As a writer, my stories are my babies. If I lost one, I would be devastated. Like, slip into a severe depression and contemplate quitting as a writer altogether, kind of depression. I have known MANY fellow writers who have experienced this. Their hard drive dies with all their manuscripts on it, and they’re lost forever. Their physical notebook was left on the bus or destroyed when someone spilled a drink on it. Their flash-drive went missing. Their file became corrupted. Their cloud storage got hacked, or everything got cleared out. Nightmare scenario after nightmare scenario. I’ve heard of writers losing their life’s work in some of the most devastating and permanent ways, leaving them distraught and defeated. But, thankfully, I can say the worst I’ve ever had was losing maybe a few too many valuable paragraphs (usually due to always living in areas with brownouts and working from a desktop computer). I have never lost a significant amount of my work before, but the fear of that happening is real – very real! Fear of losing my work is right up there with my fear of losing teeth, June bugs, and lasers (some of my fears are weird). So how have I, who have been writing for 19 years, managed to avoid such calamity? Well, here is my system to ensure you NEVER EVER lose your writing.
1. Digital is your friend. Believe it or not, a LOT of writers still prefer to write by hand. The ol’ pen n’ paper, or for some of the more hipstery and/or senior writers, the ol’ typewriter. Sit down and let’s have a talk – stop it! It’s 2020. Now, to be fair, I can understand that to write, sometimes you need the perfect mood and the perfect atmosphere, and, yes, the perfect tools, and for some people, they really can’t get the creative juices flowing unless they’re writing by hand (or typewriter). I get it, BUT, if you insist that this is how you HAVE to write, please, please, please transcribe your work to digital ASAP!!! When I was a teenager, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, laptops existed, but not many had them, and I did want the ability to write on the go, so I carried reams of notebooks filled with my writing wherever I went. Even then, I knew this was risky, and so every day when I came home, I immediately typed out and digitally saved everything I had handwritten earlier in the day. Ever. Single. Day. Now, that may be a bit too often for some, but please consider doing this maybe once a week, or, depending on how often you write on paper, maybe after every 2 or 3 writing sessions, that way if your notebook ever gets destroyed or lost, you’ll still have your digital copy.
2. Save it on SEVERAL different mediums: hard drive, flash drive, your phone, cloud storage, or even a private, secure, nonwriting-related email. Don’t just save it to one location! I save to my hard drive, a flash drive, and then email myself a copy; that way, if anything ever happened to my hard drive or if I lost my flash, I’d still have a copy I could access online.
2. Carry your files on your person. What happens if your house burns down or your cloud storage or email gets hacked, or you get locked out? Yes, I am just that paranoid, but with due cause, I have known writers who have lost work in housefires, who had their cloud hacked, and their emails deleted. The odds may be low, but they’re not zero. Shit happens! This is why I carry a copy of ALL of my written works on a mini flash drive with me wherever I go. I keep it in a secure compartment in my purse or wallet, and I NEVER leave home without it. My husband does the same with his digital projects. He has an easy-detach key-chain with his mini flash drive that he carries with him wherever he goes. If you don’t want to carry a flash drive or you’re afraid such a thing could be easily lost, stolen, or damaged, you can also save your writing files to your phone. Just about everyone takes their phones with them wherever they go these days. It really doesn’t hurt to have a digital set of copies with you wherever you go; that way, if a burglar breaks in when you’re not home and steals your computer, they also don’t make off with all your life’s work.
3. Save OFTEN! Make it a HABIT! I used to live in a place with frequent blackouts and brownouts, and I had to learn to save after every single paragraph. Of course, those were in my desktop computer days. These days I use a tablet, but that doesn’t mean accidents can’t happen. Computers and wordprocessors freeze, crash, and randomly reboot without warning sometimes, and for the love of God, never trust the autosave. If saving after every paragraph is a bit too excessive for you, at least consider saving after every page or every couple of pages.
4. Save in more than one file type. I cannot stress this enough – files can become corrupted. Most of us save in a word doc/Docx, but it’s also a good idea to save in an RTF or a plain TXT file. That way, if one file type becomes corrupted, you have a backup. After every chapter I complete, I’ll copy my entire manuscript from a docx file and paste it into a new text file and save it. By the time I’m done with one novel, I’ll have around 30 of these text files, each one chapter longer than the last, but each file is its own separate file, that way, if my docx file ever becomes corrupted, or one of my TXT files, I have several backup TXT files or several Docx files saved on other mediums.
Here’s my paranoid routine in all it’s glory.
-Manual save after every paragraph
-After every chapter, save docx file on my tablet hard drive and my flash drive, and save a copy of the entire manuscript in a brand new TXT file.
-Email myself the latest Docx file and the newest txt file (I trust email more than cloud, it’s just my personal preference).
-Carry a flash drive or phone containing the latest copies on my person at all times. (Usually my flash drive).
Thanks to my paranoid ways, I’ve managed to survive 19 years as a writer without ever having lost any significant amount of my writing. If you’re a writer and have ever been devastated by the loss of your precious life’s work, perhaps this will help you.
Writing Update: I have finished writing the 3rd and final book of the Convergence series, and it is currently in the editing phase. No official release date yet, but please feel free to follow this blog for updates and announcements.