Q: How many writers have lost months or years of work due to computer problems?

A: Too many.

     This isn’t a joke– it’s a scary possibility (or reality) for anyone who depends on their computer to store their work. All writers should back up their work in multiple places. We’ve put together a list of the most common ways to save and store your writing. Ideally, you’d use each method. Please, for your sake, use at least one.


Note:  This article focuses on backing up text files and writing work, not videos or photos for personal use.


      Both Dropbox and Google Drive have a free, basic plan that allows you to back up your work. These services let you access your work from any computer or supported mobile device. Here’s a handy chart for a quick overview of their different features.

      You can sign up for both services and use them for different purposes. Lila uses Google Drive for sharing and editing while Dropbox runs in the background to save any late-night ramblings or half-finished work.

PS: If you sign up for Dropbox through our referral link, we’ll both get an extra 500MB of storage.



      External harddrives and USB flash drives can keep your work safe in a different way. They provide a separate physical location (other than your main computer) for the storage of your work. The main problem with these items is that they’re susceptible to everything that kills computers: water, power surges, equipment malfunction, dropping, fire, bullets, lightning strikes, etc. And unlike Dropbox and Google Drive, these devices won’t automatically update. You’ll have to manually copy files to these external storage sources.

      USB flash drives and external harddrives can be useful if you want to back up your work but lack internet access (or visit somewhere that doesn’t have internet access). Also, USB sticks are cheap: you can usually find 8GB sticks for less than $10, and you might even find USB flash drives for two or three dollars during a sale.

      Of course, there’s always one last offline option: hard copies. If you want to feel like a spy, print out your manuscript and keep it in a safe deposit box. For a more realistic (and cheaper) alternative, print out a few copies. Keep one at your place and ask friends or family members to hold the others. It’s not a bad idea to invest in a fire- and water-proof safe. You’ll be able to securely store any writing work as well as delicate or important personal objects.

      The cost of printing hard copies can be prohibitively expensive for prolific (or graphomanic) writers. You can try to minimize cost by printing out only specific documents or using tricks to fit more words on a single page, like decreasing the font size, using a thin font like Arial Narrow, widening the margins, and putting poems into column. It’s a lot of work, but remember: hard copies are always compatible, no matter what happens to computer software.

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