Years ago, I was writing on deadline (when am I not?). My work-in-progress was about sixty percent complete when my computer screen went blank.
At first, I blamed it on my son. Even when he was in grade school, he was better with computers than I was. He knew it. I knew it. And one day when I fired up my computer for a full day of writing, the startup screen appeared and then disappeared. Shut itself down. I repeated the startup, and the same thing happened. Tried again, with the same result. I think I found other work to do that day until my son got home from school and asked, a mischievous smile on his face, “How’d work go?” He never asked me that, so I knew I’d been had. After I issued every threat I could think of, he admitted to his little trick and put my computer back to the way it was. Grrrr.
But this time, it wasn’t my son’s nefarious schemes. My hard drive failed. I prayed, begged, and tried bribing my computer guru; but my book was gone.
But I’m not totally clueless. I had a backup. Two, in fact. (This was back in the days of diskettes and zip drives.) But I had skipped my backup routine for two or three days before the hard drive failure, so while I hadn’t lost the whole book, I had lost several days of writing. Good writing. Probably the best I’ve ever done.
Something similar recently happened to a friend of mine. She used one of those online backup services, so she should’ve been covered. But there were problems. The backup service had saved a few versions of her corrupted file … but not far enough back to get her to an uncorrupted version. She worked with them and eventually got most of her work restored, but it took several days.
Everyone needs a backup system and strategy—especially writers. What’s yours? How often do you back up your work (not just save, but backup, because, well, what if you saved a corrupted file or overwrote a particularly inspired paragraph?)? Do you back up to flash drives? Do you use an online backup service? Apple’s Time Machine, which saves new or altered documents at regular intervals? Something else?
Please share your backup strategy in the comments. I’d love to steal learn from what you do.