Home » The Business of Writing » My worst day as a writer

My worst day as a writer

20 July 2013

From KindleBoards:

Yesterday, after lunch, I stopped by a local Houston Walmart to pick up a case of ice tea.

After 15 minutes in the store, I came out to find my pickup truck with a busted window.
My computer bag was gone, on it were 3 WIPs, one of which was a day or two from going to editing (a novel over 100,000 words).

The parking lot cameras weren’t working. The cop was useless, the store manager annoyed at my distraction.

. . . .

No problem on the books – I’ve got it backed up… NOT.

I’ve been using Microsoft’s new Office 365, and evidently I did something wrong because there is no backup.

. . . .

Words cannot describe my emotional mix of anger and frustration over losing those books. The thought of starting all over again on a nearly-complete work is just crushing. I tried last night to start typing it in again, and I just can’t right now.

Link to the rest at KindleBoards and thanks to Barb for the tip.

It’s a good time to reiterate the importance of having current backups for all important information on your computers.

PG went into obsessive detail about what he does here, but, in a nutshell:

  • He backs up to external hard drives (something like this one) attached to his computer. He uses SyncBack, which runs automatically in the middle of the night to do this, but there are others. The key is to have software that runs automatically but check periodically to make sure it’s working correctly. (PG checked his as he was writing this post and it’s doing fine.)
  • In the event that something happens to Casa PG, SyncBack makes it easy to run backups on small, portable external hard drives that look something like this. PG swaps an updated backup on a portable drive with one of his offspring (who lives nearby) every week.
  • Mozy – Mozy is a remote backup service. You go to the Mozy website, sign up for the service, install a small piece of software on your computer, spend ten minutes telling it what files you want to back up and it just runs.
  • Dropbox – In addition to Mozy (more belts and suspenders), PG uses Dropbox. Dropbox works a lot like Mozy, but it watches for whenever a file changes and automatically updates that file on the Dropbox servers. Think of Dropbox like another file folder. However, instead of those files residing only on your hard drive, they also live on Dropbox’s servers in the cloud.

If the unfortunate author who described his problems on Kindleboards had done any of these things, he’d be upset at losing his laptop and complain about the time it would take to transfer his backup files to a new computer, but he wouldn’t have lost three WIP’s.

PG has been dealing with personal computers for a long time and he can guarantee that even the best sometimes break. He uses multiple backup systems because sometimes those break too. He can also guarantee that people who use personal computers (including himself) sometimes do dumb things with delete buttons.

The Business of Writing

79 Comments to “My worst day as a writer”

  1. P.G.

    Holey Moley, that is a rough day.

    If Apple gets its new iWork platform up and running well, that might be an attractive extra step.

    I dunno what the writer got wrong with Office 365, its been working pretty good for me.

    As someone who used to take pictures for a bit of a living, I learned quick about constant back up of the stuff that puts protein on the table. Multiple, at least 3. Then double it, then another one somewhere else:)

    brendan

  2. My routine:

    1. Back up files to external hard drive #1. Nothing special. Just a file copy.

    2. Use Windows backup function on external hard drive #2. Again, nothing special. Just let it run on a weekend when I’m not using the computer (I have two others as well, one of them for offline use only).

    3. When I think of it or done with a project, burn a DVD of just those files to stick in a folder in the archives.

    4. Finally, print out files regularly. Print out the day’s work. Do an edit, print out a new version. If nothing else, it’s helpful to see the piece afresh.

    (Probably the other rule to remember is never leave anything out in the open for someone to break-in and take. But I learned that at 17 when some idiot went after my tape deck. But I don’t make it a practice to take my computer with me.)

    • “Probably the other rule to remember is never leave anything out in the open for someone to break-in and take.”

      My first thought.

      Dan

    • That tape deck thing happened to me in my ’80’s Toyota in western Mass. It was a million degrees out and I left the window open a crack. I went in to a post office, bought some postage stamps, and boom it was gone. Damn just dated myself. I think Lisa Lisa was in the tape deck at the time (don’t judge).

  3. I’ve finally gotten myself down to only two sets of back-ups, after having done three for ages. Back in the days of disk drives, the thinking was that the file on your working disk craps out, so you put in your first back-up disk. That disk has gone bad (losing two floppies in a row wasn’t unheard of), so you put in your second back-up disk. But the second disk was bad too, at which point you realized that it was your disk drive that’d gone out and was eating disks. If you didn’t have a third back-up, you were hosed.

    I knew someone who had that sequence happen with cartridge disks once — turns out the drive that’d gone bad was using the R/W head to dig a huge groove into any cartridge put into it. For those under forty, a cartridge disk held as much data as a hard drive of the time; being removable, it was useable in a classified environment, where all media went into the Moslers after hours. So it was basically like losing a hard drive, plus the only two back-ups, which was exponentially worse than losing a disk and its back-ups.

    And come to think of it, I have three after all — I back up my work from my laptop, where I do my writing, to two flash drives, alternating, and then from one of the flash drives to my desktop computer. If we ever had a fire, I’d grab a flash drive, at least one of which always travels with me. Funny to think of a hard drive in a desktop computer as a back-up, but whatever works. 🙂

    Angie, who used to back up her work HD to four-inch stacks of 3.5″ floppies

  4. Another technique is to e-mail yourself with a WIP file as an attachment. This is assuming that your e-address is with gmail, hotmail, yahoo, etc. where your account is located in the cloud, rather than completely residing on your computer.

    I also use a flash drive to back up files.

    • I do that, too, for critical files.

    • I do that about once a month as well.

      • I email all currently-worked projects. Beyond the safeguard this provides, it also allows me to easily download the project to another computer or tablet if I’m away from home and don’t have my working computer with me–but want to work on a project as I have time. I love thumb drives for this, too, but the email files don’t require me to carry anything around.

    • I email several people, two or three of whom are out of state. That way, if my house catches fire, I’ll still have the WIPs.

  5. I recommend thumb drives. They’re cheap and easy and great for using as simple file backups.

    • Agreed. Plus they’re easy to carry around.

      • And, unfortunately, easy to lose.

        • Christian,

          Nah. Keep ’em on your keys.

          I tend to buy thumb drives with bright colours, which always interest TSA and no one else.

          Big metal key ring, USB drive with a metal latch/handle, good to go.

          brendan

          • Sorry, IT work life bleeding in. After dealing with a 30% annual replacement rate, I say go cloud. You can lose, drop, mangle, drive a car over (seriously!), melt, water damage (toilet, shower, rain, or ocean), a thumb drive. Much harder to do that to a cloud service’s data center.

            Personally I don’t store anything important on a physical disk. I use a mix of ifttt, Google Drive, Evernote, Dropbox, Skydrive, and Amazon Cloud. Plus it has the advantage of being available on all the devices I own.

            • I freaking love Google Drive. I share my WIP with my editors, trade cover ideas with my graphic artist, and back-up my work every night before bed. And it’s free. And you get 15 GB.

    • I’ve had several to bad. They’re not perfect.

      • David,

        I acknowledge your experience, however I would differ. As a builder of P.C.’s I do note that some folks bust hardware and some folks don’t.

        I have several customers and friends who can’t keep an SSD more than a month. So far, 3 years, they seem fine for me. Same with about all machinery I can think of.

        I buy mid grade USB’s, keep ’em a year and give ’em away. I’m now on a range of USB 3.0’s which I use primarily for installing Windows 8 and they are astonishingly fast. Installation of Win8 takes me just over 7 minutes. Yes, 7 minutes.

        USB drives are no less unreliable than any piece of computer machinery I’ve used and considering the hammering they get, in and out of pockets…one even went through a wash cycle in my washing machine unharmed with all data intact. That was a Corsair Voyager.

        I’m not suggesting that USB drives are yer only call, merely one of the most convenient, swift and easy ways to get one in the bank for a WIP.

        brendan

      • Nothing is perfect. That’s why backups should always be done in two places.

  6. Dropbox is my main backup now. Works best if you have more than one computer. Every time I turn one on, all the files are backed up there. Very reassuring for those who don’t trust the ‘cloud.’

    Also use the external hard drive. Used SyncToy (a super simple MS application) for years.

  7. I have a Passport drive, too, but mine is red. It’s for a laptop/quite small in size so very portable, you can use them with a desktop, it’s a USB and in case of the Zombie Apocalypse, you just yank it out of the port, get your go-bag and boogie. Since we have hundred year floods here all the time, I always have everything important off-site.

    I don’t bring my camera with me unless it will be against my body wherever I go. I can’t imagine bringing the computer–but I work on a desktop and only use a laptop to kill time waiting for the car to be repaired.

    Joe Nobody’s story is an absolute nightmare.

    • Passport drives are notorious for losing data if you drop them. I dropped mine and lost nothing more important than kitten pictures and a few other pictures, but don’t rely on Passport drives. They cost a lot of money to recover data.

      Er, I should explain. Dropping causes damage to the drive.

  8. Another advantage to e-mailing yourself with an attachment is that it will be in 2 places in your email account: Inbox and Sent. Guards against accidentally deleting Inbox files, which I have been known to do. The Sent file will still be there.

    Of course, you can also have multiple e-mail accounts and send to several as additonal backups.

    You can’t be too rich, too thin, or have too many backups!

  9. A very rough day for a writer!

    That is excellent advice on backup, PG. I strongly recommend Mozy but not as a sole backup. I also use a thumb drive to backup once a day, but it is easy to have something happen to a thumb drive. I know an author who had her thumb drives stolen along with her laptop, so I also drop my work into Dropbox once a day. It is pretty unlikely that all three would fail at the same time, but we can never assume that one backup is sufficient and I know way too many writers who don’t back up at all.

    Not very long ago I had a disastrous failure of my laptop and was EXTREMELY glad I had backup.

  10. I’m grateful I can only slightly relate. My heart breaks. In high school, I lost a notebook I’d been using to write a mystery. I vowed to only use a computer from that point forward, so I could save to a hard drive/floppy disk. The only thing that saved me was that I’d transcribed most of the mystery to a computer anyway, so I only lost a few chapters.

    My routine: Upload the backup files Scrivener makes to Amazon’s cloud drive and the working version to my Kindle, and I try to keep the Kindle out of the same bag as the laptop.

    For non-theft scenarios, my recovery advice is below.

    I’ve had several hard drive failures, so back in the days of PATA (Parallel ATA) drives, I just slaved the bad hard drive to a good drive and copied the data to the new, good drive. If your computer is older than five years, you can probably use that method.

    In the last five years or so the hard drives now all use Serial ATA (SATA) connectors, and you can’t slave those. For them I use GetDataBack, a program (less than $100) that recovers data. Otherwise, use a hard drive enclosure (even cheaper!) to hook up a bad drive to another computer via USB cable.

    I keep the GetDataBack license key on a USB drive. Along with Malwarebytes for malware slaying. I’ve been pricing hardware to build a new desktop, and I’m determined to be a good girl this time and account for backups. I’m going to either build a Windows Home Server box or buy a NAS storage system.

    What I’m looking for: a good tracker, like Apple’s defunct Mobile Me, that let’s me see where my [Windows] laptop is in the event someone swipes it. I had to use that at work to track our iDevices, and I want something like that. Recommendations welcome.

    • “Recommendations welcome.”

      Jamie,

      Just how much data are you looking to back up?

      I can’t help feeling, with the cloud running the way it is, (15 gig on google/25 gigs on MS Sky/7 Gigs on Apple, etc,) you’re headed in the wrong direction.

      Unless of course, you know summink more’nido about the coming zombie polkalips.

      I’m getting by with a 120 gig SSD, and thassit.

      Even a huge library/WIP goes on a USB drive.

      RU lexis nexis in disguise?

      brendan

      • Oh, the WIPS are in the cloud. I meant for the other things (like downloaded software) I keep on a laptop. Also, my inner avenger wants to be able to track down any evildoers who make off with my goods.

        I’ll breathe easier when I get the desktop off and running, then the laptop can go back to its proper use of allowing me to write on the go. Right now, if someone absconds with it, I’ll be stuck writing at work/my parents’ house.

        • “my inner avenger”

          Jamie,

          Heh, price of laptops/dropbox/usb’s and all the rest, leave the avenger in his spanx on screen and stay home.

          Believe me, I dun the Avenger thing. Them thievin’ kids kin run like Olympic sprinters, fight like tyson and the druggies all have scabies and needle sores.

          Until the day I am emperor and all citizens are permitted to carry RP-Gs, criminals will run amok:)

          Insure and thrive.

          brendan

    • >What I’m looking for: a good tracker, like Apple’s defunct
      >Mobile Me, that let’s me see where my [Windows] laptop is
      >in the event someone swipes it.

      Try Prey, at: http://preyproject.com/

      I use it for all my PCs and mobile devices.

  11. Windows 8 actually makes this process a lot less painful.
    I back up, using FreeFileSync, to a plugged-in external hard drive. I use Windows File History to back up to an extra internal hard drive. Once a week I back up to two external passport drives (I think one is about to crap out). When I leave the house, I plug the passport drive into my laptop, then I don’t have to do copy and paste and I don’t have to get online (so I can continue to work on planes, etc). I also use Skydrive to back up my most important stuff. It automatically syncs, once I set it up I don’t have to do anything further. I still don’t trust it entirely, and the fault in my system is if I copy a file to the wrong place. So if the new one is on my passport drive, I have to be careful to copy it over before the automatic backup starts. In that case, I usually use Dropbox as a separate safeguard, or I mail it to a gmail account.
    Yes obsessive. Three novels is far, far worse than the six chapters I lost, but that felt bad enough at the time.

  12. This only applies to finished works that are for sale at places like Amazon or Draft2Digital, but it looks like you can download your “preview” copy of your own work any time. Another belt-and-suspenders backup? Since we know the cyborg armies of Amazon are even now building a datacenter on Mars, your books will now survive a meteor bombardment! (Yes, they are. If you read it on the Internets it must be true. Plus I have never started a rumor before and I want to see if I can get some reputable news source to print yet more utter nonsense about Amazon.)

  13. SO important to have backups! I have 2 backups, wondering if I should start a third. I think I will, after reading this.

    I never leave my laptop in the car; I’m too paranoid about someone stealing it, even if it’s hidden. Not just for the sake of my WIP, but I can’t be without my computer!!

    Plus, I don’t print my WIP often enough. Off to do some printing right now…

  14. Two backups are minimum, really, to be safe. I do the Google drive thing, just so I have a copy that’s not in the house (also, it’s nice to have access to everything over the internet). I backup weekly to a flash drive (usually more frequently than that), and just because I’m paranoid, I also back up to an external hard drive (not as frequently).

    It’s also good to have fault-tolerant local storage. If you’re doing any sort of creative work on your PC, invest in a RAID, and do at least a RAID 1, but better to get a bunch of cheap drives and do a RAID 5. That way you can have one or two drives fail and still save your data.

    • RAID5 is less robust than RAID1, since it only stores a checksum of the data on the extra disk, not the actual data. The benefit over RAID1 is more storage space, not robustness.

      Best way to survive having two disks fail is to use three disks in a RAID1, since all three disks will contain the same data. Personally, I use a two disk RAID1 and have another server copy off the most important files every night so they’re backed up on another machine.

      What I still need to do is copy that backup to off-site storage.

  15. My heart breaks for that writer. I can’t imagine what he’s going through. His car was in a “safe” area (well-traveled parking lot with cameras) and he’d also locked his doors. Of course, he never saw this coming.

    Just goes to show you, you can never be too safe with the backups, even if your computer is in a “safe” place.

    • You and I have very different concepts of safe.

      • It’s true, I live in a pretty tame town and the Walmart parking lot is not crawling with thugs. I am lucky. I also lock my doors and park near security cameras, just as the writer of this story did.

        Going to go check on my backups now.

        • I’ve just heard of lots of incidents and I feel like a busy parking lot, people are less likey to notice something unusual. A smash and grab takes mere seconds. The fact that the police and manager were unhelpful in this poor person’s case probably says a lot about how often it happens there.

          • Parking lots are common places for theft of property and cars. Doesn’t matter how safe your town is–I learned that going to a commuter college and working the newspaper crime beat.

            Plus, true story: I caught someone trying to break into my brother’s brand-new Skyhawk in the college parking lot. I was walking to the student center and saw what I thought was my brother getting into his car. I noticed something a bit off, looked harder, and saw someone trying to break into his car. Shouted “HEY! THAT’S MY BROTHER’S CAR!” and the thief took off.

            • Petty criminals go to where the goods are easily and quickly gotten. Nice neighborhoods often have a lot of car “break-ins” because people feel safe and leave goods in the car but don’t lock their cars. Meanwhile the houses remain untouched.

              • Have had many friends who either work in security or manage stores in malls. Upscale malls in nice areas can have as bad or worse break in rates as any place in the hood. That’s where the money and complacency is.

                And never, ever leave your garage door opener in plain site with your GPS. Especially if your GPS has “HOME” in it. If you find that both are gone your house is probably being emptied while you spend an hour waiting on the cops and another hour doing a report over a busted $100 window.

  16. Thank you for the great reminder. It can’t be said enough! Perhaps the near physical hurt I sustained from reading this account will serve to continually remind me in future.

  17. I write to a central household server that keeps my WIPs (I use Scrivener to write) and all of our music, movies, etc. on a RAID-1 array.

    I also have the folder on the server sync to Dropbox.

    I also use an external 250GB hard drive to copy the folder to once per week or so.

    I also use a flash drive to backup the entire Scrivener folder every night.

    I suppose the fact that I worked in the tech industry (I worked for a Chinese motherboard mfg) for fifteen years means I’m a bit more tech-oriented and have seen massive (and even miniscule) failures over the years and know the pain of losing data.

    The hardest lesson I ever learned was back in the Windows NT days and I was trying to resolve a serious issue with a printing shop’s network. I asked the owner repeatedly if he had backups of his data, and he repeatedly assured me that he did.

    The Windows NT server took a final dump in a really bad way (this was not uncommon when using crap hardware to build servers and having amateurs set the network and permissions up) and BLAMMO $300,000 worth of billable customer invoices were wiped out in an instant…and absolutely no way to recover them.

    I felt absolutely awful, but it wasn’t my fault and it was a lesson that has never left me. I’ve had failures of my own networks and setups over the years, but I’ve lost maybe a gigabyte of data total compared to the 10+ terabytes of data that resides on the server/network.

    • There’s nothing quite like the feeling of watching hundreds (or thousands) of hours of work just disappear. I had a drive failure about ten years back that lost me a good bit of archived writing I’d done. I thought I had backups, but I didn’t. My wife made the mistake of relying on flash drives for backup (two of them, even) only to find that when she needed them, they’d somehow gone blank. Both of them. So, yeah, these are tough lessons to learn. Most people don’t take backups seriously unless they’ve suffered a big data loss.

      Keep multiple backups on multiple forms of storage and have them in multiple locations. It’s the only way to be sure.

      • I frequently warn people that thumb drives are not enough and are cheaply made and prone to failure. It can be part of e system but it can’t be the only part. Really, I don’t use them at all myself, not for backups. Too easily stolen. And fragile.

        • I use them frequently but never as a main backup source. My RAID-1 server setup is my main, but I’m using Dropbox now as well. Thumb drives are good if you can keep them from getting lost, but like any backup system, relying on a single way is asking for disaster.

          I suppose it also helps that I’m an ex-tech guy and I never buy cheap crap (not to say that expensive or well-made tech can’t go bad, it does, but not nearly as often as the Wal-Mart variety of silicon)

      • I have (had actually) a good sci-fi opera-ish story that was about 65,000 words done when we moved, and I somehow reformatted the computer that I was writing on in the bedroom without thinking about it, and ended up losing that story’s digital copy. Somehow…someway, I didn’t even have it backed up to the server or the external drives. I freaked right the ^%$@$ out.

        Jump ahead two years and somehow I found a box that had a hardcopy of the story. My entire body shuddered at the find, the miraculous nature (though I’m not much for believing in miracles) of it turning up. Now I just have to trudge through entering all the text again. That’s actually okay these days as I no longer use Word (I’m a Scrivenernaut or Scrivenerite or whatever now).

        BACK YOUR BITS UP!

  18. I feel terribly for the writer who lost the 3 WIPs…

    I use multiple back-ups:

    1. Carbonite is always running
    2. Dropbox
    3. Google Drive

    I’m currently trying out MS-365 $9.95/mo. subscription plan, but not sure it’s worth it, since the Word version for Mac is 2011, not the current 2013 version for Windows….thoughts anyone?

    Also want to try the new iWorks.

    • I use Carbonite exclusively. Once that green dot arrives — takes about a minute — it’s in the cloud.

      That’s all you need, unless, mirabile dictu, Carbonite itself goes down.

  19. Great ideas I need to utilize myself. I would be keeping checking the local pawnshops. You might even be able to give them some information on your laptop and they can keep an eye out for it.

  20. External hard drive back up daily. Burn initial drafts onto DVD and store in safety deposit box. Save copies of files onto thumb drives that go with me, if I’m going to be away from the computer for more than a day. I’m not comfortable enough with the cloud yet to do back-ups there.

    I became a believer after being awoken at 0630 during finals week by a piercing shriek from the dorm room down the hall. The student had worked all night on a take-home final but had not saved it (in the days before auto-save) and the computer burped just before she was ready to print. Tech services would not open until 0830, so her roomie and the RA had a long two hours before someone could see if there was anything that could be salvaged.

  21. I do the same thing as PG but I use TimeMachine for local + Dropbox + Crashplan. If you don’t want to pay $40-50 per year for something like Crashplan, ask yourself this: would you rather have $50 or all your writing files, pictures of family, and important info? It’s insurance. Pay it and feel secure. You are a business. Protect your info.

    At the very least, those of you using Scrivener should be sending automated zipped backups to a free Dropbox account. Start there and expand. Redundancy is your friend.

    Don’t skimp on backups, your computer, your food, or your bed. That’s my rule.

  22. Some of you will know the details on this better than I do, but I recall reading an interview with JK Rowling about how she had finished HP’s Deathly Hallows in a hotel room in NY (and duly wrote this on a pillar or column in the room or something) – and she was working in pen & paper and got on a plane with this, the only draft. I gotta say, strikes me as criminally stupid/careless. She couldn’t arrange to have copies made & mail them to herself/her agent/her editor?

    I’m not as careful on backup as some of you guys, but I do take some precautions.

  23. Patricia Sierra

    I do not recommend letting a cat walk across your keyboard while the only copy of a file is open. Especially not one you’ve been working on for twelve hours.

    I’m just sayin’….

    • Oh dear! There are only so many times you can hit Ctrl Z when that happens.

      I use Scrivener and Corel WordPerfect. Both will do autosaves, and I think Scrivener’s makes theirs accessible. If that were a public company, I would buy stock.

    • . . . or a toddler.

  24. God Bless Dropbox. When my laptop smashed itself to death on the ice, all the files were on five other machines, and two of those machines automatically copied to external drives every night. And that doesn’t count the thumb drive in my pocket that I randomly stick in whatever computer I’m on when the feeling moves me.

  25. In my career as a software engineer, I learned never to overwrite files. When you write a program that compiles and runs, and then you give it just one more little tweak and it breaks, you learn to always save everything as a new file.

    So when I was writing my book, at the end of each writing day, I saved my current file under the day’s date. I have a complete copy of my book from every single day I spent writing it. If I ever had to prove ownership, I think all those files would be pretty convincing.

    I’m currently working on an iMac that backs itself up automatically to an external hard drive, and I also use Carbonite for offsite backup, in case someone breaks into my office and takes everything.

  26. My daughter got me started on backing up on an external hard drive.

  27. Started reading. Stopped. Did an immediate backup even though I just did one half an hour ago. Continued reading.

    Emotionally I feel for the writer. Trying to rewrite after such a loss is almost impossible.

  28. A database administrator colleague of mine said it right.
    If you haven’t successfully recovered from a backup you don’t know whether it is a backup.

    You need to check regularly whether you can open those backed-up files.

    Also, you want to be sure that if you somehow delete 80% of your WIP and save it, that corrupted version doesn’t overwrite all your better backup copies before you can retrieve them.

    To follow on Catherine Wilson’s comment,
    “save everything as a new file.”
    Look at Amazon Glacier for something like this. It is basically a “write only” backup environment. And, it is Amazon.

  29. I don’t post here much as I’m not a published writer and just now really getting into writing, but I have been in IT for a long time and just want to share a little info that will hopefully help. Also, I haven’t read all of the comments and realize some of this may be repetitive.

    DVDs and CDs do deteriorate and sometimes much faster than people realize. If you use them for long term storage (more than five years), please buy good quality and put them in places where they are dry and cool and hopefully not stacked one on another.

    Things like dropbox or google drive are cloud storage. In the case of Dropbox, they use Amazon’s storage to house the files. The only way to truly avoid the cloud is to use a physical storage device such as a thumb drive (aka flash drive, usb drive, etc), discs, tapes. But I’m not putting in a plug for avoiding the cloud. I use it liberally, and I use physical storage as well. I always put things in two places. Never in 20 years of doing this have I lost any data.

    And with respect to buying online storage, you can get pretty much anything you need for free — assuming most files are written text with little or no graphics. Documents with only text (not to be confused with txt format; it can be any format creating a written document) are usually in KBs or 3 mbs at most. At that rate, it would take years to fill up a 1gb storage account if you ever could, and most free storage accounts come with more than 1gig. I’ve been using an online storage account for documentation for about 5+ years, and I have almost 8,000 files, and I’m still not even close to 1 gb of data. Some of those files are huge manuals of 1,000+ pages. I guess I feel compelled to leave this comment ’cause I just hate to see people get ripped off by paying for cloud storage that they don’t have to.

    I feel myself getting carried away, so I’ll stop. But again, I hope this helps someone here.

  30. I use Dropbox on both desktop and laptop, and am now doing a new backup to my external drive because I just realized it’s been a couple of weeks since the last one.

    Plus, I keep my external drive in a fireproof safe.

  31. Mary mother of God that is horrible! I can’t offer any tech advice (others seem to have done plenty) but these kinds of days are the ones that require an appreciation of good Bourbon or single malt scotch.

    A beer or glass of wine just won’t do it.

  32. Margaret Rainforth

    And, Joe Nobody, if there’s a silver lining in all of this (after you’re as recovered as you can be from the devastation), write a NYT best-selling detective novel about an author who has his computer stolen from a Walmart parking lot. I believe you’re angry and distraught and wise enough to pull it off!

  33. On the other hand, I had all my early stuff typewritten and carbon copied. The box disappeared on one of our house moves. So printed copies are worse, not better.

  34. http://backblaze.com

    I use SyncBack, Dropbox, and Backblaze.

  35. This will sound cruel, but I have difficulty summoning up sympathy for this writer. We are barraged every day with articles, advertisements, and warnings about the necessity to backup, backup, backup. There are numerous free services from Dropbox, Box, Skydrive, Mozy, iDrive, and other cloud services, etc. that make backup pathetically simple. I use cloud services all the time. They work well and mean my files are always accessible no matter where I am with access to the Internet (every McDonalds, Starbucks, public library, not to mention neighbor.) Zoho even supplies an excellent word processor in the cloud (much better than Google’s.)

    And we won’t even mention the idiocy of doing all your work on a laptop that you carry around in a truck where it’s visible in Houston where the temperature in the shade is 100 and in the truck might reach 120. That’s death on laptop electronics and begging for HD failure.

    That being said, I have a feeling if this writer did use Office 365 regularly and had set it up with the defaults, that his files are retrievable and sitting out in the cloud somewhere. Contact Microsoft from the Office.Microsoft.com site.

    • That being said, I have a feeling if this writer did use Office 365 regularly and had set it up with the defaults, that his files are retrievable and sitting out in the cloud somewhere.

      He might have been using Microsoft Office itself (as opposed to the web-interface), in which case he would have needed to save it to his skydrive folder in order to initiate the syncing.

      • Certainly true, Josh, except that he says in his article he used Office 365 which is designed to be web-based. They even advertise it as “your office in the cloud.” If you set it up with the defaults you’ll have a skydrive. Now he says his syncing/backup (it’s not clear what he meant) wasn’t working. Well, perhaps, but my guess is it may have worked at one time and there might be at least an earlier version of what he wrote. My goodness MS even gives you free 20 GB of storage. Still worth a call to MS. In my experience, they have been quite helpful.

  36. See, this is one reason why I do my writing online — the text is saved on a server on the other side of the continent, and as far as I know, thieves haven’t started breaking into data centers and snatching servers off the racks.

  37. “thieves haven’t started breaking into data centers and snatching servers off the racks.”

    Karig,

    Harrumph!

    This scenario precisely portrayed, (rather fetchingly,) on 31/07/2012, in Ep4, S3 of “Covert Affairs.” Episode title, “Speed Of Life.”

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2223482/

    If they hadn’t, you would be guilty of the cardinal sin of tempting fate!

    Let this be a lesson to ya!

    🙂

    brendan

  38. I like the emailing strategy best. Each writing session I finish gets sent to myself and my wife. I’ve been backing up my work this way for years and it seems to work very well. The text files are not large, it is secure and stored externally.

  39. Oh no! I’m so sorry!!!

    I use Carbonite and Dropbox. I like to keep a double back up. Sometimes, I email myself the files as well. I’m super paranoid because I’ve lost WIPS before.

    I believe all that writing is still in you, though. It’s just a matter of getting it out. Hypnosis maybe? It’s worth a shot for that big a loss.

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