Tech Advice for Writers

Alright folks, I’ve spent a little time on tools for writing and organizing timelines, outlines, research etc, but after working in tech support for some time it’s become clear to me that a fair lot of us have no idea about the three-part tenet of technology:

It will fail.

It will fail when everything seems fine.

It will fail shortly after you consider making a backup, but shortly before you are actually able to complete said backup.

I can’t tell you how many times in college I heard some variation of the phrase “Holy Mother, my term paper is due tomorrow and my laptop won’t turn on.”

I can’t tell you how many times a week I hear similar statements when I’m taking tech calls at work: “My late husband’s photographs were on that hard-drive,” “Three years of my research notes were on that laptop and it was just stolen from the library,” “I spent 16 hours on that spreadsheet yesterday and the presentation is in an hour,” “I saved my original project file to a new disk and now it says I don’t have the correct permissions to view it,” and it’s all tragically avoidable.

I’m not saying technology is out to get you, but you can bet your curvy buttocks it doesn’t have your back.

So for that reason, I’m outlining some ideas to keep your bizz safe and sound with local and remote backups.

(Note: Don’t rely on emailing yourself stuff, because it’s all too easy to accidentally delete or archive an item, or find that a server issue caused delivery to fail, or lose a password and get locked out of the account itself.)

Here are some basic ideas:

  • Dropbox:

Pros: very user friendly, most stable with multiple platforms in personal experience. Nothing to install, just set up a folder on your desktop and drag and drop. Usually no issues with permissions.

Cons: limited space unless you want to pay. Not exorbitant pricing, but if you’re kickin’ it starving artist-style…yeah.

  • iCloud/iCloud Drive: 

Pros: lots of options for interconnectivity with smart phones/iPads and computers, now has bundled software options that auto-sync and save across devices (Keynote, Pages, Numbers included).

Cons: can develop issues if you’re not well-acquainted with Apple ID accounts/services and how everything links together. There’s a lot to it, and it’s possible to lose access to your account completely if you don’t stay on top of your account security questions, emails, and passwords. The functionality is also somewhat dependent on your operating system and phone configuration.

  • Google docs: 

Pros: basically combines free software with remote storage.

Cons: some formatting issues when exporting as docs/pdfs, kind of tiresome that wifi is required to work on the main document.

  • External hard-drives:

Pros: the best option if you have a mega-ton of content (photos, music, movies, and data-heavy documents like articles, spreadsheets, etc). They tend to be more stable than a computer HD simply due to the fact that they have no software that has to run (and summarily fail), no logicboard, etc.

Cons: Can fail, break, or be lost almost as readily as a laptop HD.

  • Other:

As always, I can’t recommend Scrivener highly enough, and not just because of the excellent functionality: there is also an automated backup option that helps me sleep a little better at night. Go to the File drop down, go to Backup, and there’s a “Backup To” option that will allow you to select preferences for frequency of backup and location of backup. Mine syncs to Dropbox, and it has already saved me from hair-tearing tantrums a couple of times.

If you have suggestions, post them in the comments! 

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2 thoughts on “Tech Advice for Writers

  1. Valourbörn says:

    The hard-drive on our main CPU just failed a week ago and we lost everything on it (thankfully I write all my stuff on my laptop) so this post is frighteningly relevant to me! Adding to your wonderful list of suggestions, I would recommend a USB stick for backing up the most important stuff. Obviously it’s easy to lose, but I keep copies of my big novels on there and don’t take it outside the house unless I have to. It’s nice to have a third or fourth version of something stored on there for that extra peace of mind 🙂

  2. Dan B says:

    I use MS Word 5.0 for DOS. If I’m writing something big that demands concentration, I just boot into my FreeDOS partition and fire it up. No temptations: no internet, no email, no other applications to jump into. Just me and the text. Save as .rtf, open in a modern word processor, print, and write a second draft in libreoffice Write or a recent MS Word. .rtf hasn’t changed since the DOS days, but .doc certainly has. Don’t save in .doc formats from the ’80s-early ’90s! Conversion tools don’t exist.

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