Poof! goes your manuscript

journal2Did you know that some ingenious folks, earlier this year, started a campaign called “World Backup Day“?
They thought the issue of backing up your files was so important, it warranted a campaign to promote it.

Every writer, professional, student or hobbits should and can backup there work, and if the don’t, they risk loosing all of it.

I had over 300 GB of photos on my iMac’s hard drive. I’d been distributing the finished products to clients, flickr, emailing to family, all of that, but I hadn’t really backed up the originals anywhere. It felt like my hard drive was an impenetrable vault, until it died! I now have a paper weight that was once years of photographic work. But it could have been avoided if I had backed everything up.

We always hear about friends or colleagues who have lost a days work because they forgot to save and the power went out or something just as basic. But what happens when you diligently save your work, or you have an autosave enabled, but you only save to a single hard drive and that dies like mine did? If you want to read more about the statistics of who does and who doesn’t backup and how often, head over to StorageNewsletters article on the subject.

Back when my hard drive crashed the only way to backup files, that I knew about, was getting another (expensive) hard drive or (shudder) putting things onto CDs & DVDs. These days hard drives and even large capacity thumb drives can be picked up relatively cheaply, or, you can use the glorious cloud services.

Built in with Scrivener
For those of us using Scrivener to write with, you already have the ability, built in. Just go to Scrivener-Preferences-Backup, you have to choose the location to send your backup files to, and you don’t wont it to be on the same machine you are writing on, kind of defeats the purpose.


  1. Choose your default settings, I both both backing up on closing and when I perform a manual save.
  2. Set your default storage location on a cloud service that stores everything automatically both on the cloud drive and the computers hard drive. You can do this with both Dropbox and Google Drive and I assume other services as well. The steps to do this are quick and easy, just follow the instructions from your provider.
  3. Have this cloud service located on a second hard drive, auto-syncing with the cloud whenever a file is updated.

As you can see, this isn’t a hard, time-consuming process but it can be a sanity saving one.

Locations & Spaces
For extra precautions, every week I have my laptop auto backup using the mac “Time Machine” feature, to an external hard drive. I also transfer really critical documents to both a thumb drive and to a second cloud service. The result being that I usually have 5 backups of anything I would truly regret loosing:

  • Laptop
  • External hard drive
  • Thumb drive
  • Google Drive
  • Dropbox

Services you can use

These are just a few of the cloud services you can look into. Some of them offer a certain amount of free storage and most provide paid upgrades (not that I’ve needed to pay yet.

  • Dropbox (Max 16 GB on a free account)
  • Box (5 GB on a free account)
  • Google Drive (15 GB free storage)
  • SpiderOak: (2 GB free account with upgrade promotions)

Is this being overly paranoid? Maybe a little, but at least I won’t loose everything should my laptop fall into the ocean or other such disasters, and you have access to you critical files anywhere you have web access (bonus!).

There really is no excuse for you to be found pulling your hair out, and rubbing ashes on your skin at the sudden death of a manuscript, if you take just a few minutes to set yourself up with simple tools.

Signup to a cloud service and/or buy a second hard drive.

Set everything up to sync automatically (so you can’t forget) and take the worry out of loosing your life’s work.

What experiences have you had with loss of work and what do you do now to prevent it? Are you using any of these tools or systems? Are there any other tools you would recommend?

Related Posts:


Creative Commons License
More stories by Tracey Ambrose @ traceyambrose.com
Share it around, but please include this license message

Tracey Ambrose
"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment." Ralph Waldo Emerson


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: