Back, Back, Back it up: Protect Your Work From Catastrophic Loss

If you sat my husband down and said, “Hey, what’s with your wife and her Dracula paper?”, he’d probably roll his eyes and tell you a sad story about the time I accidentally deleted one of my thesis papers in college.  My Dracula paper is infamous in my immediate circle — not just because I still have an obsession with that novel, but because I also spent an inordinate amount of time writing it.  I checked out probably forty books from the library and printed a metric ton of online material.  I drafted and rewrote it and spent over a month perfecting my thesis…only to lose the damn thing when I pulled my USB drive out of the computer too soon.

I tried everything I could think of to get it back and even enlisted a computer programmer friend, but, for whatever reason, the data was gone.  Since it was the night before the last day of the semester, I had to convince my professor to give me an extension (God bless you Dr. Davis) and then spent the first few days of Christmas vacation rewriting it from scratch.  My husband (then fiance) was my complaint soundboard.  Needless to say, he wasn’t happy.

Moral of the story?  BACK UP YOUR WORK.

Right now.  Do it.  Don’t hesitate another minute.  A good rule of thumb is to think 3-2-1:

Make 3 copies of your work, in two different formats, with at least one offsite copy.  All these backups should be independent of one another.

Your work is precious and irreplaceable, so don’t lose it.  Especially when technology makes it super easy to makes copies of everything.

Here’s a list of recommendations:

  1.  Flash drive.  Portable, cheap, universal.  You can put them on keychains, bracelets, necklaces, and store them pretty much anywhere.
  2. Cloud storage.  My personal favorite is DropBox because it’s free, everything syncs automatically when your computer is online, it’s easy to use, and it’s offsite, so I can access my work from anywhere (a boon when my laptop died and I had to borrow one so I could keep writing).  Other options for cloud storage are Apple iCloud, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Box, and Amazon Cloud.  You can find plenty of options with a quick online search, both free and paid.
  3. Email.  This one is simple: email yourself (or a trusted associate) a copy of your work.  Most email programs have folders for storage and allow fairly large file sizes through.
  4. External hard drive.  This is like a flash drive on steroids.  Where those tend to stay under 100 GB, external drives often have several terabytes’ worth of space.  These are a good option if you need to store large files like videos and photos in addition to your writing.
  5. DVD/CD.  Like USB-based systems, disks are cheap, portable, and universal.
  6. Print.  It can get pricey to print copies of your work, but when your computer crashes, you’ll be glad for that 3-ring binder of all your latest masterpieces.

So back it up.  All of it.  Check on your backups regularly to make sure that they’re in good working order and updated.  You don’t want a year-old version of your novel hanging around if something happens to the current version.

While working on this post, my darling toddler came up and tapped my off button…if I hadn’t set my WordPress editor to autosave periodically, I’d have lost my work.  Not much, but still.  Make sure whatever programs you use also automatically save and sync your work.

How to Be a Better Writer: Advice from the Pros

There are no laws for the novel.  There never have been, nor can there ever be.

Doris Lessing

The road to hell is paved with adverbs.

Stephen King

Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens. Most of my friends who are put on that diet have very pleasant careers.

Ray Bradbury

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people, not characters. A character is a caricature.

Ernest Hemingway

No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.

Robert Frost

You can fix anything but a blank page.

Nora Roberts

It is perfectly okay to write garbage—as long as you edit brilliantly.

C.J. Cherryh

Tell the readers a story! Because without a story, you are merely using words to prove you can string them together in logical sentences.

Anne McCaffrey

I advise writing to oneself. If you don’t want to read it, nobody else is going to read it.

S.E. Hinton

To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.

Allen Ginsberg

The most important thing for any aspiring writer, I think, is to read!

George R.R. Martin

The Gift of Reading

At the beginning of the month, I found out there’s going to be a Little One joining us in December (yay!).  When I get a break from all those famous pregnancy symptoms, I’ve been obsessing over what s/he needs.  There’s diapers and onesies and plenty of blankets for our six-month long winters…and books.

I’ll always believe that one of the great blessings of my childhood was having books at my disposal.  All kinds of books.  My parents always read for pleasure and encouraged me to do so.  My grandmother also had a huge collection of books — the accumulated titles of her childhood and those of my mother and her siblings — that I always had access to.  One of my first memories is of looking through a picture book Bible and making up my own stories to accompany the pictures, since I hadn’t learned to read yet.

My love for the written word never left me.  Books have always been my solace and my favorite pastime — from The Poky Little Puppy to Harry Potter, Shakespeare, Shannara, A Song of Ice and Fire, Toni Morrison, Jane Austen…

When I was young, I was never discouraged from reading anything.  Sure, my mother wasn’t always happy with my choices (like that um, juicy romance I picked up at 13), but I was never censored.  Reading is enrichment and it’s a love that lasts a lifetime.  I got that gift and I want to pay it forward to my little Peanut.

While I was looking through the children’s section online at B&N, I came across many of my old favorites.  Where better to start Peanut than with Mom and Dad’s favorites?  Eventually, s/he will decide to love mystery over fantasy, or documentaries or historical fiction or maybe even New Age poetry.  But for now, some good old pictures books will do.

 

The Tawny Scrawny Lion (This always made me want carrot soup!)
Horton Hears A Who! (One of hubby’s favorites)
Corduroy

 

12 for 2012: Progress So Far!

So, the new year is in full swing and I’ve got goals to accomplish.  I’m happy to report that I’ve made some progress thus far!

Get my novel Someone’s Watching on the market.

My first attempt is going to be for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest.  I’ve been gradually working on editing, but I need to take another look at the entry guidelines and such.

Get up at a decent hour and write every weekday for Textbroker.

I haven’t been very faithful about the “decent hour” thing, but I have been writing every day.  Baby steps.

Finish writing that business plan by the end of February.

I’ve been doing some market research and I have a basic outline.  I’m still wading through statistics and trying to figure them out.

Read at least two completely new books each month.

This is going exceptionally well.  I finished Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants last weekend and am almost finished with the first book in Terry Brooks’s Genesis of Shannara series.  Next month I plan to finish the trilogy and then move on to some classics I’ve had sitting on my shelf a while.

Write reviews of each of the 24 books I read.

Look for a review of the book and movie adaptation Water for Elephants in the next few days!

Keep a writer’s notebook.

Lots of lovely scribbles already 🙂

 

These aren’t all of my goals, but 50% isn’t bad for only the third week of January.  How are your 12 for 2012 going?

12 for 2012: A Year of Writing

First, my apologies for the unexpected delay.  I rang in the New Year with a pulled muscle and a stomach bug, but I’m back and ready to hit the ground running!

My last post was about making your New Year’s resolutions.  I agreed to make 12 Writing Goals for 2012, and to share them on here.  Well, here are my 12 for 2012:

1.  Get my novel Someone’s Watching on the market one of two ways:

a.  submit to Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Contest, and if nothing comes of that

b.  send queries/samples to at least six agents.

2.  Get up at a decent hour and write every weekday for Textbroker.  It’s my main source of income and I need to be more consistent with it.

3.  Finish writing that business plan by the end of February.  Market statistics, prepare to be discovered and conquered!

4.  Be more consistent updating my blog.  Aiming for at least one post per week!

5.  Scrap the original draft of SW’s sequel and begin a new one while waiting on contest results/agent responses.

6.  Read at least two completely new books each month.

7.  Finally start that cooking blog I’ve been dreaming about for weeks.  Keep a lookout for the link!

8.  Write reviews of each of the 24 books I read.

9.  Try writing something besides novel-length fiction.  I’ve done short stories, poetry, and CNF many times but only under the eyes of a professor.  It’s time to break out on my own with a different genre I enjoy.

10. Pitch a few articles to a print publication.  I love the freedom and simplicity of ghostwriting, but I do miss seeing my own byline 😀

11. Participate in NaNoWriMo again.  I guess I’m just a glutton for punishment!

12. Keep a writer’s notebook.  I had one in high school, jotting down any random idea, phrase, or image that popped into my head.  The last few years, I’ve slacked and probably lost a lot of good ideas.

It’s a lot of writing and will take a lot of dedication.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, the only way to move forward in life is to set your eyes on a target and push towards it as hard as you can.  The act of writing itself is heading towards a goal.  As we finish each sentence, we’re one step closer to the resolution of the story.  So, I raise my metaphorical glass to you and welcome the New Year!

My NaNoWriMo Success Story (Due To Not Reaching 50k)

So, a while ago I posted a very upbeat blog about how well my first day of NaNoWriMo was going.  Well, that didn’t last long.  I haven’t made it to 50K and at this point, I’m not going to.  Although I really wanted to win (this is my fourth year participating without ever winning), I’m perfectly okay with not making it to the finish line.  I attempted it, which is more than a lot of other wannabe novelists can say.  Plus, every year I’ve learned something from Nano.

My first year, in 2008, I made it to approximately 45,000 word around 11:30pm the night of the 30th.  I was thiiiiiis close to joining the ranks of completed Nano novelists.  For a newbie who had never written more than 20 pages of one story in her life, I felt pretty damn good about it.  Getting interviewed on Baltimore NPR didn’t feel too bad, either.  Today, that novel is thiiiiiiiis close to getting finished, final publishable draft and all.  So close that after the holidays, I’m going to start stalking agents to get it published.  That year I learned that I can be a writer, I will be a writer.

My second year, I started the sequel to 2008’s novel.  Both were mysteries featuring the same private detective and a lot of angst.  I didn’t get very far with that novel.  Somewhere around 20,000 words, I believe.  I petered out because I didn’t have a sustainable plot line and I wasn’t sure where things were going.  I learned a lot more about my main characters, and I learned that plotting is absolutely essential to any writing, particularly mysteries.  I still have that draft sitting somewhere abandoned on my hard drive, waiting to be resurrected in the near future.  That year, I learned that my destiny as a writer isn’t to be a one-hit wonder, but with hard work and perseverance I can achieve my dream.

My third year, I was a senior in college.  I made the terrible, terrible mistake of using the novel I was writing for NaNoWriMo in my creative writing class.  It was fairly well-received, my professor liked it and so did my classmates.  I had a ball moving away from any set genre or mode of writing and just letting out raw, unadulterated emotions onto the page (it was a story about a pregnant widow).  I got critiqued, a lot.  Which, as we all know, is not conducive to the NaNoWriMo style of writing.  Lesson learned?  First drafts are for the writer’s eyes only.  And sometimes, so are second drafts.

This year, I went back to that same story.  I guess I have trouble letting things go.  I completely scrapped last year’s draft and started over with some new ideas.  I wanted to write a powerful story about love, grief, death, sanity/insanity, and parenthood.  I didn’t want to follow the “rules” of conventional storytelling; instead, I paid homage to my favorite style of writing, postmodernism.  I randomly switched between narrators, added flashbacks where I felt like it, used swear words and uncomfortable topics of discussion.  I learned that even though there’s a lot of elbow grease behind the process of writing, where it comes from is the heart, always.  That was learned most acutely when I started crying at my computer because I could really relate to what my main character was doing/saying.

I love NaNoWriMo.  There’s nothing like an impossible challenge or a group of kindred souls to get me motivated.  But even though I didn’t win, it’s been a great process year after year.  And isn’t that what it’s all about, anyway?

NaNoWriMo: Day 1

So far, so good.

I’ve leapt head-first into NaNoWriMo 2011 and at the moment, I’m back-stroking along.  After about an hour and half of writing, I’ve got just over 500 words.  Not too shabby.  1,100 more and I’ll have met the daily goal, something I haven’t done in a long time.

Granted, I’ve had that first 500 words or so in my head for weeks now, but I choose to keep looking on the bright side and reward myself with some Halloween candy and another hazelnut latte.  The only thing I’m not looking forward at the moment is the inevitable fact that I will most likely become one with my laptop this month.  Between overtime ghostwriting for bills and holiday cash, keeping in touch with out-of-state friends, and Nano, I won’t be surprised if my heartbeat becomes synced with the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard.

It was bound to happen eventually, I guess.

To all my fellow NaNo-ers out there, may your Muse be talkative, the caffeine unending, and the distractions minimal.  Happy NaNoWriMo!