Sunday, 24 January 2016

Always back up your manuscript on the cloud!

Seeing a grown man weep is never a pleasant thing. For goodness sake, avoid witnessing it or experiencing it at all costs. Back up your work - and not just on your computer!

The Fallen proved to be the most difficult novel I have written to date; follow up pressure to the critically acclaimed The Damned; trying to keep the momentum and energy going from that first book; the 'Difficult second album' syndrome.

Nine months into the project and I had sixty thousand words, all of which took me to dead ends and cul-de-sacs. Unlike The Damned which poured onto the page and which I wrote without a deadline, with its sequel, things were not going so well and I had a deadline which was looming. I was in trouble. I was panicking. I decided a long weekend away in a lonely caravan on the cold Dorset coast would be just the ticket.

I packed up my laptop, reference books, notes, plus provisions; beer, whiskey, snacks and headache pills, and went down there. The caravan was just what I needed, bleak, bare, cheerless and perched on the very top of the cliff top.

I opened my laptop and  … my writing software crashed. Knowing I had saved it just before I headed down to the 'writing cell', I restarted it only to find my manuscript had corrupted, sixty thousand words crushed and mangled together in some weird 1960s beat poem of epic proportions. Chapter 1 had been thrust into Chapter 62. Half of Chapter 13 had been sliced and chopped and inserted into 12. One minute the inquisition were chasing demons and the next they were in bed with them. The whole thing was a disaster. And my only copy was the one which I had saved to my machine. The previous saved version was two weeks and thirty thousand words old.

I wept and held my shuddering head in my shaking hands.

If only I had backed up off my laptop.

It's obvious, but sometimes you just don't think about it. You must. I do, now.

Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Documents, there are loads of these cloud services which connect to your machine just like additional hard drives at your disposal. Not only is your work safe, but it's also accessible anywhere. So if you happen to touch down in Timbuktu and wished to do a spot of writing on the local PC, as long as you can get a wi-fi connection to grab your work, you're all set up.

Don't become a weeping casualty. Don't suffer experiencing a grown person cry. Back up your work on the cloud.

NB: I spent the entire first night in the caravan, about 6 hours, unpicking the entire mess of words and phrases. I don't use that story writing software anymore.

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