Monday, January 28, 2013

Saving Your Files

First of all, a huge thank you to all of you who have been spreading the word. My last post received more views than any of my others posts ever have. That's fantastic! Thank you!

What I want to talk to you about today is really more advice than a tip, but I think when it comes to writing it is the most important thing, right up there with never throwing away your work or giving up. This morning I was thinking about what to tell you today, and then it hit me. Today I want to talk to you about saving your files.

As a writer your words are your life. They are how you live, eat, drink, breathe. They're your outlet. They are you. We spend hours and hours typing away, getting our souls and stories down on paper (electronically or real) and the very last thing we want is to lose what we have put down. I am coming to you as one who has lost work and who has always been haunted by what was lost.

In 2009 I did my very first NaNoWriMo. I was going to college, living with room mates, and writing a book. In other words, having the time of my life. I'd had my laptop for about a year and then all of a sudden one day, it failed me. It didn't come through like it had on all those other days. It crashed. I was devastated, to say the least. Luckily, I had been smart enough - or paranoid enough, either way I'm grateful - to save my story in more than one place. As I was writing, I saved my book on my computer, and I also emailed a copy to myself. Now, it just so happens that I hadn't done that in a little while when my computer crashed, so I lost a scene. That's pretty good news I think, only one scene! But, it just so happened to be a really great scene that I thought I had written particularly well. Not cool.

Eventually I got my computer up and running again, and, using my gracious fellow-Nanoer and room mate's computer, I rewrote that lost scene, but it was never as good as the first time around. As much as I hate that it happened, I will forever be grateful that it did happen, and in such a small way, because it taught me that I have to be more careful, because I never want to lose another word.

My advice for you today is to always save your files in more than one place. You'll never know how much you appreciate it until you lose something. As a writer I have changed immensely since I finished my first book. I have grown older, become a much better writer, and a several times NaNoWrimo veteran.  I have also learned a lot. Luckily for us, technology is getting more and more awesome with every second of every day, and we have so many options for saving our novels securely and in multiple places. Here's a list of some ways you can do it:

  • Email: This is definitely not my first choice, since, like I mentioned above, you can lose everything since the last time you uploaded, but it's definitely something and will work if you don't have any other option. 
  • External Memory: This is a good option too, though one I don't rely on. I've heard too many stories of people's memory sticks getting misplaced, or eaten by their dogs, and in all reality your external hard drive is a computer - it can crash just like the computer you are using to write your book. 
  • Google Drive: Previously Google Documents, this is great option. I used to use Google Documents all the time, especially to collaborate with other students. It's easy and free (to an extent) and it guarantees that your file will be saved online. 
  • Dropbox: This is the option I choose, because it is my favorite. I depend on it so much it's not even funny. It's my life line. Everything related to my books is saved on Dropbox. Like Google Drive, you are given a certain amount of space for free, but you can grow that space by sharing, getting other people to join, and doing other things. My space has grown quite a lot, thanks, probably, to a lot of you. Dropbox (and Google Drive) installs a folder on you computer where you save files, and each time you press save on your document, it is instantly saved online, and wherever else you have downloaded your Dropbox folder. I currently access my Dropbox folder from my computer, my Mom's computer, my phone, and online. You can have it on all of your mobile devices and computers, and can access it anywhere by logging in to the online site. If you change a document in your folder, it also saves those changes in all the places you have the document. For example, I can open my novel on my phone, add a new line, and when I get back to my computer file, that added line will already be there. A-freaking-mazing in my book! I believe Google Drive works the same way.
These certainly are not your only options, but they are the ones I thought I'd list today. Right now I am coming to you from the very same laptop that crashed on me four years ago, and it has, since then, nearly crashed too many times for me to count, but now, every time that happens, I don't even worry about it (except that I'd be ticked to not have a computer). I hope that you will think about how you are protecting your work, and if you are protecting it enough. Trust me, the last thing you want to do is end up like these guys:

Did you find this information helpful? Do you backup your novel? Do you use one, or more, of these methods, or something else? If you're a paper-only sort of person, how to you protect your work? I'd love to hear about it!

- Heidi Nicole Bird 


  1. I've pretty much made Dropbox my default folder for everything. All of my files of all types are just put there first. It's great that way, because you can just set that up and forget about it--no need to even remember to make the backups.

  2. Excellent. :) A tool I also find very useful is Google Cloud Connect ( It auto-saves any MS Office document to Google Drive, including, most importantly here, Word docs. I put anything I really want to make sure is saved in Dropbox, but it's nice to know Cloud Connect is there in the background just in case. :)