Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tools of the Trade

What does a writer use? Outside of imagination, experience, and (one would hope) a healthy sense of spelling and grammar, most writers' primary tool is their computer. Whether you have a laptop, a desktop, or a notebook-style machine, chances are you spend a lot of time relying on your computer to help you produce your work.

Which is why it can be extraordinarily disheartening when, for example, one experiences browser problems while researching a fascinating yet complicated post that one had planned for a day such as today, and one's computer crashes three or four times, and one decides that one has had enough for the week.

So. While I'd planned to regale you with interesting and timely information on the changing landscape of the e-book industry this week, my tool apparently has other plans. Instead, I'll talk about the importance of backing up your work.

Whenever you're writing, whether it's a blog post or your Great American Novel, make sure to save frequently. At the least, you should save your file after every sentence. Preferably after every word. Some of you may want to hit that save button after every single keystroke (but if you feel you have to save THAT frequently, you probably like wearing tinfoil hats and calling NASA every other night to report a new alien spacecraft sighting. Really, a save after every word is fine.)

In fact, an even better method of backing up your work is to e-mail your file to yourself. You should do this following each paragraph of prose you type -- it only takes five minutes, and will add mere hours to your writing process. Hours which, I might add, are completely worth the investment, as you will discover the next time your computer freezes when you're right in the middle of working on something complicated.

One caveat: if you own a Mac, forget it. Just write on toilet paper instead, or get a highly trained parrot and dictate your manuscript to him (video evidence below - WARNING: nasty language! :-)

This is S. W. Vaughn, promising a lengthy, informative and interesting post on the e-book industry next week. Now, where did I put that parrot?


Marta Stephens said...

Oh! This video is a hoot!!! I'll stick with my PC. LOL

I'm constantly saving my work and when I type something for one of my blogs, I always type it in Word first (as a back up) and then copy and paste it onto Blogger.

I have a love/hate relationship with my computer.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

As some of you know, I recently invested in a Macbook Pro after getting laid off and discovering my old laptop (after investing $600 to get it 'up to snuff') was decidedly dead and of no use to anyone.

This beautiful new Mac laptop - very lightweight, gorgeous luminous screen, wonderful software, backlit keyboard, sweet touch pad where you can swipe with various fingers to achieve various effects - was not cheap. Now, I used the last of my Kodak "bonus" to buy it. I'd played around with my daughter's laptop and was hooked on Macs. (okay, so I still am, but listen to the rest of the story.)

So everyone I knew who had a Mac said they never die and don't get viruses. Two months after my purchase (after I finally got all my old PC stuff onto it), my logic board died. I didn't lose much. One week after I got it back, my harddrive died! I did lose recent pix, etc. because I hadn't yet invested in a backup harddrive and hadn't taken the time to back them up on my pc.

Long story shorter, Apple took great care of me and gave me a free 1 terabyte hard drive backup for my trouble, held my hand the whole way, and very quickly resolved the problem. Now, every night at 11pm, my laptop backs up. But, I still email my WIP to myself every day, just in case of a household catastrophe. You never know!

S.W., I pray your computer woes resolve quickly! You deserve a decent place to house your thrilling stories!

Terry W. Ervin II said...

Okay, I back up often, but not every key stroke...

But for those intersted there is a website I stumbled across...don't ask how or why...that discusses the benefits and complicated construction of the Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie. It even compares the value of tin foil vs. aluminum foil. http://zapatopi.net/afdb/

Fun post today. Thanks for taking the time to creat it (of course you do have it saved elsewhere!)

Marta Stephens said...

LOLOLOL!! I love the AFDB, Terry. You may be on to something there.

s.w. vaughn said...


Marta - this was the first time I actually tried to compose a post in Word instead of Blogger... and my browser crashed, freezing my computer and losing everything when I had to restart. Figures, don't it? LOL

Aaron - you Mac user, you! LOL. I know Macs actually work really great for most people. As for me, I just can't get used to the interface. PCs have their own set of problems, too. :-)

Terry - thanks! And that's a great link. Sadly, I'm out of both tin and aluminum foil, and I'm too paranoid to go to the store. :)

Kim Smith said...

OMG!! We do all our video editing on a mac and I could have made this video!!! HE"S RIGHT!!!!!