Forget about splitting infinitives, starting sentences with a conjunction or any of the other rules of grammar imposed decades ago by whoever it was who felt they were an authority on how people should write. I’ve had three very successful books published by Random House, and in them probably broke every rule of grammar ever written.

This is my very TOP TIP for any writer, whatever you are writing: ALWAYS SAVE YOUR WORK OUTSIDE OF YOUR COMPUTER.

Then when the cat pees on your machine and wrecks it, or lightning strikes and frizzles your hard drive, or the house catches fire, or somebody steals your computer, or the dog gets the cable wound round its neck and drags the machine to the floor where it breaks into pieces, or you lose it, or smash it to bits in a screaming temper, your work will safe.

I’ve experienced two of those incidents.

I’ve also saved manuscripts to CDs, in the day, and onto USB sticks, and variously lost both the media and the data. If it’s happened to you you will know there is no feeling quite as sickening as the moment you are forced to accept that 70,000 beautifully crafted (even if grammatically rebellious) words have vanished for ever.

I’ve been using Dropbox for the last two years. ย The free version gives you 2 GB of storage, and you can upgrade to more if you need to. It’s also a great way of sharing documents rather than emailing them. There are alternatives – Google “On-line file storage”, but at the moment I’m completely satisfied with Dropbox.

When I tried to switch on my computer this morning (the temperature was minus 13.6 C and the house was rather chilly), I couldn’t get it to boot up. Pre-Dropbox days that would have made me physically sick. But this morning I thought, Well, worst case I’ll have to buy a new computer.

My manuscripts are set to automatically saveย ย (note the deliberate split infinitive there!) to the Dropbox file on my desktop, from where they are continually synced and uploaded to my on-line Dropbox. A nice little icon on the bottom right of the screen let’s me know this is happening. It’s as comforting as a cup of hot chocolate. ๐Ÿ™‚

I expect most people who write will already be taking similar precautions to protect their work, but if this saves only one person from the anguish of losing theirs, it will have been worth my time writing this.

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  1. I’m a firm believer in backing up work. Have I backed up anything lately? Nooooooooooo! Sheesh! I did try dropbox for a minute a long time ago, but I’m considering trying them again. I am a google baby, but I’ve barely used google docs. Time for me to get busy! Thanks for the reminder!

  2. Might add a suggestion, encrypt the file before putting it in Dropbox. Better yet, buy software to use for writing that creates encrypted files. Ideas are worth money and even draft ideas for novels have been stolen and made into movies.

    One idea, other than using Filemaker, would be to use a folder for saving your files and having a watcher application notice you’ve saved into it and encrypt the file, zip it, stuff it, with a password and move a copy to Dropbox.

    Better yet would be for DropBox to offer automatic encryption of files, Hmm, think I will email them…

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