Don’t Learn the Hard Way

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Sep 18 2008

September 15th was my first day back from maternity leave, and while I didn’t return to a flood of e-mails, it didn’t provide me with the relief you might expect. Unfortunately, my computer must’ve felt neglected while I was tending to a newborn and decided to conk out on me. Dead. Kaput.

I’d never been good about backing up my work. I just didn’t do it. But luckily, just a few months ago I finally wised up and bought an external hard drive. I still held my breath for a few days until I could upload the information to my new computer and see that my address book and other vital information were intact. Even so, I’d last backed up my computer on June 27th, so I lost almost everything sent to me over my maternity leave.

If you e-queried me between June 27th and September 5th, your message is lost in the ether somewhere. Please resend.

And the rest of you . . . go back up your work right now! I would’ve been seriously miffed if I’d lost all of my contact information, etc., but almost all of that stuff was recoverable by digging through my filing cabinet. I can’t imagine the loss for a writer who’s put months and months of heart and soul into a manuscript that could disappear with the blink of an eye!!

I’m off to start digging through the piles!!!


29 responses to “Don’t Learn the Hard Way”

  1. Avatar Chumplet says:

    Welcome back, Kim! (runs off to back up my two WIPs)

  2. Avatar Angela James says:

    I usually recommend Carbonite to people, because it’s a service that runs in the background, so you never have to “remember” to back up, it’s just being done automatically. Highly worthwhile for anyone who’s got files that are important and change hourly! (and it’s a tax write off for writers, agents, editors or anyone using it to back up anything “work” related)

  3. Avatar spyscribbler says:

    Welcome back! You wouldn’t post just one pic, could you?

    Do you mind so much if I mention DropBox (Windows and Mac: also syncs files between a PC and a Mac, plus stores multiple revisions on the Web in case you want to revert to an older version of your document) and Syncplicity (Windows only, but does a better job, for the time being, of backing up any folder you specify on your system: Dropbox will, but it’s not in its final release yet) will do this seamlessly for you? And it’s on the internet, so you can always restore to a new computer if yours dies.

    I would be lost without DropBox!

  4. Avatar Anonymous says:

    hm….I just always back up my writing to my flashdrive….

  5. Avatar Keri Ford says:

    Welcome back, Kim! Hope you’ve got a happy baby that will be sleeping all night soon (if not already!).

  6. Avatar H. L. Dyer says:

    Weird… I just backed up all my files yesterday when my husband’s laptop spontaneously combusted without warning.

    Congratulations and welcome back!!

  7. Welcome back!

    Be sure to keep an eye on your external drive, too. Mine just died. 🙁

  8. Your server tech should have a backup copy of all your email. Most routinely make copies. If not, he should.

    My brother, the tech genius and pro, recommends that businesses automatically do backups offsite in case of disaster. If your computers are networked, this is easily done.

    For a one person/one computer situation, an external hard drive set up to do automatic back ups is a good idea. Most hard drives come with free backup software.

    As a paranoid, I also burn CDs of my hard drive and keep a flash drive copy of my books and business stuff in my bank deposit box.

  9. Avatar Robena Grant says:

    Welcome back, Kim. Sorry to hear about the computer problems, I hate those. I use a flashdrive now because of a similar problem I had last year.

  10. Kim, congratulations on the baby and welcome back.

    Funny how pets and computers sometimes don’t adjust well to a new baby. My oldest son’s chinchilla died a week after they brought Samantha home from the hospital. George was a young chinchilla, so he should have had a long life ahead of him.

    My daughter-in-law was devastated even though George was sort of a problem child pet.

    I lost 406 pages of my suspense novel a long time ago in a computer crash. No, problem, I had it backed up. Oops, problem. Backup disc is corrupted. No problem, agents have hard copy of manuscript. Oops, problem. Agents can’t find manuscript.

    My new computer crashed a few weeks ago. I had the chapters printed out and most of the chapters on a flash drive, but I hadn’t backed up all the latest revisions. Thankfully, my tech guy rescued everything.

    I’m going to start emailing myself everything at the end of a writing session. Those automatic back up programs sound wonderful.

  11. Avatar Ice Charades says:

    Welcome Back – Congratulations.

    Tell people to EMAIL their docs to themselves on a yahoo, gmail, or other mail account. As others have noted, external drives can fail, flashdrives can get lost or destroyed with other things in the house/apt. With work backed up “offsite” on the internet, it is always there.

  12. Avatar diane says:

    Welcome back and congrats on the new baby.

    My computer died when I took it to Acapulco on vacation this spring. I swear it didn’t like the humidity. Anyway, the motherboard died. Amazingly, my husband (a wonderful techy) was able to remove the hard drive and recover my information. I don’t know if that would work in your situation or not. I had also backed up all my writing to a flash drive before we left or I would’ve totally freaked out in Acapulco. They might not have let the crazy lady back into the US, so I was lucky.

    Good luck with the baby and the computer.

  13. Welcome back!
    Thanks for the reminder. I am backing up NOW!

    Also, thank you for blogging while you were on maternity leave. Your posts are fantastic!

  14. I’ve had three laptops crash. Now I backup every couple of weeks on an external hard drive AND backup my current WIP to a flashdrive every couple of days or more often depending on my productivity.

    My husband has an external something or other for his MAC that automatically backs up everything once a day. Alas, I don’t have a MAC.

  15. Congrats on the new baby!

  16. Avatar Amy Nathan says:

    Thank you! I just backed up my WIP — all 43,000 + words.


  17. Avatar Diana says:

    Welcome back, Kim! I’m sorry the first thing you had to do was deal with a dead computer!

  18. In honor of today’s subject, I’ve reposted a blog I did on what a writer needs to do to prepare for dangerous weather and disasters like hurricanes, etc.

    Click on the link in my name above this comment to go to my blog.

  19. Avatar Anonymous says:

    To all the writers out there – buy 2 USB keys (or flash drives) and back up every version every single time.

    My favorite “key” isn’t cheap, but it’s cheaper than losing my work.

    I recommend the Sandisk Cruzer Titanium key- they make them in 4 and 8 gigs – you could store a virtual universe on these things. AND, they’re resistant to up to 2000 lbs!! Yes, you’d have to back over it with your car to crush it – and it’ll fit on your key ring.

    You can buy them on Amazon, too (for a good price).


  20. Avatar Kim Lionetti says:

    Sorry, but we sold People the exclusive on the first pics of Baby Lionetti! 😉

  21. Avatar JES says:

    Oh man, what a thing to come back to. (But welcome back anyhow!)

    For those with Web-based email — yahoo, gmail, various other larger services — you don’t actually have to send yourself your backups. Just attach them as files to draft messages, which you save to your Webmail account. When I figured out that I could do this, life got waaaay simpler.

    Julie, I was counting the beats until you showed up to reply to this post. 🙂

  22. Avatar AstonWest says:

    After my last hard drive crash, when I’d realized I hadn’t backed up for two weeks, I’ve religiously backed up each item I work on directly after I work on it (to a flash drive), and every month or so back up all of my stuff to a CD.

    Probably should invest in an external hard drive as well…

    I guess I should be glad that BookEnds doesn’t represent my genre, so I don’t have to fret about re-sending a query. 😉

  23. Avatar Ryan Field says:

    Thank you, Ice Charades…

    I’m going to start e-mailing back ups to my yahoo address right now. I didn’t know you could do that.

  24. Avatar Anonymous says:

    How can you offer such irresponsible advice? Everyone knows the proper time to back up is after the crash.

    As one post indicated, it is possible to recover most of the information from crashed drives. I’ve done it many times, mostly for other people.

    I have, however, found it much easier to restore files from backups, contrary to the common practice of should-have backups.

  25. Avatar Kim Kasch says:

    So sorry about the computer – that is a huge 🙁

    but at least you have something brand new and marvelous to go home to

  26. Avatar Gloria Weber says:

    I once had my manuscript file currupt itself during a save. I oepened it & started crying as I had only the prologue and chapter 1 readable. Luckily I have a good friend that is a tech geek & a writer. He took pity on me, tried to help me figure out how to save it, and eventually he recovered all my words (minus formatting). He apologized for the loss of format, but I was just glad I didn't have to write 60,000 words again!

    My husband bought me a flash drive after that. And I began saving my files as .doc and .rtf (same name 2 different formats), so that hopefully one could survive where the other didn't!

    Congrats on the baby!

  27. Julie, I was counting the beats until you showed up to reply to this post. 🙂

    Yep, following the angst when Big Blue crashed would bring me to mind. I still don’t have it back. Hopefully this weekend, but at least he recovered the stories.

  28. Avatar Fawn Neun says:

    Well, I’m awfully glad I checked in to the blog, because you should have an email from me somewhere out in the ether.

    I always upload my work to a free webserver space, so that even when my computer crashes, my last backup is in the hand of responsible servers.

    Welcome back and congrats on the newborn. Mazel Tov!

  29. Avatar clindsay says:

    Oh, ouch! I was worrying about that same thing last night when my Mac started just spontaneously shutting down. Luckily most of the queries I receive now get redirected to an external Gmail account as a backup. (And I now have that account backed up to yet another Gmail account! Paranoid much?)