Michaeline: Think of your backup as your lucky amulet

a cart piled high with nine old leather suitcases

Backups are a lot easier now than they were in Hemingway’s day. Back your files up today!
(Image via Wikimedia Commons)

It is said that Hemingway’s wife lost his suitcase of manuscripts on a train. Hemingway had to rewrite, and we all know that it was a fairly happy ending (for a Hemingway story, anyway) that he became a grand success despite the loss.

But damn, who wants to go through that agony? Nobody, and we have lots of options today for backing up our works in progress.

The easiest thing to do is join a free cloud data service. Google Documents gives you 15GB of free space, and I think all of the ladies have an account with Dropbox. The free account gives you 2GB of space to start with, but I believe some of us are paying for the expanded options.

Once you have an account, you just save your document twice at the end of your writing session. The first time to your computer, the second time to your cloud.

If you are extremely paranoid, you can also save to a USB stick (as either a third backup, or instead of trusting your data to the Mysterious Glow Cloud – depends on where your particular paranoia takes you).

There’s also the extra hard drive option. I primarily use a laptop, so I have to be very careful about backing up everything on my computer. If I drop my laptop, or spill tea all over it, or (heaven forbid) have it stolen, my hard drive is still at home, in a safe location, with all my data.

I have a little confession: I don’t know how to make a mirror image whats-it of my computer. My operating system is in Japanese (my second language), and I don’t have the patience to wade through why it’s not working. I think I may have copied my entire external hard drive back onto my computer . . . .

But, as a stopgap measure, I’ve been copying my “library” (documents, videos, music and pictures) to the hard drive, as well as the entire C: drive. I figure if something happens to my computer, at least I’ll still have the important contents, if not the entire system.

Copying to the hard drive should happen at regularly scheduled intervals. It should happen at least once a week, and maybe daily if you are making a lot of progress (say, doing the NaNo and collecting a lot of research and racking up a good word count). I say “should” because it doesn’t always happen. Backing up my computer took me a good four hours (I made Mistakes, though). Doing it often makes the procedure go faster because you know what you are doing. Do it as often as you can, and feel free to let this be a spur to do it today.

And remember, it can be like a lucky amulet: according to one of the corollaries to Murphy’s Law, a backed-up computer will never crash, burn or be spilled upon (-:.

My list of options for backup is by no means comprehensive. When was the last time you did a major backup? Do you have a favorite method that makes you feel safe and warm in the middle of the night?

2 thoughts on “Michaeline: Think of your backup as your lucky amulet

  1. I’m always afraid I’m going to loose my writing files, so I back up a lot. I do a complete back up each month, and use alternative back-up drives in case one fails. I also do daily backups to a USB drive of whatever I’m working on (or post to Dropbox if I can’t do that) and tend to print out my stories in hard-copy just to be doubly safe. I do some of my writing longhand (pen/paper), so I have notebooks with various parts of my stories that way as well. Unlike Hemingway, I don’t think rewriting a story would be an option, considering how difficult it is to draw them out the first time around. Hopefully I’ll never have to find that out first-hand.

    • I’m of two minds about losing one’s manuscripts. I’m a packrat and I take forever to delete anything (I have days 1-26 of my first NaNos still on my computer, even though days 27 through 30 have exactly the same information). I would be devastated if I lost anything. It’d affect my writing a lot because I’d be so depressed about the situation.

      But the thing is, it’s tough to kill one’s darlings. What if fate killed all your darlings for you? Then you’d be forced to put in only the best stuff that actually stuck in your brain. In theory, you’d have a leaner, cleaner draft, and a lot of the garbage would be gone. (And in theory, it’d go slightly faster because you’d already know the story and worked out the major conflicts . . . maybe.)

      It’d be easier to deal with Destiny in the form of lightening striking my computer than to deal with the Recriminations of Self-stupidity that’d follow if I lost all my stuff because I didn’t back things up. (-: I think.

      For all that I say “back-up”, usually after I’ve written something, I don’t look back that much. I’d miss my research notes a lot, though. Losing stuff isn’t the end of the world. But backing things up saves a day or two of wailing and teeth-gnashing.

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