Backing up your writing!

Frustrated Businesswoman Looking At Her Computer Screen In Dismay

Having slogged away for months and months researching and sweating creatively over my keyboard, I have finished a first draft of 107,000 words of a new novel and it’s gone for its first editorial pass. Hooray! But imagine the horror of losing all that work due to a digital disaster!

To prevent this, I have belt, braces and a parachute, metaphorically speaking. In the old days, I used to send part and completed drafts from one of my domain based email addresses to a Gmail one so that if the worst happened, a version would exist in Google cloud storage. (I still do this, actually!)

But in the writing community, I hear far too often about people who have ‘lost’ their computer files. Happily, there are many ways to avoid such a disaster these days.

The first step is to ask yourself how you organise your files

Having tens or even hundreds of them spattered all over your desktop is not best practice. Try to follow a ‘clear desk policy’, only keeping files on the desktop that you are currently working on or frequently (i.e. daily) need to access. All other files should be saved and stored in appropriately named folders on your computer hard drive. I have one main folder for each of my books, then sub folders for the cover, manuscript, marketing, research, photos, maps, etc.

This is not boring or techie – Backing up your computer is essential!

Do not rely on storing your precious prose only on your computer, i.e. on the internal drive. If it goes phut and the expert says, “Sorry, but it’s a total failure and all your data is lost,” you’ve had it. Royally. Disaster.

Many people use a hard drive for storing their files – a good first step if used as part of a strategy.

A word to the wise – really, really do use them for storing your original files and photographs on them as external drives tend to fail more frequently than the internal drive on your computer. You should external drives only for backing up. The place to store your original files, including your precious work, is your computer! The external drives are your fail-safe/security net.

But – it’s a big ‘but’– they do fail after a finite time. However, you shouldn’t need to worry about that horror if you have a proper back up strategy in place.

My backup strategy

A sound solution is to use two external drives to back up, with the system alternating between the two drives automatically. The likelihood of both failing at the same time is remote. (Cue belt, braces and that parachute.)

I’ve always followed the ‘3-2-1’ back up rule. This means I have:

  • Three copies of each file, including the original,
  • On at least Two different drives,
  • And One copy stored ‘off-site’.

For example, I might have my original document stored on my internal computer hard drive, a copy stored on a separate external hard drive, and the third copy synced to Dropbox.

Whenever I change the document on my internal hard drive, e.g. when I’m editing a first draft, the copy in Dropbox (cloud storage) will be updated and the second copy on an external hard drive will also be updated within an hour automatically via Apple Time Machine (as I use a Mac) or, if you are a Windows user, there is a similar application such as Backup and Restore.

So, at worst case I will have potentially only lost a few minutes’ writing on a document if one of the drives fails or even if the computer itself fails.

Young male employee looking shocked at the computerA gory story

It also works for websites. We had an enormous failure here a few years ago and both this writing site and my Roma Nova site vanished into the ether. I was stunned by the news, went cold, then scurried to cry in a corner.

However, everything had been backed up. I lost likes, and some, but not all, comments. My other half, Who Knows Things About IT, recovered both my sites and also all the others he managed within a few days.

Last word about backups (I promise!)

Do check your back-ups are working from time to time and that the back-up drive is fully up to date in the same way you make sure  your applications and operating system are up to date.

Phew!  Now back to writing in full confidence my winsome words won’t disappear down the digital plughole.


Alison Morton is the author of Roma Nova thrillers –  INCEPTIO, CARINA (novella), PERFIDITAS, SUCCESSIO,  AURELIA, NEXUS (novella), INSURRECTIO  and RETALIO,  and ROMA NOVA EXTRA, a collection of short stories.  Audiobooks are available for four of the series. Double Identity, a contemporary conspiracy, starts a new series of thrillers. JULIA PRIMA,  Roma Nova story set in the late 4th century, starts the Foundation stories. The sequel, EXSILIUM, is now out.

Find out more about Roma Nova, its origins, stories and heroines and taste world the latest contemporary thriller Double Identity… Download ‘Welcome to Alison Morton’s Thriller Worlds’, a FREE eBook, as a thank you gift when you sign up to Alison’s monthly email update. You’ll also be among the first to know about news and book progress before everybody else, and take part in giveaways.

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