Well, tickle me pink and call me a rose. This morning I was working on revisions for my new novel, Death Warden—hurray, just about done the 2nd draft—when I arrived at a chapter and realized it was missing a giant block of text. I then remembered that the same text was in a word file I’d written for a writing course I’d been taking. The problem: I’d switched to something else for that assignment and didn’t have an older copy. With a sinking feel, I thought I was going to have to write this section again. And I was mad, because I remembered really liking it. I spent the next half hour hunting for it and learned that my current system for writing and backing up is even better than I thought. Let me share why.
Version History in Drop Box
For my writing, I tend to alternate back and forth between using my desktop computer and an iPad with a keyboard. To make switching easy, I save to dropbox. The syncing is seamless and makes life really easy. It was in Drop Box where I first saved my missing text.
Now, I’m just a free user of the service. Out of desperation, I looked to see if they keep a version history. Turns out they do, and for free. Unfortunately, the free service only keeps the historical versions for 30 days—you can pay to extend this out to a year, but it is not retroactive—and I’d first written the document two months ago. So, no luck retrieving my missing scene, but kudos to drop box for offering such a great service for free.
Crash Plan to the Rescue
I pay a yearly subscription to Crash Plan to continually back up my computer to the cloud. That is where I turned next, but I wasn’t hopeful, because I didn’t think Drop Box would be part of the back up. Thankfully, I was wrong. Drop Box syncs itself to a subfolder in my home directory, which is part of Crash Plan’s default backup settings. So, logging in to my CrashPlan account, I not only found the file in question, but several versions of it. Missing text found, happy author, day made.
Add Scrivener for the Perfect Storm
I love Scrivener for writing because it lets me easily block out the scenes and save other information in separate folders, and export my novel in many different formats—including word and epub. It does many other cool things too, and, to my great delight, they now have an iPad version, which, you guessed it, syncs with Drop Box. Scrivener does have version control via its “snapshot” feature, but you have to remember to use it. I don’t. But . . . Because I have Crash Plan, I have a version history automatically. Note: Crash Planprunes its version history automatically (keeping more of recent versions, and less of old ones), but this can be customized in your settings. It’s a beautiful thing. You could get away without Crash Plan by getting the Drop Box extended version history, but I figure if I am going to pay for one of the two, I’ll pay for the backup that does my whole computer.
Conclusion – Do your research and back up.
There are lots of great tools out there. I chose these ones for myself based on my own research, but you never really know how good they are until you NEED to use them. It is great when software works, and even better when it surpasses your expectations. What have you found as the best way to organize and back up your work?