Crash and Burn…Are Your Manuscript Files Backed Up?

A computer crash is the biggest fear of any author. Months, even years, of hard work, creativity, and research are gone in a matter of seconds. It’s enough to make a grown man cry.

The latest laptop to fail.

Over the past year, I’ve gone through three laptops and now a computer. Okay, the laptops weren’t the newest on the market and two of them were free. I’m not complaining because they got the work done. The more I worked, the more it got used, and apparently, they couldn’t keep up with me or the newer programs I needed to keep my writing going.

Last week, I began having problems with my and newest laptop. My husband is a technical whiz and has rebuilt his computer several times. He’s been able to recover files from major crashes and do major overhauls on his machines to make them run faster. Simply put, he’s got the best computer in the house! He needs it since he produces, engineers, and records artist  on his machine. In short, he’s got money sitting in his hard drives.

He informed me that my computer needed to have the Windows uninstalled and reinstalled in order to make it work better. So far he’s had to save my butt and fix the thing about 5 times in the last three months. I backed up all of my files, anticipating my computer hard drive being completely wiped out, and happily handed it over. Needless to say, something went wrong. It wasn’t his fault, it’s the computers. It’s about four years old and had already been having some issues with the hard drive. Long story short, it accepted Windows 7, but refuses to accept Word. How is a writer supposed to write without WORD????

So, I sucked it up and got my son’s computer tower, brought it to my office, and promised him I would not take it over forever. Just long enough to keep my writing momentum going without getting behind while waiting for the laptop to be fixed.

That black spot is what caught on fire!

All went good for a few hours. I managed to start typing the first chapter of the second book in The Butterfly Memoirs series, Jaded. I had already printed out the MS and went line-by-line with my red pen doing edits. I typed of the first ten pages last night. As I was going through the words on my Passive Words checklist, I began to smell smoke. My first thought was the stove had been turned on accidentally and a pot or plastic cup was on it. (My office is right off the kitchen). I looked over at my 11-year-old son who was washing dishes and asked what was burning. It was then I noticed smoke coming from under my desk. I pushed back from the desk and realized the computer tower was on fire! I, of course, freaked and yelled for my husband. Everyone in the house came running. Fortunately, I was able to blow out the flames, but the computer was done.

I was sitting there on the verge of tears. After waiting, fretting, and struggling with the desire to sit down at a computer and get things moving along, I was once again computer-less, not to mention my son’s computer is now toast. But then I realized something that made me laugh. My family thought I was crazy. In the scene I was working on, the heroine, Yasmine Phillips, is stressing because her computer crashed and literally burned.  Don’t believe me? Here’s a brief glimpse at the WIP:

My paper work filed away, I turned back to my computer and pulled up the accounting program used to manage the hotel.

“No, no, no!” I pounded on my key board, but nothing worked.

“What’s wrong?” Brandon leaned forward to peer around my monitor.

The screen flashed a rolling script before it went completely black.

“Oh shit,” I groaned, flopped back in my chair, and put my hands on my face. I wanted to snatch my hair out. “Shit, shit, shit…”

Brandon whistled. “You, my sister, are seriously screwed.”

If looks could kill, he’d be dead right now. I sat up and even though knowing it was a waste of time, flipped the on switch of the computer tower. There was a spark of energy that flashed and burned out in the grounding wire of the extension cord. Brandon and I jumped up; he lunged for the cord in the wall while I ran for the fire extinguisher in the hall.

Fortunately I didn’t need it.

My brother fanned smoke as the smell of burnt electronics permeated the air.“I hope you had that information on a backup system.”

“No, I know I’m supposed to, but I never got around to it,” I grimaced.

            Brandon reached over and patted me on my shoulder. “So far, I’m not liking the idea of being manager at the new location”

Talk about irony! My office still smells of burnt plastic!

Several months ago, my husband asked me if I’d been backing up my writing files in case of a computer crash. At the time I felt that wasn’t necessary. I had my files saved to USB and that was enough. Then I began hearing horror stories of computers crashing, partial files missing, USB’s lost, and realized I needed to step it up.

I’m not the worlds most computer savvy person. Thankfully, my husband is. He walked me through the steps and showed me how to save entire files on to a CD. Not only have I backed up my manuscripts, I’ve backed up all research, articles on writing, photos, and e-books on writing. If anything ever happens, all I have to do is pull out the disk and download it to whatever computer I’m on and have a perfect snap shot of my work. Doing this every couple of months, weeks, or whenever major changes are made, can keep your work current. That way if you ever experience an issue with your computer, you can rest assured your time dedicated to your work was not in vain.

Other options for additional places to store your work are:

  • Online storage services (some are free, some you pay for.)
  • Emailing a copy of latest work to yourself and archiving it. 
  • Create a buddy system with another writer you trust. Exchange digital copies of you MS for each other to hold in case yours ever is lost or destroyed.
  • Even though this is the age of digital information, there’s nothing wrong with going old school and printing out a copy to have on hand.
  • Purchase an external hard drive to save your work on. That way if your main drive on your computer fails, the external hard drive will still have your work. Think of it as a giant USB. 

These are the few that I can recommend. If anyone has any other methods, please share! 


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5 thoughts on “Crash and Burn…Are Your Manuscript Files Backed Up?

  1. I have never heard of a laptop catching fire LOLMine 'crashed' lierally…threw itself off the laptop table and onto the floor when NO ONE was in the room…Message from editing ghosts?Time for a new, geared-for-writing laptop!good luck ;o)

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