If you’ve been writing for very long, you’ve likely experienced the horrific feeling of losing some or all of your book manuscript. I’d like to share some methods you can use to keep from ever losing part of your work again.
1. Make Multiple Copies Manually
Save a copy on your computer, save another copy on a USB memory stick or external harddrive, and email yet another copy to yourself. That way, if your computer dies and the files cannot be recovered, you’ll still have copies. If the USB stick or harddrive becomes corrupted (which does happen sometimes), you’ll still have the copy sitting in your email–and that you can access from any computer if you use something like Gmail that is web-based.
This method is time-consuming and you run the risk of forgetting to backup your documents at some point. Additionally, if you forget to backup on one of your storage devices, you could have copies that are out of sync with one another.
2. Make a Hard Copy
That’s right! You can print a copy of your document at regular intervals so you have a physical, hard copy on hand in case of… I don’t know, the digital apocalypse or something! This method can be combined with any other method mentioned in this article.
Of course, the drawbacks to this include whether you want to have to hit “print” every time you’ve written new content, whether you tend to write on the go rather than near a printer, and the cost of paper and ink.
3. Write in Google Docs
This completely free tool is easily accessible to anyone who has a Google or Gmail account. It is basically a word-processor that is similar to Microsoft Word in many ways, only in your browser. (They also offer programs similar to Powerpoint and Excel, as well as an online form builder.) While Google Docs is not a good tool for formatting, it can be a excellent place to draft your book since it autosaves the entire time you’re writing, is accessible from any computer or mobile device if you log in with your Google account, and allows you to download the file in a number of formats including .docx for use in Microsoft Word. It is also super easy to allow beta-readers and editors access and the ability to leave comments off to the side for you to go through later.
The autosave function is convenient (no more remembering to click “Save”!) and I’ve never had a problem with it, but I have heard a couple complaints about glitches. It’s important to make sure you have a good internet connection for the autosaving to work. (Note that it’s possible to work on your documents offline if you’ve set that option up ahead of time. You’ll still want to make sure to connect to the internet at some point so it will sync what was done offline.)
Because of the possibility for glitches, it’s still probably a good idea to download a .docx version of the file every now and then as an extra backup.
4. Sync Your Files to Dropbox
(Note that the links in this section are referral links. If you use them to sign up for a new free Dropbox account, we both will get a little extra storage added to our Dropbox.)
Dropbox will give you a certain amount of free space to store files, and the files will also be synced to your computer’s harddrive (there is also a mobile app if you find yourself needing that). Since files are saved on your computer in a folder titled “Dropbox”, you will be able to edit them in the programs on your computer (say, Microsoft Word or some other word processor) even when offline. Whenever there’s an internet connection, Dropbox works in the background to sync your files to the cloud every time you save new changes. (Yes, you have to click “Save” in your Word doc as usual.)
Files can be accessed from any computer if you log in to Dropbox.com. This is was a life-saver when my computer’s harddrive died without warning. I was still able to access all the files for our book design clients that week… from my husband’s computer!
Dropbox also makes it easy to share files to betas and editors, supports commenting, and even stores old versions of your synced file up to 30 days (for the free version–longer if you upgrade to a paid plan).
Downsides to Dropbox? You’ll still need to manually click “Save” in your Word document unlike the autosaving in Google Docs. Also, the Dropbox mobile app doesn’t support editing most documents within the app itself. There are work-arounds to this issue by using other word-processor apps that have the ability to connect to your Dropbox account. I’ll cover some of those options at a later date.
What’s my personal favorite option? The answer to that question has evolved over time. I’ve used every method mentioned here at some point or another. I can rarely pick just one favorite of something, whether it’s books, icecream flavors, or songs. (The exception to this is men. My husband is most definitely my #1 favorite man!) Therefore, I am currently using Google Docs for some of my projects and Dropbox for others.
While there’s no guarantee you’ll never lose your work with these, or any other backup methods, having and implementing a plan should make you feel much safer.
Perry is a 20-something author with a lot on her plate. She’s wife to Tyler; mom to four little boys, two dogs, one cat, and 12 chickens; and author of five little books. She’s the admin of this site, as well as a freelance book designer and the creator of the WriteMind Planner for authors. She lives in the sunny southwest.
Offers: cover design and the WriteMind Planner at perryelisabethdesign.com