What you will learn:
- Best practices for safeguarding your manuscript from loss and destruction.
- How to adequately back up your manuscript and other working documents.
- Version control and redundancy
- How to build logical file structure
- Virus Protection
- Password management
Ashlynn Carter of Ashlynn Writes: “A How-to Guide for GoogleDrive File Organization: The Exact System I Use,” https://ashlynwrites.com/googledrive-how-to/
Literature & Latte, “Syncing Scrivener Projects to the Cloud” by Kirk McElhearn https://www.literatureandlatte.com/blog/syncing-scrivener-projects-to-the-cloud
If your home burned down tonight, what would happen to your manuscripts? If the next hurricane flooded your town and your basement, would your computer files be safe? How are you guarding your current work in process? Answers to these questions and more in this episode of Writing Pursuits. Welcome to the Writing Pursuits podcast, where authors like you discuss writing craft, author, life, and book marketing strategies.
I'm your host, Kathrese McKee. I own Word Marker Edits and write and produce the weekly newsletter, Word Marker Tips for Authors. In addition, I am a speculative fiction author. Writing Pursuits is for authors who drink too much coffee, endure judgemental looks from their furry writing companions, and struggle for words. If you are a writer seeking encouragement, information, and inspiration, this podcast is for you. Let's get to it.
Hey, Writing Pursuits Authors, welcome back. And a special welcome to you if you're new to the show I'm your host Kathrese McKee. If you find value in this podcast, help me out by writing a quick review, following the show, and leaving a star rating to help others find Writing Pursuits.
Let's get right to today's topic
First, what this episode is not. When I say keep your manuscript safe, I'm not talking about preventing pirates from impacting your sales. This episode is about the physical, or let's be honest, the digital safety of your manuscript and other working files.
I will touch on:
Best practices for safeguarding your manuscript from loss and destruction.
How to adequately back up your manuscript and other working document.
How to build strong file structure.
We will talk about computer level security too. And password management.
I was afraid to talk about this topic because it might be too boring or technical, but it's near and dear to my heart because I have 15 years of experience in IT. That's where I started out, and I feel strongly about it. It's like eating leafy greens; it's good for you. I see authors who are taking huge risks all the time, like walking the high wire without a net in real life.
I had an author approach me to edit her manuscript, but when it came time to send it to me, she discovered that she had accidentally deleted it. And I mean, it was gone. It wasn't even in her trash. The most recent version she had was a copy she had sent many months before to her agent. It was way, way out of date. Many revisions had been made in the interim. It was heartbreaking. We were both very sad. I was particularly sad because I knew it was totally preventable.
Also in real life, I experienced the loss of my work computer through theft. All of my work was on that computer. More about that in a minute.
Manuscripts are your intellectual property. As an author, manuscripts are your bread and butter. Let's be real—your manuscripts represent hours, days, weeks, months, and even years of effort on your part.
Your supporting electronic work files are important too, like financial. Contracts, schedules, artwork like social media posts, logos, branding, assets, and book covers. All of this data is important. All important files and pieces of information need protection.
So what are the ways disasters could affect your data?
Assets and information are only as safe as a place they are housed. While some of your assets and information are housed in the cloud And you work with certain information entirely online, your data is only as secure as the company that houses it. As we've seen in recent years, no place is 100% secure.
So let's take Canva, for instance. You spend hours every week in Canva creating blog posts, feature images, memes, social media posts, brochures, course materials, videos (now), and even book covers.
But what if something happens to your account? What if something happens to Canva? I'm using Canva only as an example. I am sure Canva does everything humanly possible to keep your work safe, but still, if the asset you develop in Canva is important enough, you need to download it and safeguard at yourself. So you need to think about how to capture truly important files and information for safekeeping.
Recent events should motivate you to take action too. The recent spate of natural disasters made me think seriously about this topic for myself.
For instance, in Texas we had a huge cold snap in February of 2021 that caused millions of dollars of property damage due to [blah, blah] due to burst pipes and flooding. If your computer was sitting in the wrong place in your house, you lost everything. It was gone. It was damaged beyond repair.
The hotter-than-ever fires that happened and are still happening around the world are another good example. I mean, they've been in Greece, Turkey, Canada, Russia, and the United States. The Dixie fire, for instance, started on July the 13th, 2021. And as far as I know, it's still burning as I speak.That's crazy, right?
Earthquakes, tornadoes, Hurricane Ida just recently flooded never before flooded areas. Other not so natural disasters occur as well. Home fires, theft, hard drive. The cat.
So where do we start? Let's start at the computer level and work down to the file level. Natural disasters can set you back, but the most likely problem you will encounter is a hard drive failure, or that day you wake up and your computer decides not to work anymore.
When I worked in IT, we had a saying: It is not if your hard drive will fail, it is when your hard drive will fail. You need computer level backup. I use CrashPlan by Code42, and no, I'm not an affiliate. There are many alternatives to CrashPlan. Just google it. The services are worth the fee, and paying to back up your computer is a cost of doing business.
A few years ago, as I mentioned, my computer was stolen. All of my work files were on it. All of the programs that I had paid for were on it. It was going to be ridiculous to replace that, and some of the stuff was irreplaceable. But I had computer level backup. So when I got a new computer to replace the old one, all I did was restore and it was like a miracle. All of my files were there. It was like it had never happened. [blah, blah] Uh, that was worth more than I could have paid. It was wonderful.
So let's drill down to the folder and file level. Things to think about here are:
Being able to find your files. That means logical folder names, meaningful and useful file names. Redundancy, and version control.
How many hours do we spend every week looking for lost things? I am constantly losing my keys. I'm constantly losing my phone and many other important items, simply because of the ADD. I just can't remember where I put things. And even though I try to put them in the same spot every time—eeh—it doesn't work out all the time.
How many hours do we spend every week looking for folders and files. The answer is way too many. Here's the deal. You have to thoughtfully consider your organization.
And the first rule is every file goes in a folder. That seems obvious, but I do not want to assume anything.
Amy Porterfield, who is well-known for her online courses, insists on separating her assets based on type. Her audio and visual files go to Dropbox. Her text-based files go to Google. She collaborates with a large team. So this makes sense for her because they share folders and files. It also puts her files in the cloud, so she is not at the mercy of her team members’ computer problems. Wow. That really makes sense. Doesn't it?
And that's the nice thing about Google and Dropbox. They help you with, uh, safekeeping.
Second Rule: Your folders need to have logical names. Do NOT get cute because you need to find your files tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And who knows? You may need to let someone access your folders in an emergency.
I really like Ashlyn Carter’s approach. There is a blog post on her website for Ashlynn Writes entitled “A How-to Guide for GoogleDrive File Organization: The Exact System I Use.” Link in the show notes.
In her Google drive root folder, she has the following folders:
Content and Products
Then the Back Office folder contains the following:
And then so on, you know, you've taken each of those top-level files and folders, and then there will be more folders underneath. You may not need all of these folders like she outlines, and you may want to organize things differently. The principle is to name them logically and to divide them out like that. And then every file goes in a folder.
Third, develop and document standard naming conventions. Oh, I know it is so boring, but no, no, this is the exciting part. The part where you actually know what the file is named and where to find it. Let's go back to Ashlynn’s system. If you had a Content folder, and you had books and courses, then you would have a Books sub folder and a Courses subfoler.
In the Books folder, you would have a folder for each book you are writing and for each book you have published.
Notice that Ashlynn is using Google drive in her example.
I feel like I ought to throw a warning flag to anyone who uses Scrivener. Read your documentation. For the Windows version of Scrivener, do not attempt to marry Scrivener and Google Drive for backup purposes.
I'll include an article from Literature and Latte, the developers of Scrivener in the show notes. I keep all of my Scrivener projects in one folder, and I keep all the backups for those projects in Dropbox. But I digress.
Every book you write should have its own folder. I keep all of my books in Scrivener until they are ready for editing.
Scrivener works very hard to keep you from losing a moment of work and it makes it super easy to move chapters and scenes around. I love it. For every major revision that I make in Scrivener, I make a copy of the project and give it a new name. When it is ready to go to an editor, then I compile it to a Word document. And this is when the Word version goes in its Book folder on Microsoft OneDrive. This is also when I begin using a date at the beginning of a file name.
So when I name my files, I start with 2021 09 15. Today's date, the book title, and maybe a word or two to let me know if it's a draft or revision or the final version. That is: year, month, day, book, title, and optional information like revision or editor copy.
OneDrive is Microsoft's auto-save and syncing system like you get in Google docs or Google drives. [sic] I guess it only applies to files developed with Microsoft Office products, like Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. As with Dropbox and Google Docs, a synced copy of your file exists in the cloud. If you need to work on your file on a different computer, then you're set.
Both OneDrive and Google Drive make incremental backups nearly in real time. When you exit the file, The date on the file is updated to the current date and time. If you open a file at a later date, and this happens to me a lot on OneDrive, the timestamp is altered. This creates confusion for me because later on, I can't tell the most recent version of a file based on the filed timestamp. Do you see?
So that's why I named my files starting with the date — 2021 09 15, today's date, the book name, and maybe a word or two, just to let me know. This is what I do, and I have discovered it is useful to know when I started working on a file apart from the timestamp for your sake.
If you are developing a project in Word or Docs, do not work inside the same file every day. Instead, create a copy of yesterday's file and use today's date in the file name. That's how my system works. Anyway, this creates a wonderful redundancy that you control. And redundancy just means that there's more than one copy of the object.
Okay. Google and Microsoft like to tout the fact that they have version control — and they do — but it is not as meaningful as the versions of your project that you create yourself. Trust me on this. This process provides built in version control. If you run out of space later, then you can get rid of old versions of your work. The file names remove all doubt about what you are.
Redundancy is a concept you need to build into your prom process. If you used the method I just described, you'll never lose more than a day of work. More than likely you will lose maybe a couple of minutes. That's it.
For extra peace of mind, email a copy of your work to yourself at every major checkpoint. If my author had just done that one thing, she would have had something to work with. She might've been able to save her project from being a complete rewrite.
Okay. To repeat rule three, I said, develop and document standard naming conventions. Write out your standards because you won't remember how to name files. You won't remember where to store them. Do yourself a favor and create a standards document. Print it out. Keep it close until you're adept at sticking to your system. Don't be afraid to refine it, so your system serves you and not the other way around. And keep it up to date. When you're ready for an assistant, you can hand him or her, your documentation, and you will both know what's what.
Very quickly, I will name two other important security concerns, anti-virus protection. If you own a Mac, do not turn your nose up at this. Macs are vulnerable to viruses too. Everyone needs to purchase and install virus protection software.
Personally, I use BitDefender. I'm not an affiliate, but I find it easy to use.
Password protection. I don't know any of my passwords, not even one. I don't. But I let LastPass generate and keep my password secure. This takes some practice, but it has saved my bacon so many times. Worth it. Again, not an affiliate.
Okay. To review: we've talked about best practices for safeguarding your manuscript from loss and destruction; we've talked about how to adequately back up your manuscript and other working documents; version control; and redundancy. We've talked about those concepts, and we've also talked about how to build logical file structure. Finally, we talked about virus protection and password management.
That's all I have for you today. Until next time.
Thank you for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a comment and follow the podcast. If you're new around here, I hope people join the Writing Pursuits Author Community for more content and to receive Word Marker Tips for Authors. That link and all the links mentioned in today's episode are in the show notes at WritingPursuits.com.
Please join us on Wednesdays for new episodes, and keep writing, my friends. Keep writing!