A Writer’s Backup Strategy: Part 1 – Introduction
At the climax of Michael Chabon’s Wonder Boys (and the film adaptation with Michael Douglas) the protagonist sees his novel manuscript, several thousand pages of typescript, blown into the river — lost forever. Though in the novel, the loss of his manuscript frees the author from years of stagnation and paralyzation, any writer can’t help but cringe when they see the product of the author’s hard labor — several years’ worth — blown away like so much dust.
It is the writer’s deepest fear, losing a manuscript. Fortunately, we’ve come a ways since the days of the Underwood and IBM Selectric; the options for creating backups of our work have multiplied dramatically in the computer age, with minimal effort on our part. In this series, I’ll explain some of the options available to writers, and then describe an effective and easy to implement system for making sure your work is safe and sound, whatever the eventuality.
The key to effective backups is that they have to be routine or, better yet, totally automated. We’ll use some simple software and free or cheap online services to do most of the work of making backups automatic; for the non-automated parts, add an entry to your calendar reminding you to backup.
The other key is that there should be multiple layers of redundancy. By definition, we can’t predict what circumstances we might need backups for, so it pays to be prepared for something as small as a file being corrupted as well as something as big as a flood destroying your home. I’ll describe a system that creates three separate backups to prepare you for any eventuality short of global disaster or war.
With very little preparation, writers need not fear losing their work — or, at worst, more than a few days’ or weeks’ worth. Lots of writers still fear trusting their work to a computer, irrationally favoring their tried-and-trusted paper systems. Paper is far more fragile than computer storage, though — a misplaced cigarette butt (or unruly dog, or spilled cup of coffee, or…) can destroy an entire manuscript! Computers allow unlimited copies to be made, in theory — use as many backup strategies as you need to feel secure.