As a writer, it often feels like there’s nothing worse than rejection. One outcome that is worse than rejection however, is when your work is accidently deleted before you have the chance to submit it in the first place. But even worse than that is when one of your pieces of writing does get published, only to vanish from the web a few years later because the journal that accepted it has suddenly closed down.
The good news is that these are a few of the outcomes in the writing world that the writer does have some control over. So here are a few quick tips to protect both your published and unpublished work from being lost forever.
Tip #1: Use Google Docs to save a backup of every piece of writing you begin. Whether you do your writing in Microsoft Word or Google Docs, always make sure to copy a version of your document into Google Docs. Since Google Docs automatically saves the document after every keystroke, you don’t have to worry about mashing Ctrl+S after every sentence. Also, if you have a hardware problem with your computer, you won’t have to worry about all of your writing being trapped on one fallible device.
Tip #2: Use an external hard drive as a secondary failsafe. Sure, Google Docs is great, but its main drawback is that it requires a persistent internet connection. So if you live in an area that has very unreliable internet service, saving your writing to an external hard drive is a great way to back up your work. And if you do have reliable internet, doing this in addition to Google Docs gives you a second copy of your work saved in a different location.
Tip #3: Email your word documents to yourself. This strategy is a little messier than the Google Docs method, but it also provides two advantages. It gives you a day by day snapshot of your works in progress, and if need be, it allows you to go back to an earlier version of your document to recover things you might have deleted at a later date. On top of that, this method is also a great way to maintain personal accountability and to make sure you’re meeting your daily word count goals.
Tip #4: Use the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to save your published stories the day they get published. Since literary magazines often shut down and disappear from the web with little warning (RIP The Fiction Pool), you want to have a permanently archived version of all your published works. To do this, go to, https://web.archive.org/ , and sign up for a free account. Then, on the bottom-right side of the Wayback Machine homepage, you’ll see a section that says “Save Page Now.” All you need to do is copy and paste the URL of your published piece into the bar below those words, and press the, “Save Page,” button. Then, on the next page, check the box that says, “Save also in my web archive,” and press save. A snapshot of your published work will be saved for free and stored in your personal web archive for future retrieval.
One more thing to note. Be sure to keep track of the links to your published works on your author website. If a magazine shuts down and the original link to your story goes dead, replace it with a link to the version of your story that is stored on the Internet Archive. That way, you don’t have to worry about a potential reader clicking on a dead link on your author profile and moving on to something else.
In the end, all this might sound like a lot of work, but it’s a lot less work than trying to rewrite an entire short story from memory. (Believe me, I know.) So stay vigilant, spend the extra five minutes per day, and keep your work safe.