I write a lot about writing, but not a lot about what I do in my day job. Sure, I manage salespeople, but at heart, I’m a techie. I’m the guy people call when there’s a problem with their computer. The other day, my only writer friend and I were talking, and he admitted to me that he had lost 16,000 words due to not having a good backup plan. He thought he did, but once Apple synced his blank notes, he lost chapters of his fourth book. He writes from an outline, and it’s not horrible, but still, we all know what that feels like.
So I thought it would be appropriate to talk about how I do things to make sure I never lose data. Because, there are only two types of people in the world: those who have lost data, and those who will.
The cloud is your friend
This is the number one reason my initial composition and all my ideas (notes) are in Evernote. I use Evernote’s Plus plan ($34.99 per year). It gives me enough space that I can’t possibly fill it up, ever. This level gives you 1 Gb per month and unlimited devices – this is critical because it means I can write and sync across my iPhone, my iPad, my Desktop and my Hated MacBook Pro. Plus, as long as I have an Internet connection, it’s always backed up. I can’t lose my basic core writings.
I use Scrivener on my Hated MacBook Pro to do my writing after the first draft. My blog posts now go through at least three edits before I let them loose on the world, and Scrivener allows me to color code the drafts so I don’t lose a draft. That way, if I radically edit something, and hate it, I can go back. I never have, but I can – it’s a psychological thing for me. But Scrivener allows you to sync with Dropbox. So I store my Scrivener files in Dropbox, with a basic, free Dropbox account. This way, I can sync across my different devices, again including my iPhone and my iPad as well as my Hated MacBook Pro and my not-so-hated MacBook Pro (that one’s newer). The nice thing about Dropbox is it just synchronizes a folder structure on your computer – so all you have to do is put files in the right spot – it does the rest. In Scrivener, this is a setting, so it’s done for me automatically once I set it up initially.
Easy peasy – so easy, you should do it
And that’s really it. You don’t have to do it this way, but you do need to start backing up your work. And using the cloud is the best way to do it for damn near free. I have a few servers in my house that I also use to back up everything several times, but honestly, the writing is mostly backed up between Evernote and Dropbox. But you could use other services as well, Microsoft has started to allow pretty decent file sharing sizes in their ecosystem, and OneNote is a decent app for writing, although it has quirks that bug me a bit. Google, of course, has all the things you need, you can even use Google Docs for your writing and never have to worry – it’s always synced with Google. But for me, writing in Google Docs is like using Word 20 years ago – it’s not a distraction-free environment, by any means. And I have seen delays between typing and what shows on the screen because of the way Google does things. Great, if you’re collaborating with others, not so great if you’re in a cabin with shitty Internet coverage. And my brain needs minimal distractions, just to be clear here.
Write offline, sync later
Scrivener and Evernote allow me to write offline, and then sync later – so I can write on the plane if I have enough space on my lap from the asshole in front of my reclining his seat. Honestly, just because those seats recline, doesn’t mean you should. Don’t do it, don’t be that guy. You’re not getting much extra comfort anyway, especially if I’m behind you. But I digress, again.
I offered to help my writer friend, who’s also in the same tech field with me, so he never loses any data again. But like most people, he’s embarrassed. Losing data is like being robbed. I left a notebook of mine in the back of an airplane flying back from my grand-niece’s funeral (she was 5 months old). That notebook had a lot of writing in it and losing it hit me hard. That was the last time I used paper and pen to keep my notes. That’s probably a good thing, too because I can barely read my own handwriting, and you can’t do a full-text search through your handwritten notes.
But wait, there’s more – SEARCH!
That brings up another reason I use Evernote. They use a search engine that is basically the same algorithm Google uses when you search the Internet. The difference here is, you get your own search engine for your account. It searches only what you tell it to search. I frequently do searches for subjects across my Evernote account and find stuff that I forgot about. It’s just a great product for writers.
So here are the links, which I’m not affiliates of, so no money comes to me… even though Dropbox would increase my storage space and yours if you signed up through me…Use this link for that: https://db.tt/f0ZwToFx Evernote.com, Dropbox.com, and for Scrivener.
As with everything, there are caveats – you still have to be careful. Things like don’t open a project on two computers at the same time should be common sense, but let’s face it, common sense ain’t so common. So if you do use Scrivener, make sure you read their best practices.
You can also use a second computer, or external hard drive and just manually copy your files over when you’re done each time. But we’re all human, and to err defines us, apparently. I literally have backups of backups of backups. Heaven forbid I do have an issue. It will take me a long time just to find my good data because I never throw anything away. But I know it’s still there, and that’s better than knowing it’s gone for good.
With so many options, there’s just no excuse these days not to incorporate a solid backup routine into your daily work. If you do the above, it’s no extra effort at all once it’s set up. All the backing up is automatic, the way it should be. And honestly, if you struggle with this stuff, please reach out to me, I’m happy to help out, especially a fellow artist. There’s no worse feeling than losing something you created.
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