On twitter today, agent Laura Bradford retweeted a link to a story about how the files for Toy Story 2 were almost lost when they were accidentally deleted off Pixar’s servers. (Here’s a direct link to the video on the website where I first watched it.) The lesson, which every writer/creator has heard a thousand times, is BACK UP YOUR FILES. Well, here’s another reminder because it has happened to me too.
The hard drive on our main computer had been troubled for some time when it finally gave up the ghost at the beginning of this year. It was a pain in the neck, but we had an automated backup system in place. Or so we thought. When we went to restore the files, the most recent copies we had were all from the autumn of 2010. The computer had given us the message that the backups had failed, but we simply forgot to to anything about it until it was too late. Among the countless family photos lost on that hard drive were two of my WiPs, both of which were started and abandoned in 2011.
I’m the first to admit that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I wasn’t emotionally attached to either WiP — they’d both been put aside for very good reasons — so I was more disappointed than gutted. What I lost, though, was the ability to return to these ideas, to reuse them in part or in whole for future works. You never know what details of character, plot, or setting you might need again. These WiPs (flawed though they were) were things that I spent time and effort on, and which I will never be able to replace. I simply can’t remember everything that I’d created for them.
As someone who claims to want to write professionally, it was irresponsible of me not to have a better plan to protect my work. Thankfully we have our automatic backups working again, but sometimes (as the Pixar folks discovered) that’s not enough. It’s better to have multiple backups whenever possible. Put your files on an external drive or thumb drive, email them to yourself, store them on the cloud, give a copy to a trusted friend or relative. Whatever you do, do it every time and do it for every project. You may never need it, but you’ll be so grateful if you ever do.
What do you guys use to back up your WiPs? I’m always looking for new ideas!