Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Of Key Importance - Saving Your Work

I used to have a dog named Sara (well, I have three of them right now, all Lhasa's, but what I'm talking about was many years ago.) Sara, a yellow lab mix, was a rescue, previously badly abused and terrified of men. For some reason, she bonded with me instantly, crawling across the lawn on her belly before placating herself at my feet at the doggie adoption day. She looked up at me with those big brown eyes as if to say, I know you're a nice man, please take me home. So, I did.

Sara was a wonderful dog, by my side every instant of every day. Her favorite place to hang out with me when I was writing was at my feet, underneath my desk. She'd lie down on my toes and patiently wait for about 2 hours of writing time, before she'd pop her head up onto my lap saying, "that's enough, let's go walk." I'd ignore her for a while, and she'd nudge me harder, and harder. Eventually, she'd jump her front paws onto my lap and start scratching me. "Let's go," she'd say. No more writing, let's play!"

It was a game we played every day, and I loved it.

Which brings me to the subject of today's post.

One morning, after a particularly inspired bit of writing, Sara started her routine. I'd cranked out 15 pages of beautifully (in my mind) written first draft, moving through some key scenes and solving some difficult problems. I was flying. It was the best nonstop run of writing I'd had in a long time.

Then it disappeared.

Sara, per her routine, moved to plop her head onto my lap and in doing so, her butt sat on the on/off button on my surge protector, shutting it off. My eyes gaped. My jaw dropped. But no amount of praying was going to solve this problem. I'd lost it all. Wanting to scream, instead, I looked down into the lovely brown eyes of my dog, smiled, and took her for a walk.

But I learned my lesson that day. Now, I'm compulsive about saving my work, and I'd like to encourage you, if you aren't already, to do the same.

When I'm writing, my hand instinctively guides the cursor to the save icon every page. Never, will I let more than one page be finished without saving. It's become an unconscious habit for me. At first, I thought that this repetitive stopping of writing to save the work would slow down my writing or inspiration. It doesn't. As I said, it's unconscious for me now, and perhaps the security it gives makes writing easier.

When I'm revising, rereading, I save my work after every single change. Each sentence that is modified, I hit the save icon. Every single time.

And it doesn't stop there. After each writing session, I back up all my work on a series of flash drives. I hope you're all doing this, but I didn't learn of it before too long ago, so maybe some of you haven't done this yet. Flash drives are now amazingly inexpensive, hold a tremendous amount of data, and can bring you a wealth of security. I have three flash drives that I save my novel onto after each morning session. One drive goes into my desk. One drive goes into my briefcase, which is always with me when I leave the house, and one drive is attached to my keyring, which always goes with me when I travel.

Flash drives can be fun, and you should have fun with it. Writing is fun, but it's also your love, your passion. Let the flash drive be a reflection of that fun, that love. Not that I'm into hamburgers or anything, but that picture sure makes me laugh.

It may sound strange, but I like having my novel with me at all times. In my pocket, in my case. That way, should anything ever happen to my home, the novel is safe.

Compulsive, I know. But I've worked too hard for too long on this to lose it now.

Besides, Sara would want it that way.

1 comment:

Lexi said...

Just an FYI. If you are using Word 2007 or newer, with word open, you can go to the Windows ikon in the top left hand corner of the screen, then on the pop up menu click word options at the bottom. Then click save from the menu on the left of the pop up box and change your autosave settings to 3 minutes (default for the program is 10). This way your work will be saved every three minutes without having to stop writing to click the save button. This works even if your power goes out. When you turn on your computer again it will ask you if you would like to auto recover from the last save point.