Back Up Your Work

Aerial view of hands typing on a keyboard with a white mouse in the upper right. Superimposed on the photo is the post title, "Back Up Your Work."

by Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraig

Every so often, I run a variation of the same post.  It’s a public service announcement to back up your work.

I have heard so many horror stories from writers about lost work that I truly believe their stories account for the white hairs I have cropping up.

The most harrowing tale is from long ago.  Hemingway lost months of work because his wife, who was bringing the stories (and, sadly, also the carbon copies) to him in Switzerland. She left the overnight bag unattended to get water before the train pulled out. When she returned, the bag, and his work, were gone.  More about this episode here on the Hemingway Project site (including a recorded interview with his wife, Hadley, on the subject).

I back up each day.  I write on a laptop and the laptop takes a lot of abuse.  This summer, especially, I’ve been writing away from home…and I’m a very clumsy person.  The laptop has been dropped several times lately and spilled on once.

How should you back up your work?  I don’t think writers should overthink it.  It needs to be easy enough to make it something that you actually do.  You could even email yourself a copy of the document. You could upload it to Google docs.  Save it to a flash drive that you keep on your keyring.  The point is just to do it.

There are programs that will automatically backup your work, too: CrashPlan and Carbonite are two of them.

If you’re not sure what method works best for you, Sarah Mitroff has a nice overview in her post for CNet (which also mentions the importance of backing up your work to more than one place.)

How often do you back up your work?  What methods do you use?

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9 thoughts on “Back Up Your Work

  1. There are so many ways to back up one’s work, no one should ever lose more than a few hours worth. I have both thumb drives and a hard drive I use. Plus we have multiple computers in the house. And multiple iPads. I’m not losing anything.

  2. I’m paranoid. I email the manuscript I’m working on to myself every night (or after any other significant changes during the day) to my gmail acct. Then I actually have two backup copies – one in my inbox and one in sent mail. And I backup to flash drive two or three times a year. That part should be more often, but I forget that. Then I keep two flash drives – one for home and one in my safe deposit box and switch them after I do a big back up.

    My computer crashed in 2006, and while I didn’t lose any significant amount of work, I lost months worth of photo files. Which is why I’m paranoid.

    And now, since you mentioned it, I’m backing up to flash drive. Thanks!

    1. Good plan! Then, in case you delete your inbox somehow, you’ve got your sent items.

      Losing photos is heart-wrenching, too. I’ve got it set up on my phone now so that the photos automatically back up.

  3. I’m also paranoid. I back up on my mini external hard drive multiple times a day. I also take it with me everywhere I go. Folly to have everything under one roof – what if there was a fire?

  4. I couldn’t possibly agree more, Elizabeth. As someone who lost part of a novel once, I can say from sad experience that backing up is essential. I’m also really glad I have my Carbonite account. Everything I do gets automatically saved to my cloud. Folks, listen to Elizabeth – BACK IT UP!

      1. I’ve been using Carbonite for a couple of years now. It’s not only good as a backup, but it saved me when I was on a week-long writers residency and realized I’d forgotten to copy a copy files from my desktop to my laptop.
        I logged into Carbonite and downloaded the missing files.
        Sometimes Carbonite’s delay in backing up is longer that I’d like, so I also have my novel on Dropbox. Might be overkill, but I worked in IT for various companies and all of them did multiple backups.

        1. Thanks for this, Janet! Good to know. I wonder if the backup frequency could be adjusted in settings? I know a lot of writers who put down a ton of words a day (I’m not one of those writers…I average 750–1000) that wouldn’t want to lose a hour’s work.

          Multiple backups is smart, for sure!

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