How the f*** do I Wednesdays are a time for all of us to gather around a burning pile of rejected manuscripts and discuss The Things You Need to Know. On today’s episode: How the f*** do I back up my work?
Seems an innocuous thing, doesn’t it? We’re of an age where we just assume the things we’ve typed on the tap-tappity machine will always be there. THE INTERNET IS PERMANENT, the pearl-clutchers tell us. COMPUTERS KNOW EVERYTHING. True, that half-naked photo your idiot friend Barbara took on your birthday is probably being passed around an African internet café right about now, but that doesn’t mean those three-thousand words you wrote in a caffeine-induced rage will be there when you pry your drool-slicked mouth from the desk in the morning.
I’ve been the victim of lost work more times than I care to think about. I’ve misplaced flash drives, had flash drives corrupted by library computers, had computers die in the middle of a marathon writing session before I’ve had the chance to save anything… It’s brutal. It’s earth-shattering. It’s avoidable.
Thumb drives are like the Windows ’97 of back-up methods. They work, in theory, but are glitchy as hell and aren’t exactly reliable to those of us who lose everything that isn’t taped, stapled, or strapped to our bodies. If you’re hell-bent on using a thumb drive, make sure it’s obnoxiously big and shaped like an embarrassing cartoon character (so you’re less likely to misplace it) and use one of the other backup methods mentioned below.
Years and years ago I printed everything out. I still do this for editing purposes, but final drafts are kept in their prospective digital hidey-holes. It’s useful if you like having your hands on your work, and should the worst happen (BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH) you’ve got a hard copy immune to those perils. The downsides, of course, are the millions of hours you’ll spend retyping everything and the rainforest cut down by your paper usage.
There are external hard drives, too, but those are expensive and ugly and for people who have more than a couple hundred word documents. They’re for scary people with Lists and Data and Weapons Plans.
Gamers like them, too.
Really, the only good option (and I use good loosely, considering the hacking bullshit that apparently is a thing now) is to store your work in some kind of online cloud. Google has their own version (because why wouldn’t they), but if you’re a paranoid sonofabitch like me, you’re not quite ready to dedicate your entire digital life to the Google overlords. My favorite is Dropbox (despite the above link) for a number of reasons. First, it’s free up to a certain memory capacity. I love free things. I face parades and the unending fart and B.O. smell to get free things. And luckily, word documents don’t take up much space. You’ll be well into your wine-and-dine-me career before you need to splurge for the extra space.
Most of you (I hope) will be all, but KATRINA, I KNOW this already.
Good. This isn’t for you.
This is for the dumb dumbs who need a hammer to the head before viruses snatch up that 200k word whopper of an epic fantasy and reduce it to unreadable lines of code. Or worse, their daughter spills pop on their computer. Again.
So go forth and backup your work. Twice. Then come back and tell us your tried and true methods to making sure your stuff lasts until the aliens take over.