Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Writers: Do you back up your work daily?

I had my laptop stolen once while crossing the border between Chile and Peru. I well remember that sick feeling of horror, even though I had backups online and on a flashdrive (kept separately from my computer). There I stood in the bus station, trying to explain to a police officer in my somewhat fluent Spanish how important that computer was. I did lose photographs and a daily journal with drawings as well as a lovely large Guatemalan computer bag. But, once home about a month later, I was able to retrieve my writing -- all of it. 
Hiking in the Valley of the Moon
near the Atacama Desert, Chile

But this experience changed how I think about backing up my writing. It also convinced me to switch to a netbook (easier to hide) before our next overseas trip.

So do you back up your work in progress? How frequently?

Two tools I can suggest:

1.  My Dropbox, a great free resource if you stay within file limits, for the free account set at MG. This suggestion came from my mathematician brother-in-law whom I trust implicitly being somewhat estranged from math. I routinely save ALL drafts into My Dropbox every day. This automatically puts my files into "the cloud" and also updates My Dropbox on my hubby's computer. 

2. Google docs also offers a free service (along with pay-for-more-GBs) that allows you to upload up to 2 GB and manage your documents. You can set your account up to share files with specific people or so that only you have access. 

3. Flash drives are quick and easy. At the end of 2012, I purchased a Seagate external hard drive with 1 terrabyte of memory and back all my stuff up once a month, whether it needs it or not.
I think it was Hemingway who divorced his wife when she lost his manuscript, but that was long ago, in the days when writers wrote by hand or used a typewriter. 

If my words here encourage you to find a way to back up your writing, I'll be content. 

ACTION STEP: Why not jump over to the website for My Dropbox and check it out? Here's the link:

Flamingos feeding on brine,
Saltflats near the Atacama Desert, Chile


  1. Backups are so important! I use some of the tools you mentioned but also have Mozy installed on my machines so that it's quietly keeping a mirror copy of my files as well. I'd rather have too many backups and never need them, than to realize I need one and don't have it. :)

  2. I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your laptop, Beth, but glad you had the insight to save your work online. I have various backups too all over.

  3. I hadn't heard about Mozy, Michelle. Thanks for mentioning this resource. There's also the lower tech version of simply e-mailing yourself work in progress, but I find that a little tedious. May your writing go well.

  4. I am so sorry to hear you lost your laptop. Thanks for offering your back-up tips. I just wanted to mention that sometimes I email my documents to myself to "back up" work.

  5. I well remember when you had your laptop stolen, Beth. In fact, I think it was that incident that introduced us to each other (via the IWW discussion on the issue). Yes, backing up is crucial. I am a Believer. I do it once a week to a external hard drive through my Mac's Time Machine. Daily backups go through CrashPlan-not free but dependable and limitless space. And my writing program backs up every five minutes to my computer's drive

  6. Thanks for the reminder. I'm backing TODAY!

  7. Yes. I use Dropbox. How simple to back up files this way. However, I discovered recently that files are only retrievable for one month. Which means you should back up all unpublished work at least once a month.

  8. I have been backing up my files since college and I usually use an external drive to duplicate my documents. However, during my senior year, my computer and my hard drive crashed one after the other. It’s totally devastating, I’m telling you. It took me a long time to get my files back, not to mention the money and headache it has cost me. After that, I’ve used online backup to complement my physical storage.