Monday, 27 February 2012

Never Lose Your Writing - 7 Ways to Make Sure You Don't

Last weekend I managed to clear everything from my diary. I had nothing to do except write, and I was hoping to finish this draft of the never ending novel. I woke on Saturday morning and immediately settled down to write. After a couple of hours or so, I was gaily tapping away when my laptop froze.


What was I to do? I couldn't save what I'd done, I couldn't scroll the screen so I could read what I'd just written and I knew I hadn't saved it. Arghh! There is nothing worse than losing work you've spent time writing. And the situation was compounded by that lovely blank weekend - I didn't want to waste a moment of time because of a duff computer.

In the end I copied what I could from the screen - a few hundred words - turned off my laptop, then started it up again. The laptop was working normally and it had saved the document I had been working on so none of my morning's labour was in vain. I carried on and, after 11 hours (yes! 11!) I wrote the words: The End.

Losing your work is infuriating for everyone, for you for that wasted labour, for anyone else who has to listen to your tale of woe. You MUST take precautions to save your work. What you do will vary from person to person, but you need to get a system going. Some ideas....

1) Locate the Autosave or Autorecovery feature on your computer. Mine is set to save every 5 minutes so I should only ever lose 5 minutes work. Macs are usually pre-set to save, but it's optional on PCs - check it out.

2) Usually in the same menu as the Autosave/Autorecovery feature is one to create an automatic back up. Use it.

3) Get an external device such as a memory stick or an external hard drive. Get into the habit of regularly saving your work on to it. I was annoyed with myself because I hadn't saved my morning's work onto my memory stick as I usually do every 20 minutes or so.

4) I also regularly send work to myself as an attachment form one email account to another. It's easy to set up a Hotmail or Yahoo account just for this purpose. This means I can retrieve it should I need to from cyber space.

5) Print out a hard copy. People blanch at this one, as if reckless use of paper will ruin the planet, but let's face it, this is your precious work - it's worth a few trees (and besides, the trees used for paper are a renewable source like a crop of wheat or carrots.)

6) You can get devices that automatically save and store your work onto external hard drives. We're at the limits of my technological knowledge - I know these things exist, but don't use them myself.

7) There is similar software that will automatically store your work in cyber space. Again, not something I use but I know they're out there.

With luck, some lovely reader(s) of this blog will know more about 6 and 7, and will come up with suggestions. And are there any other simple ways to save work I haven't mentioned?

Whatever method you use, however, there really isn't any excuse for losing work. So, while I might make sympathetic noises to your tale of woe about lost work, I'm not that sympathetic. If you haven't got back up systems in place, do something about it - and now!


Giles Diggle said...

Re: 7. Online storage. I use iCloud for online storage on the Mac. Friends also use Dropbox for Mac or PC. ( which is also free. Both are secure as far as I am concerned and can be accessed from anywhere.

I back up online every time I have finished a session.

Anonymous said...

Dropbox is brilliant for online storage and it's free. I personally wouldn't use any online storage for really personal stuff but many people do.

Ann Patey

Shauna said...

I've used dropbox for exchanging files, especially large ones, but hadn't thought about it for file storage.

I backup my files to an external drive, as well as a flash drive/usb. One of the things I've picked up from workplaces, is that it's useful to keep one form of your storage at another location, incase of fire etc. Not a nice thing to think of, but when you consider all the things you've probably got stored on your computer, photos, bank information, as well as your manuscripts and ideas it's a useful precaution to have a full backup somewhere else.

Sally Zigmond said...

I too use Dropbox. It's brilliant. It's so easy to download and then saving is done by a simple drag of the mouse. It also means that wherever I am and using anyone else's laptop or PC I can log into Dropbox's website, upload my document and carry on working.

And I am technophobe grade 1.

I also compulsively...

Anonymous said...

Eleven hours!

*bows in admiration*

JO said...

So glad your work-loss trauma was so easily sorted.

I use googledocs but not enough - I have a Mac, which autosaves, but should still use my memory sticks more. Tales like yours are useful for reminding me - must try harder.

Karen said...

This has happened to me so often, and I'm getting much better at backing up. Mostly onto a memory stick and by sending work to myself, but I'll definitely look into using Dropbox too.

Kevin said...

Great article Sarah. I really agree with you on how important it is to make sure you have backup copies of your files.

I wrote a blog article myself some time back from the photography angle at Backup Those Vital Photos And Keep Them Safe but the concept is the same.

Dropbox sees to be a favourite here but as a professional in this area I would guide users towards Spideroak Spideroak give 2Gb for free which is more than ample for most home users and small companies using office software. It's a service that backs up the changes to a file almost the instant it is saved.

penny simpson said...

Hi Sarah - failed at first hurdle. 'Locate autosave' - any clues where to find it?!!

Sarah Duncan said...

See - I knew you lovely people would know all the techie stuff. I'll have to try Dropbox if even the technophobes can handle it.

Penny - believe it or not, I managed to find it on Saturday. I can't find it today even tho have looked in search etc.

Someone techie - help!

womagwriter said...

I use Google Docs, and a memory stick. Definitely worth backing up to some form of cloud computing (ie, backing up to the internet) as then even if your house burns down your documents are safe out there in cyberspace.

Philip C James said...

Sarah, Penny

Autosave configuration is usually found under 'Preferences' or 'Options' or some-such on the menu bar of your word processor. Don't use Mac so cannot be more precise.

If all else fails, RTFM ;)

Thought I'd left a post earlier about dangers of relying too much on one Cloud computing vendor, but it seems to have disappeared. Don't trust the Cloud!

Jim Murdoch said...

When I was writing my first novel I used to carry it back and forth on a floppy disk as I worked between a PC and an Atari ST of all things. When I had finished it and was ready to print out a hard copy something went wrong and the disk got corrupted. The last version I had saved was only 40,000 words long and so I had to rewrite the last 10,000 again. I can assure you there was no talking to me for the next couple of days. Luckily back then I kept copious written notes and so it really wasn’t as hard as you might imagine but it was soul-destroying. Since then I’ve been obsessive about backing up. At the moment I use Dropbox because it automatically saves the files into the cloud plus it copies them onto any other machine you have set up with the program so I never have less than three copies of any work in progress. I usually print out a hard copy periodically too. One other thing I do is have Word set to autosave every minute but I still find myself hitting CTRL-C whenever I’ve written a few words. Like I said, obsessive.

Aurelia B Rowl said...

I'm another Dropbox fan.

I have it set to private but can pick up my working files from my laptop, PC and phone or anybody else's machine if they have the software.

It autosaves and also keeps a copy of the machine itself syncing with the server regularly so even if Dropbox disappeared overnight, my work would still be safe.

It's just like any other computer folder but it's linked to your Dropbox internet storage account. Best of all, it's free.

Sarah Duncan said...

More votes for Dropbox!

Penny, Phil - have tried finding it in options and preferences but can't. Can't find it in Help either. Weird, as I could on Saturday, but this week the knack has left me.