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A backup is an extra copy of a file stored elsewhere for retrieval purposes in case the original copy is lost. Every year multiple Wrimos and Screnzy participants post to the forums in tears because their hard drive died and they lost all the work they did that month, along with their past works, and didn't make a backup beforehand. While the death of a hard drive is usually inevitable, the loss of one's work is often preventable with regular backups. USB sticks can also become corrupted, resulting in disaster for Wrimos that use a USB stick to transport their work between computers.

While Wrimos who lose their work are often allowed to add the approximate number of lost words to their number of unlost words for the month, the loss of what could be the next great novel is still highly undesirable.

When backing up your work, redundancy is encouraged. Back up your work everywhere you possibly can, and if you have multiple systems, back up your work to all of them. Don't let the devastating loss of creative work happen to you. Also remember to update your backups periodically - it's not very good if you lose all your work at 40k and your most recently updated backup only contains the first 15k.

There is usually one NaNoWriMo pep talk every year that will mention backing up your work, and NaNoWriMo celebrates at least one Back Up Your Novel Day every November, with four in November 2011.

Some ways to back up your work

  • Save a copy to your computer in another location, or under another file name.
  • Save a copy to a USB stick. Alternately, depending on the technology you have accessible, there are also floppy discs, CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs and external hard drives.
  • Email a copy to yourself. An email address that stores files on a web server is ideal.
  • Use a cloud storage service, such as Dropbox Google Drive iCloud OneDrive. Most if not all of these services can be configured to upload (that is, back up) your files as soon as you save the local copy to your computer as long as you have an active internet connection.
  • Most writing programs, such as Open Office and Write or Die Desktop Edition, can create backups of and during your writing sessions. Be sure to configure settings to be appropriate to timeframe for these autosaves and back ups (15 minutes might be thousands of words if you type fast.
  • Print pages out as you write it. Paper can't get a virus!
  • If you are a handwriter, make a paper copy of your work in case your notebook gets lost or stolen.

Note: If you choose a manual method of backing up, create a reminder you cannot ignore that will go off while you are near your computer. Backing up doesn't help if the copy is weeks or even months old. In November, you should back up at least once a day.

Oh no! I've lost my novel! What do I do?

  • Do a file search of the file name and/or some phrases from your novel in case the file was misplaced or renamed. Check temporary files too!
  • Check your Recycle Bin. If you have turned off the Recycle Bin function, it's a good idea to turn it back on for November just to avoid the accidental delete key press.
  • If your hard drive has gone belly-up or your computer is crashing, take it to a professional. A computer service group such as Geek Squad may be able to pull the data from your hard drive. It is usually not cheap, but words are priceless!
  • Try burning (on another computer) and using a rescue CD/boot CD, if you can't get to or afford a professional in time. You can boot directly from the CD, hopefully then copying what you can off the dying drive to attempt recovery and/or fixing what's wrong with your operating system. Good ones will come with programs and utilities to help you out.
  • If your USB drive or external device has become corrupted, there are programs online that may be able to pull the data off the kaput drive.