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Don Yarber Don Yarber
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Back Up or Start All Over

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Better be safe than sorry, "Back Up or Start All Over"

      Are you writing a novelette?  A full length novel? A play?  A long poem?  Anything that you want to keep?
       Here's a little advice from one who's been there.
       Back it up.
       While writing my first novel, "Bodies and Beaches", I got to the point where I was ready to start tying all of the clues together and making the final flourish to reveal "who done it" to my readers.  I wrote steadily for about four hours.  At that time, my computer was a Tandy 1000 SL.  It had a floppy drive and the old big floppy disks.  
       When I had written pretty much the last two chapters before the final one, I inserted a disk and hit "save" on the old keyboard.  Remember this was back in the days before Windows 2.  Tandy had an operating system that was roughly based on the Apple's drop down menu.
       I thought I had saved my work.
       I was wrong.  The disk that I had inserted had not been formatted and I closed the word processor.  Zap.  Four hours of work was gone.  I did everything I could think of to retrieve it.  Nothing worked because there was nothing.  The disk hadn't been formatted and there was nothing on it.  I was sick.
       So the point is this.  Back up.  
       Microsoft Word comes with a feature under "Tools" and "Options" called "Save". That's pretty simple. If you open the drop down "Save" feature, you are provided with a menu that lets you choose to automatically save your work every (you choose) minutes.  I have mine set for 10.  It might be a good idea to change it to 5.  My writing sessions will almost always exceed ten minutes, but this essay isn't on how long you should be writing, but rather how not to have to re-write something you've already written.
       Is the "Save" feature enough?
       If you want to be more careful than that, (and after my experience with my first novel, I definitely want to take all the precautions available) you can do several things.
       1.  Create a folder in word and name it "New Book" or "New Play" or whatever you want to name it, signifying the work that is in progress.
       2.  Within that folder, place your MS Word document.  After it is there, right mouse click on it (it doesn't have to be opened) and click on copy.  Then put the cursor on a blank spot within the folder and click paste.
       3.  The system will create a copy of your work and aptly name it "copy of My New Book" (or watever the title is that you have assigned your work).
       Now you have two files of your story, play or novel.  I always open the original one when I am writing, and after I'm finished writing I always save my work.  Then I make sure it is saved.  Once I'm satisfied that every word I've just written is there, I will delete "copy of My New Book" , then I click on "My New Book" and select copy again, click on an open space and hit paste.  
       This may seem to be a redundant way of doing backups.  If something happens to your hard drive, this method is CERTAINLY redundant, as both the original "My New Book" and "copy of My New Book" will be gone.  So I take it a step further.  
       I use a flash drive.  
       Insert the flash drive in the USB port and click on "open folder to view files".  
       Then minimize the folder and open the folder "New Book" , drag the latest work that you've finished to the flash drive and place it over the previously saved file.  In other words, click left mouse click on "My New Book" and drag it to the folder "My New Book" that resides on the flash drive, then release the mouse.
       Your system will ask you if you want to replace the existing file "My New Book" with the new file "My New Book".  The new file will always be larger in kilobytes than the previous file, so you can readily see which file you want to keep.  Keep the larger one.  Replace the smaller with the larger.
       Now you have a copy of "My New Book" on a flash drive.
       If you are still paranoid, (as I am), You can take the flash drive and put it on another computer, your laptop, or burn the whole thing to a CD.
       This entire essay may be considered "overkill" but I guarantee you that if you ever have to re-write two or three chapters of a book from memory, you will wish that you had taken the time to simply "Back Up" instead of "Start All Over".

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