Sorry, Miss, The Dog Ate my Pen Drive
We no longer live in an age where we can blame the dog for eating our English essay over breakfast because unless the dog ate the entire computer or memory stick then surely we would be able to get our hands on another copy? Or would we?
When you first discover that John Steinbeck’s dog ate an early draft of Of Mice and Men, you think of how the loss of that work must have been overwhelming, and instantly thank your lucky stars for the digital age in which we live, meaning that something like that could never happen to us. Yet despite living in a world of constant backup reminders and wars against viruses, it is remarkable how many of us fall prey to the silent killer known as data loss.
Get Organized and Get Anti Virus Software.
It is vital to make sure that the computer that you are using has the necessary antivirus software otherwise there is the constant risk of data loss as you are working and hundreds of dollars worth of computer shop bills looming. As well as this, it is also very helpful to get used to working with an organized folder structure which is well structured and easy to navigate. This allows you to do regular backups of the desired work without possibly losing the work in the ether of your hard drive.
Keep a Physical Paper Copy
This depends somewhat on your type of writing output, which could range from a multitude of 1 page articles, to full blown novels, but if it is feasible then a paper storage system of the pieces of work that you highly value is useful to fall back on, and many find this a more reliable source of backup that electronic versions.
Keep an Electronic Copy
However, there are drawbacks to replying solely on paper. Paper can be lost. Paper can be cumbersome and take up a great deal of space. Paper makes it difficult to amend. It is not easy or cheap to make many duplicates. Owing to this, we have to look at how we can store and protect our work online and electronically.
Save Drafts as you Write and Backup Daily.
A sometimes overlooked aspect of protecting written work electronically is the saving of works at different stages of the progress. This allows you to go back to earlier stages of your writing project if required. Another very useful habit to getin to is to backup work to a pen drive at the end of every day so that no longer than a day’s work could be lost. This sounds like a lot of work but it is easy to go weeks without backing up.
Store Backups in Two Locations
As well as a daily pen drive backup, writers should invest in a portable hardrive or two, so that large amount of files can be stored and organized. Once we get used to backing up our work, we need to get used to storing this in two separate locations, one local and one remote. There are various reasons for this. Firstly, if your computer decides to pull a sicky, or if someone decides they would like to steal it from you, then you will at least still be able to access the information that you have been working on. As well as safeguard the writing this way we need to put plans in place for the possible loss of equipment, through home insurance, so that once you obtain your work back from your safely stored hard drive in a remote location, it will not be too long before you can be back up and running with the equipment that you need. Secondly, by storing it in two locations you safeguard against one of the storage devices breaking, or being lost or stolen.
Store Work Online
There are various internet-based programs allowing storage such as Drop Box, and Myows. These online storage systems allow you to access the work from anywhere with the internet, and are an ideal extra backup system as the theory is that they can never be lost. Another quick way to make a backup of a file is to email it to yourself as an attachment. This is particular useful if time is limited and you are on the move. This is not the best method for large amounts of work however, and it does rely on the internet to access it.
Protect your Intellectual Property
Finally, as well as protecting the physical work itself, there is the added necessity of protecting the copyright of your intellectual property, which is anything that is your idea and you type out. There are a number of ways in which this can be done. There are services such as Protectrite and the Writers Guild of America, both of which provide an online service which encrypts your writing for your lifetime (or less if desired). Another way to copyright your work is through the United States Copyright Office who will register your work for the lifetime of the Author.
There are all sorts of new ways of storing material online that are ever changing, so it is important to keep on top of the latest options available but it is likely that you will find a way that works for you and you will stick to it. There are even many short story writers and poets who choose to store their work and ideas on digital voice recorders. Whatever works for you.
One thing worth bearing in mind – you may want someone to know the password for you in case you die and none of your work can be accessed and you miss out on all that posthumous publication!