Twisters, hurricanes, earthquakes, oh my. What’s a writer to do when Mother Nature pops in unexpectedly? Not to mention, little tikes, sloppy-slurpy dogs, and teenagers who just have to get on the computer. NOW.

You better back up, girlfriend. No, really. Stop what you’re doing and back up your manuscript. Losing months (or years) of work because of a computer crash, weather-related power outage or something as simple as a teen playing a wacky war game would be like cutting off a much valued limb or decapitating your favorite childhood doll. What’s that I hear? A collective gasp. Am I being too graphic? I think not my friend. How would you really feel if you lost everything you’d painstakingly typed—in the blink of an eye?

Backing up your data is like hitting the save button only this time you mean it. Forget those colorful floppies. They went the way of the dinosaur. And I know there’s nothing like having a hard copy to marvel over. But, consider the poor trees. And do we really want to tick off Mother Nature? (refer to the first sentence for further clarification)

I use a thumb drive. These are often referred to flash drives, stick drives or USB drives. They’re cheap and small enough to carry in your purse or pocket and can hold up to 32GB of data. In comparison a floppy will hold 1.44 megabytes. A CD holds 700 megabytes. 1000 megabytes equals 1 gigabyte. 1000 gigabytes equals 1 tarabyte. And if a train left Chicago at 9:00am heading East and another train left New York on the same tracks at 10:45 going west . . . Well, you do the math. (grin)

External hard drives are becoming the in thing. You can back up all your data in a matter of minutes. They hold massive amounts and while they are nice, for the average writer, they might be a bit excessive and expensive.

Don’t own any of the above? Never fear. You can always send the complete manuscript to yourself via an email attachment. You can access your email from every computer in the world. All you have to do is save each manuscript in different folders and there you have it. No longer will you be at the mercy of Mother Nature or teenagers or a talented cat who likes to tapdance on your keyboard. Backing up your manuscripts will alleviate your worries, help you sleep better, ward off gray hair, and in some states, is a proven weight loss method. What more could you ask for? (grin)



Joan Vincent said...

Great post Reese. You always deliver chuckles or outright laughs as well as great information!
A person can't backup often enough. It's usually AFTER you lose a manuscript that you decide to do it but take it from me and save yourself some excruciating pain. I once had a 200 page cookbook I was writing. My son, fresh on his first job, said "Mom can I install an upgrade to you Word program?" Will it do any damage, delete anything? I reply. He says "of course not." Moments later I no longer had the cookbook I had been working on for two years. I did recreate it and have it on CD, on the harddrive, on the laptop, on the exterior hard drive, and on a USB drive.
I started emailing myself attachments of my manuscripts a few years ago. A storm can't take it away, a crashed drive does it no harm. I also back up my work on an exterior hard drive--I know, rather parnoid about it these days!

Pat Davids said...

Having learned the hard way, as I'm sure most of us have, I back up, too. I have three thumb drives.

Thanks for the chuckle, Reese. You are always light up my day.

Reese Mobley said...

Joan, thanks for the kind words. Sometimes paranoid is a good thing. We work too had to lose anything but our minds. (g)

Reese Mobley said...

Pat, remember the time you LOST a chapter of mine while you were trying to FIX something? No great loss but still fun to bring up! At least fun for me. XOXO

Nina Sipes said...

Reese, You are really right about this one. Your article is really funny, but losing data isn't. And it is funny about what loss will but you in a funk. I lost a BEARING in a harddrive in a NEW laptop. I hadn't backed up.Why? The computer was new. Luckily, I had a copy on floppy that I had lent my mom to read. I lost a few chapters and vowed not to screw up again. The tech, who I howled at, said that was too bad, but stuff happens to machinery--even new stuff.
The second time I lost stuff was to a power outage. The line loss due to everyone using electricity before it gets to my house meant some brown outs that I wasn't aware of were occurring. The computer would occasionally blink and the last 10 minutes of typing would be gone forever. That's when I learned to set the backup in Word to auto-back up every three minutes. I can remember most of what I typed in three minutes. We also discovered the problem and bought battery backups for all computers on the place--including the ones for the electronic grain scale for weighing the grain trucks!
Third Lesson: Remember we had a really dry year several years ago? We out here in the west, had static wind and magnetic dust. The static wind, erased data so badly, that offical documents were imperiled and some lost. Court documents, lawyer documents, and some courthouse entries as well as the rest of we little people. So, hard backups were re-installed--paper for the most important.
Fourth Lesson: A storm ripped up a bank. Data loss was awful. A friend of mine and I realized that if our houses were hit, we'd lose financial data for our businesses and I of course my WIP's! We now meet each other once a week and EXCHANGE thumb drives with our most important stuff. We hope both of our homes won't be taken in the same storm. After all, if your house burns down, so will your backup drive.
Sixth lesson: Buying a new computer. I bought a new computer and carefully transferred files as well as cleaning out the old machine to donate it to the library. Guess what? Some files were corrupted in the exchange. I lost a darling tiny piece that put me in a mental tail spin for MONTHS. It isn't useful, I just liked it. However, I was lucky enough to find it on a very old backup CD. I couldn't believe how it cheered me up to find that little piece to nowhere. I learned don't rely on one backup and find out if everything went well before disposing of old material.
Last lesson. It turns out that backups have limited life spans. No one knows for sure how long a DVD is going to last, but CD's are only 3 to 5 years. According to experts I've spoken to, the actual matieral things are made of begins to deteriorate and move. Microscopic movement means corruption of data because it is so small. Store discs FLAT so that gravity has the least effect on them.
Good luck to you all. And may you never get a lesson of your own.

Roxann Delaney said...

Reese, as always, you incorporate humor with teaching, to the benefit and delight of all!

You'll often hear me say, "Backup, backup, backup!" especially prior to a Mercury Retrograde (look it up ::grin::). But making it a habit isn't always easy, especially if there are a lot of interruptions in your home.

When my computer died a couple of years ago, I lost part of a proposal. I finally bought a new CPU/tower, then eventually bought a new flat screen monitor for it. I also purchased an external hard drive. Yes, I backup to CD and sometimes to a flash drive, but the external drive is set to automatically back up once a week. When initially installed, it saves everything. After that it saves only new and changed files, saving a lot of space. That means I not only have the new stuff, but the old stuff, too, before revising. True, there's a lot of time to lose things in that week, but I use my flash drive for in between if I've been writing.

If there's a disaster, the first thing I'll grab is that external hard drive.

A gmail account is great for emailing manuscripts, chapters, notes you do NOT want to lose. It has loads of space and Google is constantly adding more. I have two accounts and know that if I can't locate something, I can always go there to find the important stuff.

BTW, Mercury goes retrograde again this year (4 times a year, usually) from September 6 thru the 29th, so now is a great time to start good backup habits.

And, no, I'm not crazy. Lots of friends have become believers. :)

Google is my friend, but Backup, backup, backup is my mantra. :)

Reese Mobley said...

Nina, you've had your fair share of crap! Just look at all you've learned and can teach the rest of us. Thanks!

Reese Mobley said...

Rox, Can you give us a heads up before Mercury does its thing? (g)
Some of us need all the help we can get. Does this also mean that we need to get our submissions in the mail before then?

Roxann Delaney said...

Reese, in answer to your question, yes. :)

Here's a good explanation:
Mercury is the messenger planet who rules all forms of communication and the machines we use to travel and communicate with—all more subject to malfunction/breakdown when he appears to be backing up in the heavens.

Kat and I have been watching this for several years. It never fails that someone we know has a computer burp or car breakdowns during Mercury Rx, crazy as it seems. It's the worst time to submit, but the best time to step back and make plans. Try not to start a new project during the three-week period, but planning it is good. :) Not a good time to sign contracts, either. ;)

Penny Rader said...

Reese, I've been seeing quite a bit about backing up and I know I should do it. Is backing up the same thing as saving it to an extra jump drive? Do you do each file one at a time, or can you back up the entire drive in one step?

If I back up three times, does that mean I can lose a lot of weight and all my gray will be restored to its natural color? If that works, I'll buy case of the suckers. (grin)

Nina Sipes said...

I just figured I was inept. But, I have become a believer/convert in backing up. Especially, when every time I screw it up, I get treated to the tone in that expert's voice that goes with the phrase, "You backup, right?" It makes my teeth grind and goes with the forehead bruise I get from banging my head in the wall.

Reese Mobley said...

Penny, I'm not the most computer literate person in the world. I save each chapter separately and then send them to the jump drive. I'm sure there are easier ways to do things, but this is how I do it. Ladies? Any advice? And yes, your hair will go back to it's natural color. And we'll lose all our wrinkles--not saying you have any. We might even go back to our high school weight. Like I always say, dream big dreams!

Reese Mobley said...

Nina if you don't stop banging your head against the wall you'll look like a unicorn. And then what will your husband and children say to you? Nice horn. I think not. You'd rather be known for your fiction than the big protrusion on your face. Don't make me come knock some sense into you. Oh wait, now we're backtracking not backing up. HA!

Reese Mobley said...

Thanks for the explaination, Rox. I guess I need to get my self in gear and submit before then.

Nina Sipes said...

Ok, Another comment. When backing up or working with a manuscript, I've found that it is too big for my -all of them- computers to deal with quickly. It is like forcing a mouse to eat a hay bail. He can get the job done, but it is going to take a long time. Breaking up a manuscript into 3 chapter pieces works very well. Then, I assemble when it is done. If I do work in it as a whole, the computer acts as if it is pregnant and moves ponderously. Which is ok for light tweaking. Moving large sections around--not so much. Remember when backing up different versions to do so with a date attached to the name. That way you can decide which one you worked on last. Another tip--always back up a copy in Documents. Documents is saved in a meltdown and protected from attack, by windows XP anyway. Don't leave it on your desk top. That is not a protected location. Leave an icon instead. This will also keep you from saving the darned thing in so many places, that each copy is different. I've done that too.

Nina Sipes said...

I don't know, a smallish horn might be an improvement. It might direct the gaze from the size of my rear. Sort of a fashion misdirection. I could even hang a scarf from it. Might distract me when I'm driving though. Thinking about it, maybe a nice discreet horn would improve my driver's license picture.

Becky A said...

You guys are having way too much fun! I wish I had been home to join the party sooner. Thanks to you all, I now know a few things I need to do. Like send my stuff in an email to myself. Really weird but ok.
Do the flash drives degrade like the CD's or will they last until they're replaced with the newest and greatest technology?
And Rox, the account we set up for this on Google, can it be used for email or is that something else I would need to do?
Thanks everyone for all the great info. I had a computer crash and burn past the point of no return. Fried the mother board to a crisp. Thankfully I had backed up a lot of it but it was on the old floppy disks. Some of the info made it into my new computer, some didn't. So much "fun", so little time!!

Reese Mobley said...

Nina, thanks for the information about WORD documents. I didn't know that could be retrieved. You are a wealth of information. If everyones drivers license photos look like rhinos then we know who to thank. (g)

Reese Mobley said...

Becky, glad you came out to play! I'm not sure about degrading flash drives, but I'm sure someone else will have that info.

Roxann Delaney said...

Becky, yes, your Google account includes a Google email (gmail) and several other things.

I *think* all you have to do is go to and log in with your Google account name and password. That should take you to the email account. I've set up my gmail before doing anything else, so don't quote me on that. :)

Roxann Delaney said...

I admit to being paranoid about just about anything. Because of that, I don't rely on any ONE backup method. It can't hurt to have more than one flash/jump/thumb drive. It only takes a few minutes to backup on each one. Even with a couple of them, the drives themselves can get lost. CDs or DVD can eventually go bad, so when new technology comes along, use it as an additional backup. Hey, it can't hurt!

Roxann Delaney said...


When I first started writing (for real), I created a file for each chapter. Mine are named with the heroine's name, so I can keep it straight, so it goes like this: Sally 1 for chapter 1, Sally 2 for chapter 2, etc. Titles get changed more often than character names. ::grin:: Using "Chapter 1" for each manuscript got confusing. All chapters and other information (those charts and files) go in one folder, with the heroine's name (again) as the folder name. All those are in a folder named "Manuscripts" in my Document folder.

Then I sold and decided to make a folder for the book under another folder in Documents named "Books". Those I name with initials of the title, such as TRR for The Rodeo Rider. Because Harlequin now asks for the full manuscript to be in one file, I copy and paste each chapter into that one file when I send in the full manuscript. A bit time consuming in the end, but I tried starting with one file for the whole manuscript and got lost several times. :) On a computer with a smaller memory, there can be some lag, as you described.

Are you now totally confused?

Nina Sipes said...

The only thing I know about thumb/travel drives is that a young clerk who sold me one told me his went through the washer and when it was dry still worked. I say the washer test is crutial and anything that will go through that ought to be somewhat reliable. However, I am on a 'refresh' schedule. That means once a year I put the material on my computer and then back it up again on a couple of drives and CD's. I use a couple of new thumb drives as well as an additional hard drive, because of that pesky 'machines can have breakdown problems--even new ones' issue.

Nina Sipes said...

I have a similar method. In my documents I have a file folder named Books. In that file folder I have a file named with each of the book names by Main character EX: Pitin
Then, in that file, there are different documents. Piitin--Master Manuscript (that contains it all in one piece), Pitin Best Blub 2-08, Pitin Best Agent letter 7-08, Pitin Review-Terry 6-08, and so on. Any business that is related to each book can be kept with it. I can scan contracts, contacts, or even possible markets into it.
This way I can also keep my WIP's in Order and I only have to back up one file:Books . I don't have to look around and remember to see if every writing file is backed up. Then I went one step farther. I put Books in a file called Nina's Backup. In that file is all of the other critical files of work I don't want to repeat--financial data for our farm and seed cleaning business. It makes backing up a lot faster for me. I back up one file--Nina's Backup's once a week for the exchange of thumb drives with my friend. Her files are cattle breeding records and financial ones. We each have two thumb drives and every week exchange one for the other. Only one week's data is unsafe from tornadoes or a house fire. This has turned out to be quite a topic!

Roxann Delaney said...

Nina, we actually do some things similar. :) It's up to each person to find what works for them, but they have to work to find it. LOL