I've lost manuscripts many times over the years. Most of the time, I've lost documents because my hard drive got corrupted or my computer crashed while writing and I forgot to save it. In this case, it was the second draft of my scifi/adventure novel, Operation: Masquerade. I'd finally finished what I considered the final major rewrite and polish, after three months of intense work. I had written new scenes, new characters, removed some major continuity errors, and basically gotten it to where I felt it needed to be. All I needed to do was re-read it one last time to catch any typos and stuff, and it would be ready for release.
Then I cracked the screen on my laptop. Two-thirds of the screen became unusable. Of course, my biggest concern was the data on the laptop, specifically Operation: Masquerade. Thanks to my decision to back up my documents on Dropbox, I was more worried about making sure the copy I had was up-to-date. I decided to use the keyboard commands to save it, even though I really couldn't see it. I went to another computer, loaded up Dropbox, and loaded the document. Blank page. Somehow, I had just saved a blank document as the file. It's gone. All gone. I managed to find a copy I'd accidentally saved under the wrong name, so I only have two months of work to recreate instead of three, which is kind of like saying I only had one arm cut off instead of both arms.
I need a break. Operation: Masquerade is going on the back burner for a few months while I work on something new. In the meantime, here's four things you can do to make sure this doesn't happen to you.
- Save copies somewhere else. Hard drives get corrupted, computers get broken. That's why you should never keep your only copy on one computer's hard drive. Keep a copy on a USB drive or an external hard drive.
- Use a cloud-based backup system. I've lost documents on physical media. I lost docs I had saved on CDs that got scratched. I'm old enough to have lost copies on corrupted floppy disks, and ZIP drives. That's why I started backing up my work on Dropbox. Not only does it keep a virtual copy, but it syncs it with all my computers, so I can go seamlessly from my desktop, and my laptop.
- Make backup copies. I thought I was safe backing up the main copy, but I should have made other copies with different names. One of the first things I did on my desktop after the disaster is set my word processor to make backup copies automatically. Most word processors have this option. Check the help document on your favorite.
- Print hard copies. I have to admit, the most effective method of saving documents is the print out physical copies. I still have paper manuscripts of documents I wrote that I've long lost the digital versions of. Short of fire, I don't have to worry about suddenly losing those.