Monday, January 20, 2014

Writing Rule: Back Up!

Photo by Stuart Pilbrow, via Flickr
Recently a writer friend of mine lost all her work when her computer crashed – because she had no backup. This is every writer’s nightmare. Just the thought of it makes me shiver.

Her experience reminded me of a story I once read about Ernest Hemingway. (I don’t know how true it is, because of course I didn’t actually know Ernest Hemingway, but truth or fantasy, the message of the story is the same.) Anyway, the story goes like this:

Hemingway had just finished a novel, and packaged up the only copy and gave it to his then-wife. This was way before computers, and maybe even carbon paper – or Hemingway didn’t feel like using carbon paper, I don’t know. Anyway it was the only copy. He asked his wife to mail it to his publisher in New York, while he went off to chase the bulls in Pamplona or something. Well, his wife got on the train to Paris, taking the novel with her and meaning to post it to New York once she got to Paris – but she had a brain fart and left it on the train! It was never recovered. Hemingway could not write it again – he had finished with it. All he could do was grieve and feel this bottomless pit of empty.

When I read this story I got the cold chills and icy sweats from horror. I felt Hemingway’s grief within my own soul. I mourned for that lost novel. I was absolutely furious with his wife, and wished she was alive so I could shriek my pain at her.

I sometimes dream about finding that lost Hemingway novel … which would probably be worth tens of millions of dollars today. Back in the 1920s he would maybe have made a couple thousand, if he was lucky. I still wonder where that novel is.

The moral of Hemingway’s story, and my friend’s, is of course – BACKUP! Never, ever, forget.

Or you’ll be sorry, and so will your millions of fans. 

Kim Pearson is an author, ghostwriter, and owner of Primary Sources, a writing service that helps others become authors of professional and compelling books and articles. She has authored 6 books of her own, and ghostwritten more than 30 non-fiction books and memoirs. To learn more about her books or services, visit Primary-Sources.com.

16 comments :

  1. So so true! We've had some folks in our writing circles and it hurt to see them so devastated. I also used to make the mistake of not doing back ups, or only doing them every few months. When my computer was fried after moving to a new house, I lost so much of my "life" - financial records, photographs, etc because my last back up was over a year old! You just can't trust yourself to do manual ones, really you can't!

    Now, I use Dropbox, which is free, for immediate back ups of my writing files and other super important stuff (and sharing across computers). Google Drive is also great for this.

    For full backups of all my docs, music, etc. I use Backblaze - only $50/yr/computer and it backs up everything! I can even recover files for up to 30 days after accidental deletion, which saved me when I inadvertently overwrote one of my novel files and it had already synched across my Dropbox files before I noticed!

    If you really hate remote/off-site back ups, I highly recommend getting a Western Digital external drive and setting up your system to do constant, incremental back ups! At least then you aren't relying on yourself to remember to do it! :-)

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    1. I use Dropbox too, but I didn't know about Google Drive. Thanks for the tips.

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  2. That is a true story about Hemmingway.

    Millions of fans? Sigh.

    I have hard copy back up and save my stuff to flash drives. Is this not adequate? I know I should do some cloud saving. I'm so old school....Does your stuff still save automatically on your lap top and then up in the clouds ("Dropbox?) somewhere too??

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    1. I also use Mozy to automatically back up. I'm with the other paranoids who believe one cannot have too many backups. I blame my paranoia on that Hemingway story, and thank you for confirming that it is a true one.

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  3. More like tens of fans ... but point taken.

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  4. Excellent advice, Kim! I'm getting a new system with full backup in the next few weeks. Currently, my files (supposedly) are saved on one internal drive that backs up the other. Not the best idea, I'm sure.

    As for Hemingway...as I recall his life ended in a suicide. I hope this devastating loss wasn't one of the precipitators of that tragic event.

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  5. I am so paranoid about this that I regularly send myself the attached manuscript-in-process at a couple of email addresses. I have a note taped on my lampshade that says "Jesus saves and so should you." LOL. AND I type all my blog posts in MSWord first so they don't get eaten here. Suffice it to say that I'm somewhat... well, as I said in the first sentence: paranoid.

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    1. I have a gmail account that I keep for exactly this purpose. So you are not alone in your paranoia.

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  6. My ex once reformatted the entire C drive because a game quit working. I lost not only my writing, but my work for my employer. Hence the term: ex. :)

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    1. I am furious on your behalf, he would have been my ex too.

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  7. I'm another emailer. I also have flash drives where I download finished projects.

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  8. I have an email shortcut button set up in Word, right next to the Save button. If I'm about to get up and leave my computer for any length of time, I email the entire ms to myself. I also love it as a progression record - if I change my mind about something (especially a deletion) I can go back a few days or weeks and recover it.

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    1. I wish I understood that and how you managed to get it! ;)

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  9. I understand the point about backing up, but don't be too quick to judge Hadley. He was living on her money and he was, to put it mildly, NOT a nice person. If he was that worried, he should have mailed it himself.

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  10. I'm using Carbonite for backup of my desktop, but also send an email everyday to myself with the current changes to my WIP. I've also got some of those portable drives, and one of these days I'm going to copy the files from my laptop onto them.

    Morgan Mandel

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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