There's nothing worse than putting in the last word of your story, only to watch it all disappear because of a power cut or some other unplanned event. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to avoid this worse-case scenario. These are not necessarily mutually exclusive, though which ones are available to you will depend on the software you're using.
I tend to save after every paragraph, or every ten minutes. If I have to answer the phone or take a comfort break, I'll save my work first.
Some programs, like Microsoft Word, give you the option to save your work automatically at set intervals. In Word, click on the Home button (the round button in the top left hand corner of the screen), go to Options, then click on Save. You'll see something like this:
Near the top of the screen you'll see the option to "Save the AutoRecover information". Make sure the box is ticked, and set to every ten minutes or some other interval of your choice.
The AutoRecover option is not a replacement for regular saving, but it should help you retrieve the file if your computer or Word suddenly dies for some reason.
Set a backup frequency
Some programs, like Scrivener, give you the option to have your work backed up to a different location from the saved files, as an extra precaution. It means that if you lose the saved file, you'll at least have the backup.
I've set Scrivener to automatically backup my work each time I close the document I've been working on.
Copy to an external device
If something happens to your computer, then all your saved files would be lost as well as your main ones. To safeguard against this, copy your documents to an external hard drive or a usb stick.
These are not foolproof, however. Usb sticks can get lost or damaged, while if your main computer is stolen, chances are your external drive will be too.
Export to the cloud
Some programs, like Pages on the MacBook Pro, give you the option to export your file to an area in the cloud, such as Dropbox or Google Drive. This avoids the scenario stated above, in which your backup device is stolen, damaged or lost. It's well worth opening a free account in at least one cloud service such as Dropbox, Google Drive, Sky drive or Amazon Cloud.
Some programs, like Scrivener, allow you to take snapshots of your work. That means that if you take a snapshot before making some major changes, you can always revert to the previous version if you don't like what you've done.
If the program you use doesn't have a snapshot facility, then save versions of your work. For example, I save my work as Chapter 1, version 1, Chapter 1, version 2, and so on. These are all saved as separate files, so if you make a mistake or lose some work, you can always open the previous version. To enable this to happen, use the Save As command rather than Save.
Finally, you can always email yourself (or someone else), because that will automatically place a copy of the document on a file server somewhere in the cloud. The main problems with this approach, though, are as follows:
- If the file is very large, you may not be able to send it via email
- If you have set your email up to delete emails from the server as soon as they've been downloaded, or after only a day or two, you will lose the document
- It can be hard keeping track of versions if you do this a lot.
Still, it's better than nothing.
The key thing to remember is this: as far as working with technology is concerned, it's not a case of if something goes wrong, but when. By adopting one or more of the methods described here, you should save yourself a lot of heartache.
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