A number of years back, I was scheduled to attend a pretty prestigious writer’s conference, so for two or three weeks prior to leaving, I was busy prepping. Did I say busy? I meant frantic, terrrified, unable-to-breathe, writing-like-my-head-might-explode. See, I had a chance to meet a very important NY agent there, thanks to Faith – she’d arranged for the man to be a guest at the conference, and had convinced him to give all of the members of Faith’s writing group a little one-on-one time. My pages had to be beyond perfect, my pitches had to be natural and intriguing, and I needed to find serenity to make this all come off. On the Saturday night before the conference started, I had just finished about eighteen pages of a new chapter. I hit “save”.
And the page went blank.
I stared in shock at the white expanse of nothingness where my novel had been only moments ago. I guess I thought staring really, really hard would make the pages reappear. (Hey, there’s a reason I write fantasy, you know.) When nothing happened, I turned the laptop toward my husband, making a pitiful whimpering sound in my throat that, loosely translated, meant Help. If you can’t make my pages come back, I’m going to crawl into my closet and hide until everyone has forgotten they ever knew me because my pages are gooooooooooone. He tried, bless his heart, as did my friend Virginia, who had the best computer-fu ever, but while they were able to recover an earlier save, I still lost those eighteen pages. To this day, I can’t help feeling those pages were some of the best writing I ever accomplished, gone forever. I learned a hard lesson that day. I went out and purchased a couple of flash drives, and saved my novel regularly on them. Some time later, when I started using Gmail, I switched to sending myself copies of the most recent saves, tucking those emails away where I could always get to them, no matter what computer I was using. At first, I was diligent, but as time went by, and disaster seemed to be avoiding me, I admit I let the saves slide.
Last Friday I had the day off work, so I was looking forward to the whole day with my keyboard. I turned on my computer, checked my email, glanced at a couple of websites and was just about to open my documents when my screen went crazy, claiming there were multiple catastrophes happening in my hard drive. Before I could even think about something to do, all my icons vanished. My monitor had become a large frame for my pretty wallpaper, and nothing else. I decided to wait until my husband came home to try and do something about it, and moved to the laptop to get some work done. Which is when I discovered that the most recent save in my Gmail was not terribly recent at all. Being human, and fallible, I’d skipped my saving process for a while. There was much wailing and rending of garments. (Well, okay, I didn’t actually rend anything, but I sure wanted to.)
Computers are amazing tools, making the writer’s life far more pleasant than it was even a century ago. I remember writing on a portable typewriter, and having to rest my hands now and then because hitting the keys hurt, damn it. I won’t give up my computer without a fight, but still, I have to keep in mind it’s an object that can break down. Trusting it to keep all my docs safe isn’t smart. On Kalayna’s recommendation, I’ve opened an account with Dropbox, a file-hosting service that uses cloud storage. It backs up my documents every day, every time I change them, and I can access it from any computer. At the moment, I have 2.25 GB of space for free. If you want to come over with me, you’re welcome to follow this link. It will give us both extra space, still for free. You can pay a monthly fee for more space, but really, writing files take up so little room I don’t think I’ll ever need to pay for more. Dropbox isn’t the only cloud storage service out there, either – Amazon has one, and Google Cloud. If you don’t want to use a service like Dropbox, there are external hard drives you can purchase for less than $100 that will automatically back up your files.
The point is, please don’t depend on your own memory to save your work. The road to lost work and heartbreak is paved with the intention to save.