great to have you all weigh in. While I like my one-person yahoo group, I must admit it'd be nice to have it happen automatically.

I just heard back from the computer shop. My hard drive is failing. They are going to try to pull the data from it, but I won't know until tomorrow if it's successful. The price of replacing the hard drive is fairly steep, so I'm thinking I'll be investing in something new. (Any tips on what to buy? MAC vs PC? I want something really, really reliable.)

May my laptop rest in peace. Or in pieces, as the case may be. >:-)

Tara said...

I email my WIP to myself.

christine said...

Yep - it happened recently too. Fortunately I back up things on an external drive. Unfortunately I don;t to it often enough. I lost about 3K - but it could have been a lot worse (the novel was 80K long)

Anna C. Morrison said...

I back up my WIP's constantly, probably too often. Several times a writing session, I will hit save to two locations. One of those will be an external hard drive. One is a flash drive. Sometimes I will also save to desktop (to remind myself to keep writing when I see it sitting there, begging for attention). I also like Google docs but I lose formatting.

PaulaKayMac said...

I just email myself an attachment of all WIPs, and then store them in a folder on my email page. So far so good.

Terresa said...

Excellent points. My husband is a computer security guy who recovers lost data in a snap. Me, I'm just the lucky writer.

Bethany Wiggins said...

So sorry about the crash. I use carbonite to back up everything on my computer. There is too much on there to risk any type of crash. Thanks so much for all the info.

Sara Tribble said...

I always save multiple copies in so many places!

My first labtop died on me where I only saved my first WIP on it's RAM, luckily, I was able to get on it before the crazy virus took over completely and save it to my Flash Drive.

I heart my flash drive, it requires a password before you can even use and access the files. Talk about protecting your WIP!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Great advice, Suzette. I'm paranoid about losing my files, especially after a house in my neighborhood was hit by lightning last year. That's why I aways backup my important writing stuff on my email account every time I work on it, even if that's several times a day. Fortunately "they" just bumped up the storage amount.

I don't think it's a good idea, though, to do it only once a week because you don't want to risk losing everything you've worked on in that time. Even the loss of a few days work can hurt.

I used to use an external hard drive for backups, but that malfunctioned. Which shows how important it is to have several different methods for backing up your stuff. You never know when something is going to fail.

Reesha said...

At the beginning of your post I was afraid it would have a horrible ending. Not that loosing three days of writing isn't horrible, but I was extremely glad to hear you had backed up your writing.

I own a Mac so I use MobileMe (also known as .mac) to backup my work.

I also send it to my two different e-mail addresses, and my cousin, telling her not to read it, but just keep it on file in case the worst should happen.

I don't have it backed up anywhere outside of e-mail or the internet though. If for some reason the entirety of the internet crashed, I would be out of luck. This would also be inconvenient if I wrote in places that didn't have easy access to the internet or wifi, but fortunately that's not a problem for me.

I back up after every single writing session, and sometimes in between writing sessions. I'm not only paranoid about it, but it gives me something to do when I'm momentarily stuck. Usually by the time I back everything up, I know what to write next.

Susan Blossom said...

Excellent (but sad) to hear that even an external hard drive can fail. Thanks for the warning. And thanks to everyone else for all the great advice. Beth, good to hear you use Carbonite. I just noticed it's 54.95 & does constant automatic back ups. Good to know.
Aunt Susan, aka Susan Blossom

Horserider said...

I try to back up my files often, but sometimes I just forget. I use the old, trusty method of emailing my documents to myself and keeping them in a file folder. Takes a few minutes to attach them all (I have more than one WIP), but I know that wherever I am, as long as it has internet, I can access them. I used to back them up on a flash drive, but I no longer trust them after losing two weeks worth of work because of a flash drive accident (long story).

jenheadjen said...

Oh dear. That reminds me. I need to develop my pictures of the past three years from my elderly laptop! Thanks for the reminder - I've been quite worried about beating the inevitable!

Gay said...

I have a Mac. It automatically performs back-ups of my files off-site at whatever frequency I request, and for my writing files, I also have it keep duplicates of the file where I can reach them at any time from any computer (and from my iPhone). With Time Machine on my new Mac, I also have back-ups on our family's huge external hard-drive. Nothing beats peace-of-mind.

Only 4 years for a computer, though? Unless you're doing a lot of tech stuff, that seems way short. We have laptop Macs in the family that are going strong at 7 and 8 years, and are only just now retiring because they don't have the RAM and CPU oomph to run the new OS and programs. We'll give them to the local Hispanic ministry, where they'll be much appreciated and still give years of service.

Susan Blossom said...

Ok, one more thing then I promise I'll be quiet: My daughter took her laptop on a flight & the computer crashed at the security check. They swore that there wasn't a thing that they did wrong while scanning her machine. (Mac ended up replacing the hard drive for her.) The Mac store thought it could have been the excessive static electricity generated by her walking on the rubber mats or vinyl flooring because as she picked up her laptop from the security personnel her hand got a huge zap when she touched the computer. Does anyone have any experience with this?

kathrynjankowski said...

Daily backups: hard drive, flash drive. Weekly backups: emails.

A Yahoo Group is such a clever idea!

I once ran a computer lab that converted from Macs to PCs. My advice? Macs, without question.

Stephanie said...

I think it's much simpler to e-mail it to myself.

Suzette Saxton said...

I can't tell you all how much I appreciate your advice. And Susan, I think static zappings must run in the family - I've blown lightbulbs that way by touching a lightswitch. Ouch!

Suzette Saxton said...

It pays to get a second opinion. I got my dead laptop back from the shop, plus two discs that contained all my documents. The problem was, the discs only contained material from 2008 and prior years. None of my new stuff seemed to have survived.

Enter my technically talented husband. He convinced my laptop to reboot (for the last time?) and was able to recover almost all of my files, with the exception of a random few that were corrupted. He was also able to save all my emails from Outlook - files that the computer shop had sworn were unrecoverable.

Becky Mushko said...

I use Time Machine/Time Capsule on my Mac for automatic back-ups, plus I periodically email my WIPs to my g-mail account. I also use my laptop to back-up stuff I really want to save.

I sometimes use a flash drive to transfer from one computer to the other, but I don't depend on a flash for safe storage. (Drop one on a hard surface and your work is garbage.)

Skipperhammond@gmail.com said...

Time Machine/Time Capsule is easy, automatic, but in the same building as your computer. Mac users can also subscribe to MobileMe, get 20 gig in the clouds, use it as you like--hosting your web, syncing mail, calendar, addresses between computers and iPhone, and file storage for backups.

Susan Blossom said...

Does anyone have any experience with Windows Live Sky Drive?