My cooker blew up on Sunday. Well, it wasn’t a big explosion but it blew the fuse and all the lights went out. There were even actual flames. They may have been small enough for my husband (who is a hero) to blow out, but they were there. I realised today that something similar could have happened to my laptop. It may be plugged into a surge protector, but it could all have gone dreadfully wrong. I have no real system for saving all my stuff, and I could have lost a lot of work.
I can’t even remember all the bits of writing that are kicking around on my computer. The first draft of The Forgotten Village was written on a PC with a floppy disc drive. I’ve got ideas and outlines and notes and half finished bits as well as the final versions of stuff that I can never find when I want to refer back.
There are 115 icons on my desktop and that’s after I had a clear out last week. Some of those icons are for folders and I’m flinching of the thought at how many files there are in those.
I’ve never been very sure about how to file stuff. For example, the character Rev Darren King is in five books and loads of short stories. How do I sort through that? And what about all the different versions of a story? I’ve started saving new versions with the name of the story plus the date but I forget stuff. I was thinking about something yesterday and it triggered a memory of a story that I’d badly wanted to write but then had completely forgotten about. So I have two problems – how to save stuff and how to sort stuff.
I’m going to be honest, I’m writing what I’m planning to do. There is no guarantee that I’ll actually do it. I have a track record of poor follow through. But there’s a chance that this may be useful to someone out there, so I’ll take a risk and write it down. This week I’m writing about saving stuff.
When I talk about saving your work, it’s more than just pressing Ctrl + S. Every writer that I know has horror stories of losing thousands of words at a vital stage of the story. This is more about where to save your work away from your PC, Mac or laptop just in case things go bang. So where do you put all those writery bits of half finished stories, plot sketches and character outlines? You’ve pressed ‘save’ and then what?
The obvious method is to save to a usb stick and/or print it all out and store in binders or files. I’ve started a list and buying a decent usb stick is now on the top. I’m not going to print stuff out as I have reams and reams and reams of stuff that would take half a forest, but it’s an option.
Other ideas are emailing documents between different email accounts, or even keeping docs in a draft email. As long as you keep the account current and open, the documents will be safe there. If you want to be extra sure, send the documents to several email accounts.
Another way is to bung it onto a blog. You can copy and paste documents into blog posts and keep them as drafts without publishing them. There are a multitude of blog sites out there, many of them are free and there are plenty of guides out there about how to use them. I use WordPress for this blog (and I fail at it and can’t work out how to use a newsletter) and I feel more comfortable with Blogger for my mum blog, but you may find others that work better for you.
By the way, Tales from the White Hart, More Tales from the White Hart and Further Tales from the White Hart were actually put in book form as a way of keeping the stories and clearing some clutter from my blog. The Whisper in the Shadows collection was a way of preserving short stories. I did my best to make them look presentable, but it was more about putting finished stuff in a safe place.
The final suggestion I have is to back up your work in the Cloud, on Google Drive, on Dropbox or wherever you can find online storage. There are quite a few places out there, and I am too technologically inept and feel completely inadequate to give any advice on which to choose. I feel able to advise that unless you are particularly clued up then you need have a rummage for reviews and advice. Mind you, there’s no reason why you can’t back up your work in all of them, especially if you pick the free options.
I’d love to hear any ideas about other places to stash works in progress so please share if you feel able. Now I’m off to try and organise my work, so please send thoughts and prayers. I’ll let you know how I get on next week.