The Importance Of Making Back-ups

Back in the old days – that’s right, before computers – writers used to have a choice between writing our manuscripts out manually – with an actual pen, or typing them on an archaic device called a typewriter!

I still remember the cramps I got in my fingers from writing stories with a pen on actual paper – called ‘writer’s cramp’ – and the sore bruised feeling in my finger tips from clamping on that pen so hard while I feverishly wrote each word – being mentally already two sentences ahead of where my hand was on the page! Whew! Those were the days, eh?

Since then however, computers have made life so much easier for us writers, haven’t they? I mean, aside from being faster to ‘write’, it’s also so much quicker and easier to edit and format them now too! …Er – not that creating stories on computers is perfect or entirely without risks – in fact computers present a whole cluster of nasty, knotty problems for writers in the “Digital Age”!

As a writer, it goes without saying that I’m very proud of my work – so on the occasion that I sometimes go back to revise something I wrote previously, then it’s occasion to celebrate – at least it is for me!

You may recall, if you’ve been following my updates and newsletters, that in 2018 I revised the entire Galaxii Series, and re-released the first three titles “Blachart“, “Demonspawn” and “Dead Beckoning” – and then in 2019, I embarked on a similar journey of revision, this time of the Quantum Series! Once I’d done with that, I finished off Space Sucks! and Panic! Horror In Space as well!

Although I released the Fourth Edition of book 1 in the Quantum Series: “Black Sunrise” on February 20, 2019, few if any of you would know the Herculean effort – and drama that went into presenting it as a new, finished work! This should serve to give you some insight!

The new version came with a beautiful new cover, and was also over 11,000 words longer than the previous edition from 2006 – and was edited, grammar and spell-checked to my own exacting standard! I am very, very proud of that new edition!

When I first wrote “Black Sunrise” back in 2005 – a whole 15 years ago now, it’s safe to say that I was a different person to who I am today. In 2005 I was 32, and like the lead character of that story – Cindy-Mei Winter, was right in the middle of my own gender reassignment process – in fact I only had my final surgeries early in 2006! In many ways, I wrote this book partly as a way to work through my own gender transition, and while Cindy-Mei Winter was trying to deal with the same issues in her reality, the truth is that I was too!

I feel we as authors should realize that as people, we never stop learning and gathering experiences – and also that the credibility and realism we crave to put into our stories comes from that learning, and those life experiences – and we write from them.

It should also be expected then, that in a few years time we might look back at some of our earlier works and feel the urge to tweak the words here and there… perhaps to reword entire sentences, or even to add a paragraph here, move another part of the story to a different spot in the timeline of the tale… and so on.

This is exactly what I’ve done throughout my own ‘refurbishing’ process (2018-2019) – in order to satisfy my own slightly annoying perfectionist drive, and also to provide YOU, my beloved readers, with the best, most satisfying read possible!

At this point I should clarify that I’ve been writing, editing, formatting and self-publishing my books on computers – and I’ve kept all my working material on various digital storage devices over the years… from CD’s and DVD’s to flash drives and mobile had drives. My writing archive contains everything – from manuscripts between different editions, cover designs and templates, author interviews, images, video files from book trailers – the list is simply endless. Suffice to say, my writing archive is well over 16GB already!

“Well you should back that up!” I hear some of you suggest! And you’re right – I do indeed! At that stage, I worked from what I call an ‘active database’ which due to the limited size of my old laptop’s hard drive, was kept on a mobile hard drive which traveled with me everywhere – I used to keep it in a padded zip-pouch in my handbag! I also took the precaution of emailing new stories to myself while working on them – so that I could retrieve them if anything were to happen to my mobile drive between backups! I used to make back-ups by simply copying my active folder onto the same hard drive into a new folder, which was dated for that month.

But there was a flaw in this process, because if something happened to that hard drive, it was the only back-up of all my data! To remedy this, I also used to duplicate the back-up to the hard drive of my desktop computers at home and at work. Of course, the archive folder being so large, it would also take a lot of time to do these back-ups, but that’s just how it is!

Coming back to “Black Sunrise” again, something terrible happened in the middle of the editing process of the recently completed new draft – and I almost lost the only copy of the file!

My laptop suddenly told me my mobile hard drive – that’s right, the one with EVERYTHING on it – needed to be formatted before I could use it!

“Say what????!!!!”

Oh, I had back-ups of EVERYTHING else older than about two weeks on my desktop PC at the office, and on the one at home – but since I’d started this particular redraft AFTER the last back-up, I was well and truly up Shit-creek without a paddle!

Having been a computer tech for years I’d always advised people to make regular back-ups, and just for once, I’d been caught between back-ups! Ain’t hindsight wonderful?

I kept my cool – at least at first – and tried a number of data recovery programs, but those told me that since all I had on the disk was ‘raw data’, I would have to run a deep scan of the entire disk! This took the PC nearly a day and a night to do – which meant I had to leave my laptop at the office that night, since the battery was a little dodgy and the device would shut down if unplugged!

That night I worried at home. I even contemplated whether it would hurt more or less if I stood on the tracks in front of a train. If you’re not an obsessive writer like I am – who puts their heart and soul into their writing, you’re hardly likely to grasp how devastating this was to me!

The next morning when I got to the office, the scan had completed and I went through every doc and docx file the thing had found – which had all been numbered and nameless and re-dated – to try to find “Black Sunrise 2019 4th Edition.docx”… in vain! I could find virtually every other thing I was looking for – including in temp files and temporary Word back-ups – except for the one I wanted!

I was very nearly in tears!

At that point, I sat and quietly considered my options – checking them off my list one by one. The recovery software hadn’t found my file at all, not even in a corrupted state! It was gone! What was I to do – start the redraft over again from scratch? Redo two weeks of work? Oh, if only I’d emailed the thing to myself before closing it the previous day! If only I’d saved a copy of it on my PC’s desk top! If only, if only…

As a writer, my books are very much a special part of my life, my very soul! They’re like my own children to me, with lives and characteristics all their own! At that moment, it felt like someone had died! Oh, sure – I could work off the previous 2016 version of the manuscript again, as I’d done mere days before – and I was pretty sure I could still deliver a superb end-result… but it wouldn’t be the same! The variable in the scenario would be me – and I would be different because I would feel different about it than I did before… The words would be different, and the story would be different… I was so angry at myself!

How I wished that Johnathan Scrooby from the Time Saving Agency would drop in to help me out of this self-inflicted mess! I literally nearly walked out into the street to look for an ambusulance to run over me! I regained my composure, and instead of taking the mobile drive outside to smash it into smithereens on the concrete, I decided to take another more technical approach to the issue.

The problem was the file allocation table on the disk – which had become corrupted. I decided to look for some way to restore the FAT – and discovered a DOS command used in Windows: chkdsk/e:/f. The result was… was… unbelievable!

After more than two days worth of torturous suspense, just five minutes later, the entire hard-disk’s contents were instantly restored! Just like that! On checking, it was confirmed – I hadn’t lost a single damn thing – other than two days sleep! I immediately made a back-up of the entire archive – AND emailed the draft to myself!

…and let that be a lesson to you – writers, ALWAYS make back-ups!

Just a few days later, and the Fourth Edition of “Black Sunrise” was finished… Now perhaps you have an idea why writers – or *some* writers – put their hearts and souls into their storytelling?

At least I learned from my mistake! I hope you learn from mine without suffering any stress or trauma first!

I still work from an ‘active database’ which is on a memory card in my new laptop – which travels with me between work and home. This is backed up monthly on a mobile hard drive which stays at home. I also save back-ups on my desktop PC at the office monthly in the event that something happens to the mobile drive. I also take the precaution of emailing new stories to myself while I’m working on them, such as before packing up for the day – so that I may retrieve them if anything were to happen to my laptop between backups!

What’s that? “Paranoid” I hear you say? I’m not so sure – you see, I’ve lost a lot of good stuff over the years due to flash drives or hard drives or even optical disks mysteriously losing data or going corrupt – or just going altogether tits-up!

Back it up – you’ll never be sorry you did!

Take care and have a lovely day!

P.S. keep in mind that I still have a sale on! 😉

If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2020.

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