Never Lose Your Manuscript (Again)
Disclaimer: This post includes lots of plugs for Morgan Systems (Jeremy’s IT company in Dallas). I don’t intend to “sell you” IT; this is not the forum for that and unless you live in the Dallas area, there’s little he can do for you anyway. The content and links are meant to help you make informed decisions about your technology. I have lost tens of thousands of my own words. I know writers and businesses who lost much more. That doesn’t need to happen to you.
By virtual show of hands, how many of you know an author who lost his or her entire manuscript because it wasn’t properly saved, their computer crashed, the power went out… [insert other reason here]?
One, two… Too many.
Writing is an art, but you are an entrepreneur. That means taking care of business, and your technology is a big part of that.
Below are my tech recommendations for writers, based on what I’ve learned from Jeremy’s business and his insights as a writer himself. These can be scaled to fit your budget, the time you spend researching and actually writing, and your professional ambitions.
Buy a decent computer.
I have both a Macbook Pro and a Dell Inspiron laptop. I could get by with one laptop, but they serve slightly different purposes and I just like to have both. I also have a custom-built desktop computer—my true workhorse—with dual monitors. A dual-monitor setup is great to have one screen for your manuscript and the other for research, interacting with your readers’ group, procrastinating, whatever. The important thing about your machine is that it’s relatively new (fewer than 6 years old) and can keep up with your working pace. More expensive does not always mean “better.” Also, your laptop is probably going to be more expensive than your desktop for the same performance.
Jeremy’s 5-minute video with computer buying tips can help you get more specific when shopping for a new machine. He explains it better than I can (and he’s also super handsome 😊).
Have an offsite backup.
If you’re saving your manuscript to your desktop or a local folder on your computer, with no redundancy of your files in other places, you’re asking for a total, catastrophic loss of your data. You could back up your manuscript to an external hard drive, but they aren’t really reliable. Storing your files in the cloud (like Google Drive or Dropbox) is a smart way to go. Jeremy also recommends having an offsite backup (like Carbonite or CrashPlan) for all of your local files.
Get a [better] antivirus.
A little awareness and some good user habits go a long way in preventing your machine from being hacked or infected, but it’s imperative that you have a reliable antivirus installed on all of your computers. We like ESET Internet Security, or, for those who are really serious about security, managed endpoint protection. A good software should come out with the latest virus definitions without slowing down your machine or hogging resources (we do not recommend Norton, McAfee, or Kaspersky).
Yes, you need a surge protector.
Protect your machines from power surge with a surge protector at every computer. A good surge protector is, like, $20. Yes, you need it.
On that note, avoid performing a “hard” shutdown of your machine. If you have to do that a lot (at least once a week), something is probably wrong with your computer. Call your IT guy.
And on that note, protect the health of your computer by keeping it cool (not in a warm attic, garage, or outdoor space) and away from areas where pet hair or dust can accumulate. If that happens, take the cover off and blow it out with an air can, on occasion.
Know your IT guy.
If you aren’t a do-it-yourselfer when it comes to IT, you can outsource it. Find someone you trust and can afford. You can use Google Maps, HomeAdvisor, Nextdoor, or ask someone you know to give you a referral. Be sure this person is highly reviewed on places like Google Maps or Yelp. We recommend steering clear of big-box companies, which can be much more expensive and have a reputation of poor training and service.
Okay, I know this wasn’t my most exciting blog post, but your writing career is not just about meet-cutes with dimpled heroes. It’s about finding solutions that keep you sustainable and help you grow—as a business, and as an artist.
Happy (and safe!) writing.