Monday, November 29, 2010


If you're a writer, you need to back up your work. We all know this, but we don't necessarily do it. I did it, but didn't back up at a separate site, thinking that the greatest likelihood was that I'd lose or damage my laptop outside the home. Instead, our home was burgled the night before Thanksgiving, and both computers - along with my backups - stolen.

I'm very fortunate, in fact. I've discussed how important critique is to my writing process, and as a result of that, I have sent relatively recent drafts of all my work to friends, who are now sending them back to me. I've only lost my most recent work, about two and a half chapters.

Needless to say, however, I'll be changing my backup strategy. There are services now which provide off-site storage for files, and even services that provide automatic back-up saves for you. A number of my friends have recommended Mobileme, or the Dropbox service, to me, so I'll be looking into them.

My message for you for today is this: however you do it, do it and don't wait. If you feel cautious about using an outside service, burn yourself a disc today with all your files on it, and then take the time to do your research. Or find a friend with whom you can exchange files regularly so there's always an extra copy out there somewhere.

I'm going off now to work on reconstructing what I've lost. Thank goodness that's as little as it is.


  1. Juliette, I get chills thinking about you losing your work. It's my single biggest fear! Years ago, before I used computers I sent my only copy of my typed mss to a publisher. I knew I should have a copy, but I couldn't afford to make one at the time. Well... as you may have guessed... it got lost. Not lost, exactly, but after months of not hearing back, I finally called and got in touch with someone who said the publisher had gone bankrupt and they couldn't return manuscripts. They were all sitting in a room and they would be recycled. Nothing I could do about it. Lost it forever and no way to recreate it.

    Now, I'm anal about saving stuff! I use Carbonite and love it and have complete faith in their service.

    One other thing you can always do for specific files--just send them in an attachment in an email to yourself. That way they'll be there if your 'puter gets stolen.

    Sorry to hear about your loss! Also, are you doing anything about possible identity theft in case the thief gets info from it?

  2. Very sorry this has happened to you!

    I remember when I was younger my dad called me to tell me the house had been burgled and the only thing stolen was my laptop. At the time I wasn't very savvy at all and I'd backed up nothing, including a full-length radio script I'd written. I just vividly remember walking home and crying, cataloguing all the things I'd lost. At the very least now everything has a hard copy and I frequently send things to people.

    Once bitten definitely twice shy.

  3. Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it. I console myself by thinking it could have been a lot worse. Yes, Les, we have been acting against possible identity theft - changing passwords, disabling web access to accounts, etc. Started doing that the night we discovered the theft. I'm sorry about both of your experiences...I'd hate to lose an entire book or script that I'd written! Two and a half chapters is bad enough.

  4. Thank goodness for critique partners, but what a horrible thing to happen. HUGS! On backups, I'm completely anal. I do an incremental file search at the end of every day, zip up all the key files I've touched, and send them to my email account. It's saved me many times when files I thought I'd put on an SD card didn't actually make it. I'm lucky that nothing's been stolen so far, but there are so many ways to lose your data. Thanks for the reminder. I still need to work out an exchange for my monthly backup DVD because recovering from the incrementals would be beyond painful.

  5. Hugs on losing your computers.

    I keep copies of everything, including my hard drive, on USB flash drives which I put in my security box at the bank.

  6. Dropbox is one option. Another option is to choose an automatic offsite backup from companies like Backblaze, Carbonite or Mozy. They're brainlessly easy to use and for around $50/year will keep all your files encrypted and updated on their servers.

  7. I second Douglass's comment: Use something like Carbonite or the others he lists (I use Carbonite). It's relatively inexpensive, automatic, and gets files out into the cloud where fire and theft of your home are non-issues. For the longest time I made CD/DVD copies and dropped them off in our bank's safe deposit box. That works, too, though I abandoned that strategy when we switched banks. My backups have been in the cloud ever since.

  8. Thanks to all of you. I appreciate the recommendations; I'm looking into it.

  9. Juliette, Sorry to hear about your loss. Losing your work is one thing, to have it happen in such a fashion is horrible. I hope you, your family and home are restored to normality in the fastest possible time.

    I backup all over the place (I've lost work too - on every single book I've written, the last time was a stupid "Save" instead of "Save As" operator error). Anyway, they may be getting obsolete, but don't discount the usefulness of a small USB thumb drive. They're dirt cheap and, if you're only dealing with word documents which have tiny file sizes, it's really all you need. You can throw it in a drawer or send it to a friend for safekeeping. The same is also true of SD cards.

    Also, think about saving your work to googledocs. That has the added benefit of not only having your work "off-site" but also allowing you to work on them wherever you have an internet connection (and not necessarily your own computer).