Several times since I’ve started writing, I’ve lost pages. I’m sure you have too, unless you’re a genius and extremely diligent to boot. I’ve found that I’m neither. While losing pages isn’t the end of the world, it can also be a benefit. More about that below–and some suggestions to make sure that losing those pages is intentional.
When I was a new writer and had never lost pages, I didn’t think that much about having a back-up. Big mistake.
One file on one computer.
1 + 1 = 0
It was the first book I’d ever written. My computer died, probably because I was pounding away for hours every night. I was so ecstatic to find out that my husband had backed up our entire computer a couple weeks before that. Still. Poof! I lost 100 pages.
Once, when I was in a hurry, I cut and pasted a section into my full document. What I realized only when I reopened it the next day–I’d accidentally pressed CTRL+A somehow and deleted everything but what I’d pasted. Poof! 5,400 words gone.
Once, I was at a retreat with no internet. I’d been saving my work before that with an online back-up program and so I just saved it at the retreat, thinking I would sync it as soon as I got back. Poof! 23,000 words gone.
Ultimately, the pages were rewritten, and in every single case, they were better for it. When I realized this, I took a book that I’d shelved, wrote down every scene I could remember about it without going back and reviewing it, and that became my outline. The only things I remembered were the important and exciting and poignant parts.
Now, if I write a book and can’t figure out what’s wrong, I shelve it for a while and then write down every scene I can remember. Put that up against a plot outline (like on this post, here), and It helps me filter out what isn’t important and what I’m missing all at the same time.
Some writers write this way. It’s free form, backstory, no rules on the first draft. Then they let it sit for a while, make an outline from what they remember, and write the second draft from that without peeking. The amazing thing about this method: You only have in there what the reader needs in order to understand the story, because you’ve already told it to yourself as the author. Another thing that happens is that you know the characters so well, the little things about them come out organically instead of feeling like devices or dropped in at random.
It’s a lot of words. It takes time. It’s not for everyone. But here’s something that is…
Ways to Make Sure You’re Backed Up:
First, use multiple methods. Have a second or third hard copy as well as an online backup. That way, if you’re away from your computer or there’s a hurricane and you have to evacuate, this is one thing you won’t have to stress about.
Second, get in the habit of backing up files every day. More if you feel the need.
If you use Google Docs…
The document gets saved automatically to the cloud at a specified interval.
If you use Word and Windows 10…
All set. Every hour, we’ll back up everything in your user folder (C:\Users\username). To change which files get backed up or how often backups happen, go to More options.
- Type Restore files in the search box on the taskbar, and then select Restore your files with File History.
- Look for the file you need, then use the arrows to see all its versions.
When you find the version you want, select Restore to save it in its original location. To save it in a different place, press and hold (or right-click) Restore, select Restore to, and then choose a new location.
If you’re using Scrivener…
Scrivener backs up after two seconds of inactivity and saves your versions.
Drag and Drop Onto a Hard Drive or Thumb Drive
You can get basically any size of drive and back up onto that drive by the drag and drop method. Just copy from your computer to the drive using windows explorer.
There are sync programs like Sync Toy (from Microsoft for free) and Good Sync (paid with more features) that will automatically see what’s changed and update your files. They’re really handy if you are using multiple computers and want to keep the folder/file structure identical on them.
There are many cloud providers, for free and paid, that take varying amounts of effort on your part. There are too many to list them all, but here are a couple.
Some services offer continuous backup that you don’t have to monitor. They charge a fee but backup a specified folder from your hard drive on a timed basis. A couple of these are Carbonite and CrashPlan.