Usually a post like this would start off with a horror story. You know the kind: guy spends half his life writing the Great Novel Of The Universe on an ancient stone laptop, only to forget to hit 'save', then offers himself up for ritual sacrifice.
No horror stories here, though. And that's the point.
Back up your work before it all goes to hell in a handbasket.
Ways to do it:
- USB flash disk: you don't need a big one because novels don't take up much space. Even a 32MB disk bought from your local convenience store will do. They're cheap, and any computer bought in the last few years should have no trouble using them.
- Blank CDs / DVDs: you really should be finding ways to backup your entire system, so if your hard drive crashes you can get up and running within minutes, not days. Stick your writing on these too. Norton Ghost is something worth looking into in terms of system backup if you use Windows.
- Email: get a gmail account. Send your novel to your other email address. If you're worried about privacy, zip the files up and add a password. Yes, these things can be cracked, but not without a considerable effort.
- Other computers: if you use more than one computer, carry that flash disk around and leave copies everywhere. You do have a flash disk, don't you?
- External hard disk: It's easy to buy a cheap external case that connects through USB or Firewire. Stick a hard drive in there that's the same size as the one you have, or find some backup software that compresses your work. Lacie and Maxtor have a range of these to suit, but I prefer the cheap ones from the local computer store.
These are all solutions designed to prevent loss of your work. The work you sweated blood, tears and other bodily fluids over.
But that won't help if you don't back it up. Do it every day, or when you hit a milestone. At the very least, once a week. Back up dated versions of all the files in your writing folder every so often, and keep them. That way if something has stuffed up a couple of weeks ago, you still have a way of resurrecting the work done before.
Sing it with me, children:
BACK IT UP.