How Often Should You Back Up Your Writing?

This question was asked by Holly Doherty in the Finally Write Your Book Facebook group:

How often do you print a hard copy backup of your book? (I do an external hard drive backup about once a month) For context, I write almost every day, and add it to my Word doc 3-4x/week, so I’m adding content consistently.

Great question Holly! And GREAT to be thinking of backups.

Here’s a personal story for you…

When I was graduating from the University of Arizona – getting my degree (with honors) in Creative Writing – I had to write and submit a thesis. 270 pages of all original writing: poems, stories, plays, and an essay. It was the culmination of a year’s worth of creative work – and was the piece of writing that had to be completed and turned in so I could graduate, and graduate with honors.

That was the semester that my computer decided to be a Pain In The A$$. At Thanksgiving, I asked my dad to bring me a new one. I spent nearly the entire holiday weekend setting up programs, transferring files, and working on my thesis – it was due the next week. I missed out on making tamales with my family (our Black Friday tradition), I missed out on the U of A/ASU football game, I missed out on a precious weekend with my grandparents, great aunt and uncle, and my folks.

I had a deadline.

Then, Monday morning, when I was working on the thesis before class…


I threw myself on the floor, convinced that somebody had just done a drive by on my aunt’s house. (It wasn’t a sketchy area of Tucson AT ALL but DAMN! it sure sounded like a gunshot!)

After my heart stopped pounding and I could hear again, I heard… nothing. An eerie silence that could only mean one thing.

The computer was dead.

No, it hadn’t been a drive by. It had been my power supply EXPLODING in the computer tower. For the next few days I was FRANTIC to save it – Dad overnighted me a new power supply and I shredded my fingertips trying to change it out. (Melted plastic – yuck!) Then I put my computer on the Tucson/Phoenix shuttle where my dad picked it up at the airport to take it back to the computer shop. (This was long before the Geek Squad!)

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The verdict:

100% dead. All files irretrievable.

All my work (and the time away from my family) gone.

Thankfully, thankfully, I had emailed my advisor a draft copy at the beginning of the weekend. I had to admit all my work was gone and ask her to email a copy of the thesis back to me. Thankfully, she could!

BTW: this was before a copy of emails was automatically put into a “sent” folder and saved! All sent emails were deleted after 24 hours.

After SEVERAL long nights, I was able to re-create the thesis and get it turned in on time.


Then, just last week, Ben put his laptop on the floor next to his chair. Like he does a thousand times – like I’ve done myself with my laptop. But then, Rocky squeezed between Ben’s chair and the couch… knocking a full glass of water INTO Ben’s laptop.

My heart stopped. It was the thesis all over again.

Thankfully, computer tech has come a LONG way and nothing was fried – a week of drying out (thank you Arizona for having ZERO humidity) and the computer works again.

So, here’s the moral of the story:


External hard drives.
Cloud storage.
Hard copies.

Please, whatever you do:

BACK IT UP! (And verify that the backups WORK!)

Don’t rely on a tech guru to be able to restore a hard drive or retrieve data. Be proactive and make it happen.

I’ve seen the advice to email it to yourself every night. And that will work in a pinch – but only IF you remember to do it. That’s why I use personally Carbonite – because it’s automatic.

And (because I’m a bit obsessed!) I verify weekly that the files ARE being backed up. Anything that is SUPER important – the type of stuff that would be disastrous to lose, I double back that up with an external hard drive AND the cloud-based system. (Or print it, depending on what it is!)

To make life easy – those are some affiliate links to help you get started with your own backup process!

And leave me a comment and tell me how YOU protect your work!


P.S. Backup or back-up is the noun, back up is the verb!

Kim Galloway
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