I power off my computer for the night. The next day, I turn it on and it takes agonizingly long for it to boot to the desktop. No big deal until I get this message:
For the next five minutes I’m sweating, cursing, and praying that there’s just enough life left in the hard drive to do a quick back up to a flash drive. Evidently fate decided to smile on me on Monday, because I saved just about everything from the broken hard drive, including several short stories, the rough draft of my novel, and the revised draft of said novel that I’m working on right now.
$70 and 48 hours later I have a brand new, 240 GB solid state drive, and all of my material. Hurray!
What does this have to do with writing, though?
Allow me to explain.
We become complacent with the complex machines we use on a daily basis. You charge them, turn them on, and use them until it’s time to power off. “What could possibly go wrong?” you might say, until something does go wrong. There seems to be a misconception that digital information is eternal and invincible. Kind of true, but what happens if the medium it’s on fails? All of it gone. Your pet, or toddler, can rip up a manuscript, but you can always print another copy or tape it back together. That’s not the case if a storage device catastrophically fails. If there is no back up copy then guess what? It’s gone forever.
When you’re dealing with digital information, especially with something like your writing, you need to follow the “3-2-1 Rule.”
For those of you that don’t know, the “3-2-1 Rule” works like this:
Make three copies of your data in different locations.
Make sure two of those copies are on a different type of storage media.
And make sure one of those copies is offsite (I just email material to myself.)
In addition to that I have made a hard copy as the Ultimate Back Up. Even if everything else fails I still have a physical version of the material.
This brings me to the next part: old technology.
It might sound anachronistic or silly, but for my next novel I am going to start its life with a notebook and pen (or pencil). Other than losing the notebook or it gets destroyed, nothing screwy can happen to it. No technical hiccups other than a torn page or broken lead.
Next, type up handwritten material on a typewriter. Even if the typewriter breaks I don’t have to worry about losing everything as a result of a mechanical failure; the crew doesn’t go down with the ship. Using a typewriter might be more time-consuming and frustrating, but it does grant peace-of-mind. Plus there is a certain feeling that comes with pounding out words on one of the old machines. The words feel more concrete and sincere, they can’t be vaporized with a quick Ctrl + A + Backspace.
I have the pleasure of owning my dad’s old typewriter. Aside from a few sticky keys and minor spacing issues, it’s a reliable and handy tool.
Some of you might be wondering, “Where the hell do I get a typewriter?!” Like with anything, you can buy a new one on Amazon. You can also try your luck at antique shops or in an older family member’s basement. Finding ribbon is easier, you can pick that up via Staples.
Finally, type up the story on my computer and still follow the “3-2-1 Rule.”
I might even invest in a small fireproof safe. I’m not kidding.
Writing your story three times might seem arduous, but it’s a chance to revise my story and get to know it better. I’ll catch more grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, plot holes and character flaws. If you don’t believe my logic, you might believe Ernest Hemingway:
When you start to write you get all the kick and the reader gets none. So you might as well use a typewriter because it is that much easier and you enjoy it that much more. After you learn to write your whole object is to convey everything, every sensation, sight, feeling, place and emotion to the reader. To do this you have to work over what you write. If you write with a pencil you get three different sights at it to see if the reader is getting what you want him to. First when you read it over; then when it is typed you get another chance to improve it, and again in the proof. Writing it first in pencil gives you one-third more chance to improve it. That is .333 which is a damned good average for a hitter. It also keeps it fluid longer so you can better it easier. (quote source)
He didn’t have a word processor or a computer, but I bet if those existed in his lifetime he would have added that as a step.
(Writing Update: I have edited the first 100 pages of my novel and have begun the process of implementing those revisions. I also have a working idea for a cover. The primary revisions probably won’t be done by October 1, but I am making progress. More information to come!)
Leave a comment here, or follow me on Twitter (@ahahnjones) and leave a comment there. Do you have a heartbreaking story about losing a manuscript? Do you think using a typewriter is just a hipster gimmick? Let me know!
Thanks for reading, and I hope you stick around.