18 Feb 2015

Don’t Be Bonkers – Backup!

How often should we backup our work?  Obviously businesses tend to take this seriously and have backup systems in place.  But what about those of us who work at home?  Do we have good backup routines?  Do we take the value of our work seriously enough?

I’ve never quite sussed my personal backup plan.  After all, it’s *just* my writing, isn’t it?  For awhile I got into a habit of copying my Writing folder onto a memory stick once a week.  Then, as book 1 got longer, and I became more paranoid about losing my work, I also started backing up to a second memory stick that stays off-site.  Backing up is fairly pointless, I realised, if both the original source and the backup are in the same place and there’s a fire.

“Setting up a backup system might be considered a pain in the neck, but losing valuable data is like breaking your neck.”  T.E. Rönneberg

Somehow I got out of the weekly backup habit, which is frankly bonkers given that not only do I have an amazing record of the development of book 1, but am also halfway into the first draft of book 2, and even drafting snippets into book 3!  So, I was rather pleased with myself last Monday for realising that I really needed to backup and actually doing it.

Then Thursday came and my computer wouldn’t work.  It would turn on, but it wouldn’t start up Windows.  I tried Start Up Repair, several times, but nothing.  Dead as a dodo.  After crying, texting my son at school, texting my husband in Amsterdam and hiding under a duvet, I decided I would not be defeated.  I would load up my latest backup to my son’s laptop and carry on writing from where I knew I’d left off the previous day.

Opening the most recent copy of book 2 confirmed my worst fears.  Despite only having backed up three days earlier, I’d had an amazingly productive writing spell since then and had added about 10,000 words to the document (some written, some brought over from an old original draft).  10,000 words!!!  I felt super chuffed for a few seconds then gutted.  The new words I’d written the day before – about 3,000 – were, imho, mostly brilliant words.  I’d laughed and I’d cried and been genuinely moved by them.  It had been one of those precious golden writing days that don’t come along as often as you wish they did.

Now losing any number of words is a blow.  If they’d been mediocre words I could have shrugged it off more easily, knowing that having to re-write them would undoubtedly make them better, acting as an immediate second draft.  But these were good words, potentially very good, and I was terrified that writing them again wouldn’t raise them from mediocre, but reduce them to it.

I channelled my feelings into certain parts of book 2 that day and wrote another 4,000 words.  When my son got home and we turned the computer on again, it decided to play ball and work properly (getting someone to look at something over your shoulder tends to fix most things I find), albeit after an agonisingly long wait.

Not only did I not lose any work, for which I am hugely thankful, but I gained an immensely valuable lesson.  Every writer – and anyone else who creates art/work on their home computer – needs to decide on an effective backup plan that works for them.  There was a time when once a week worked for me.  

Now I've decided that any work I’m not prepared to lose will be backed up the day it’s written.

That obviously makes sense if I write 3,000 words, but even if I only write 200 words which I think are great and I don’t want to lose them, then I’m backing them up too.  

Yes, I’m aware I may be getting paranoid.  Much.  But I don’t care.  I don’t want to go through any moments like last Thursday again. 

I’m still trying to figure out the best ways to backup though.  Memory sticks make me nervous – easily lost, damaged or corrupted.  An external hard drive is better, but it's still in the same location as my laptop.  The Cloud gets round that issue, but reinforces my unpublished authors’ paranoia – what if someone got hold of my novel and was able to publish it first as their own work?  I have started backing up to the Cloud since last week, but password protect the documents.

“Wise are those who backup, for their data will be safe in the day of trouble. Even though they face the blue screen of death, they shall fear no evil.”  T.E. Ronneberg

I don’t want to be bonkers and not backup, but it’s also possible to go a bit bonkers about backing up.  Is there a best way to go about it?  What would you recommend?  




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