Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The First Plan

The first inkling something was very wrong was the sobbing on the other end of the line.
We’re talking major sobs. I had no idea who I was talking to, or what the problem was, only that the other person on the other end of the phone was very distraught. She couldn’t speak.
I was nineteen years old.
And I supported Mac software. Over the phone.
Patiently, I extracted, bit-by-bit—this woman wrote a book.
One day, she went to load the book in her Mac Plus (yes, I am dating myself, for you clever techies), and it failed to load.
The file was corrupted. A year of her life, gone. Zap. Load, crash. No manuscript.
No backup.
No print out.
I fixed her corrupted file. I had her copy it to a floppy disk. We opened the Word file up in a text editor, and deleted the header. When we copied it back to her hard disk, we opened it back up into Word. Word opened it as a text document. There were funny characters all over the place, but the text itself, her book, was still there. I showed her how to search for the errant binary goo and delete it. With about an hour of work, she had her manuscript back.
I was popular with this woman. She thanked me profusely. She said she wanted to have my baby (!) and sent me a very nice thank you letter.
Do you have a backup copy of your manuscript?
Do you have more than one?
Are one of these backup copies stored in a separate location other than your house?
Do you know how to deal with corrupted files other than resorting to your backup?
Do you have a plan for restoring your backups?
Have you ever practiced restoring your backups?
Do you check the file integrity of your backups on a regular basis?
The answers to all these questions should be yes.
Don’t be the person who says no.
Or you could be calling someone, sobbing into the phone.
Only, tech support now is a whole lot different, my friends, a whole lot different.
Consider this a handy tech tip of the obvious from Anthony, Backup Hack Writer. No need to thank me, that’s just the kind of guy that I am.


  1. Internal Hard Drive, External Hard Drive, Flash Drive and Online Backup - that's my backup plan.

    Everytime I save a document before exiting I save to the internal, external, and flash drive. Once per week, everything is saved to an online backup. I've experienced the total loss of documents . . . twice. I learned my lesson, the hard way. Since I'm now using Office Live as well, I'm considering that as a fifth backup option.

    Thanks for the tip!


  2. Some answers are yes and some are no. I have my ms backed up internally, externally and I keep a hard copy. Because I'm a little (okay, a lot) tech challenged, I don't know how to do all of the other stuff. And, possibly because of my age, I'm a little scared of the technology.

  3. I have a backup hard disk onto which Time Machine keeps filling it up with ones and zeros, but that's not good enough for me.

    Once a month or so I pull a memory stick from a fireproof safe and back up all my writing.

    Even that's not good enough. I carry with me at all times, two memory sticks that have backups of all my writing.

    I figure one of them could fail.

    Paranoid much? Yep.

  4. I've got copies on my computer, a thumb drive and Gmail. That's probably not good enough, given my history of computer corruption...

    Do you recommend any of those free file storing sites like or

  5. @Anna

    >>Do you recommend any of those free file storing sites like or<<


    A good rule of thumb is not to repeat reliance. If you are using gmail, then that specific option relies on the internet. Your next option should not use the internet.

    Because the internet can go splat.

    Thumb drives are awesome, I have one I bought four years ago that has been chewed on by the dog and it still works. One option for you is to burn DVDs and store them at a friend or relative's house.

  6. yes, timely tips indeed. hubby bought me an external one for Christmas, so i'm backed up. (I also have it saved on my home desktop, my school desktop, my laptop, and emailed to self.) but i really do need to figure out a better way to keep track of versions and the latest one...

  7. Sadly the first screenplay I ever wrote back in college was deleted because of a campus-wide power outage. Three months and sixty-seven pages...gone.

    I hadn't kept up with my backup copies compared to my main copy, but I will now, since you've scared the hell out of me. =). Thanks!

  8. Definitely. Back up every week on Office night, as commanded by husband. But if anything ever happened, I'd probably be kissing his socks.

  9. Thanks for the reminder. Holy crow! I was about 100 pages behind in backup for the 2nd novel.

  10. Luckily, my husband is a computer genius. He has backups of backups, off-site backups (multiple ones), etc. Whew, does that mean I'm covered?


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