Backing Up Your Digital Writing

This isn’t related to web fiction, but I’d thought I’d share a little tip I use to keep my writing secure – regardless of whatever terrible things that may happen to my primary computer. I was on Twitter today, and writer Zoe Whitten posted a couple of tweets on how her machine crashed on her, and with it – two months of writing lost in temporary hell.

There are two things to remember here. The first is that – if you’re reading Novelr, it’s very likely that you already do most of your writing on your computer. The second thing, worth remembering, is the simple truth that computers are fragile creatures and should always be treated with the assumption that something, somewhere, would go catastrophically wrong; that your work is always at risk of vanishing, and if you so forget about your computer or lose it or drop it or have your board fry itself or have your hard disc spin to death – any of these things may happen at any given time, sending your writing straight to a unknowable purgatory.

It pays, of course, to have backups. If you’re on a Mac, get SuperDuper!. But backups aren’t ideal when you’re writing and your computer crashes and you just want to get back to work: they’re a hassle to do, and it takes quite a bit of discipline to backup on a regular basis.

The simplest solution to this is to get Dropbox.
Screen shot 2010-09-02 at 1.55.12 AM.png
Dropbox gives you a little folder into which you dump the files you want to save. And when it’s connected to the Internet, Dropbox syncs your files with all the other computers you have with Dropbox installed. (Plus they give you a web interface to download and use those files, should the need ever arise.)

See the value in this? I use Dropbox as the holding space for whatever document I’m currently working on. I keep backups of my whole hard disc, of course, but if my computer fails or if I’m away I get to download and work on my working drafts – either through the web interface, or via the selection of mobile devices currently supported by Dropbox (i.e.: Android, iPhone, iPad and Blackberry).

There are other uses, naturally. Some of my friends drag and drop .pdf ebooks into their Dropboxes, for reading on the train. Others use Dropbox to share pictures with friends. And if you have your writing organized in a different part of your computer, just follow these steps to have Dropbox sync those folders too.

Dropbox is great as a storage trick, for the few documents you want to protect the most. It’s small, it’s simple, it’s easy-to-use, and (best of all!) it’s absolutely free of charge. Get it at, set it up, and then get back to writing today.

Possibly Related Posts:

Category: Writing Tools
  • Gabriel Gadfly

    Yes. Backup. And backup again. So you don’t end up doing like I did and lose some 12,000 words of your NaNoWriMo project from a computer crash.

    These days, I keep a copy on my computer, a copy on a thumb drive, a copy in Google Documents. And I might do the Dropbox thing too, because it sounds nifty.

  • Eli James

    Dropbox should more than replace the thumbdrive solution (provided, of course, that you have reliable Internet access). So yes, I’ll urge you to go for it, Gabriel. :)

  • Gabriel Gadfly

    Unfortunately, I don’t. Since I don’t have a net connection at my apartment, I typically get it where I can. But I’ll give it a shot and see how it goes.

  • E.D. Lindquist

    I’ve had good experiences with Mozy (, which I automate to run a back up every single day at 3 am. It also keeps several versions of files, so if I accidentally delete a chapter (yeah, I’ve done that), I can go back and grab it.

    On the downside, Mozy only offers a few gigs for free. More than that and you have to pay. For writing, that’s not bad, but if you have a lot of graphics or something, you might need to part with some hard-earned cash. It can also slow your system pretty bad when it’s running, but that might just be because I use it on my underpowered little netbook.

    I do not recommend BeInSync… if it’s even around anymore. During the initial backup, it put everything into a sort of limbo state. If it get interrupted for any reason, the files are stuck in that format and can’t be retrieved. I lost 10G of work that way.

    Back your stuff up! The more places the better. My computer is more whimsical and prone to crap all over the place than my cats.

  • E.D. Lindquist

    Oh, forgot to mention: Mozy is available for both Mac and PC.

  • V. J. Chambers

    Yay Dropbox! It’s awesome. I love, love, love it.

    But ditto to the only offering a few gigs for free. I am running out of space currently, probably from pictures and the like. I’m still trying to decide whether it’s worth it to drop the cash it takes for more room. :(

  • Eli James

    @Gabriel: Ahh. :( Well, Dropbox does remember any changes you’ve done to your folder (and uploads those the next time you’re on the Internet) but ideally the changes should be uploaded as soon as you’ve edited a file, for added security, of course. So maybe Dropbox isn’t as awesome as it could be for you. :(

    @E.D.Linguist: I use SuperDuper! for offline, full-computer backups. Not sure about Mozy though – but that’s probably due to publicity (I hear a lot about Dropbox, but less so about Mozy). I should go check it out.

    @V. J. Chambers: I’d probably buy a few more gigs when I run out. They’re just too valuable. :)

  • A_G

    @V. J. Chambers: If you give Dropbox a referral to others, and they use it, you earn extra space. You can know earn up to 10 gigs, in 250 MB chunks at a time. You could even use my referral.