At least once or twice a week, I’ll log in to Facebook or Twitter to catch either the original post or replies to same-said post, of a fellow writer (sometimes literally) crying that their manuscript is GONE. Sometimes, the computer “ate” it. Usually, it’s a case of they only had the ONE copy, and that copy somehow went pooferino in a cloud of digital smoke.
In today’s modern world, there is NO EXCUSE to not have multiple backups of your current WIPs (and old projects). It’s EASY.
1) Your copy on your hard drive. Get into the habit of hitting CTRL+S or Command+S (for my fellow Mac users) compulsively, every few seconds. Nearly all programs now have that “save” shortcut built into them. (If it’s not that, look at the File or Edit menu in your particular program and see what the shortcut is, and USE IT compulsively.)
2) Do NOT rely on auto-save features. You can use them, but do not count on them. (Refer to rule 1.)
3) Email yourself the current file. Super-easy to do. At the end of every work session, pull up an email and send that puppy to yourself. I do this alllll the time.
4) Use Dropbox (but as a storage site, NOT as a working site). Use the Duplicate function and upload a COPY of your WIP to your Dropbox account. (Do NOT upload the only copy.) On my system, Dropbox wants to “move” the file rather than copying it, so I use Duplicate (on my Mac), and move THAT version up to Dropbox. I know you can use Dropbox to sync versions. I do NOT like that. I prefer to manage that particular feature manually.
5) USB flash/jump drives. Seriously, you can get them for less than $10 now. I have three on ONE keychain that hold 16GB each, and I use them for current WIP updates. Yes, THREE. And yes, I backup to ALL THREE of them. As with Dropbox, do NOT use this version as your “working” version. Save your current version to the drive. Which brings me to…
4) External hard drives. I also have one that’s a 1TB drive, USB (Seagate) and set up with Time Machine to back up my MacBook Air. I also have a separate 500GB Seagate drive (actually I have several of them, because I tend to collect them and no I don’t have a problem, shut up) that I back up just my Documents folder to (which includes my writing folder and stuff from my publisher, like contracts, covers, ARC files, edit files, etc, my e-book backups from Kindle and Nook, etc.).
5) Backup services like Carbonite.
6) Google Drive. (Note: I write in Scrivener, and don’t upload my Scrivener files to it, but if you write in Word or other software that uses a .doc native format, it’s great for storage.)
7) CD/DVD-Roms. If your computer has a writeable optical drive, make periodic backups onto writeable CDs/DVDs. You can use a permanent marker to write the backup date on them and store them in a binder in special pages that are made to hold such things.
Remember, you can NEVER have too many backups. EVER. Eeevvvvveeerrrrr. Back those files up. Especially important if you have your photos all digital now. (That’s a whole ‘nother subject right there, because there are lots of sites that specialize in that.)
NEVER rely on only one backup. NEVER. Diversify your backups among several reliable sources, and always have access to at least one of those backups. (The keychain drives always go into my purse.)
That being said…make sure you are using an antivirus software, AND you keep it up-to-date. Even though I’m on a Mac, I still run Avast, just to be safe. Having backups does you no good if they’re corrupted by a virus.
Backup at LEAST your WIP every day after working on it. Do larger directory-wide backups every week to catch stray stuff you might have missed. Or use a built-in program (like Time Machine on the Macs) to automate part of the process for you. But NEVER rely SOLELY on that. Backups can get corrupted. You want to have access to as many as possible. What if your computer gets stolen? Or someone hacks your Dropbox account? Etc. Another good thing about redundant backups is if you date them, you can go back to an earlier version if you deleted something and want to restore it. Pull up an earlier version of the file.
So I hope this helps. It might seem like a pain in the ass, but when it become second nature to you, it will feel far less like a chore when doing this saves your ass–and your files.