Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Back It Up and Away--Part I

Have you ever lost the only copy of your manuscript? A tragedy, yes, but also a lesson. So now you make a backup copy.


Don’t be so sure.

Imagine that you have a hard copy sitting on your desk next to your computer. If your computer crashes, you still have the hard copy. It may be a pain to retype it, but at least you don’t have to start from scratch.

But what if your house burns down and melts the computer to an unrecognizable mess? The hard copy isn’t likely to survive, either.

Ernest Hemingway understood the value of backing up his manuscripts. In the days before computers, he made a carbon copy of each of his stories. That would have worked if they had been kept in two separate places. Or if his wife had understood the reason for a backup copy.

Hemingway tells the story in his book, A Moveable Feast. It was early in his career, and he and his wife, Hadley, were living in Paris and holidaying in Lausanne, Switzerland. Hadley decided to take Hemingway’s manuscripts along as a surprise so he could work on them during the holidays. She took the originals and the copies and put them all in her suitcase. Then someone stole the suitcase, and Hemingway’s manuscripts were gone.

I assume that both Hadley and Hemingway learned a valuable lesson about keeping the original separate from the backup.

The financial industry learned this same lesson on 9-11. It was already common practice to back up trading records and account documents, but some of the copies were only a few floors or a few blocks away. When the towers disintegrated, it didn’t matter how many floors separated the records. And even those records stored in a building down the street became inaccessible for days or weeks when the entire area was cordoned off.

So don’t keep the backup too close to the original. 

Join us next week for a post on how and where to back up your manuscripts.

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