Don't you just hate it when you're half asleep and trying to write a blog post and you inadvertently click the Publish Post button instead of the Save Now? You end up with a post going out that's just a draft, and everyone thinks you're a real dummy when they get it in their RSS feed.
Oh, well, it's not the first time I've appeared to be less than the sharpest Crayon in the box. Probably won't be the last either. Now that I've deleted the earlier post and had several cups of coffee to wake up my sleeping brain, fixed Saturday breakfast of French toast for my darling husband, and perused the morning paper, I'm ready to finish the summation (nice lawyer-ly sounding word, huh?) of the past week's series on what authors do with unpublished manuscripts.
First, let me thank again all the authors who helped with this Special Report. I'm listing them with their respective website links in case you'd like to copy the list:
Jim C. Hines
Jannine Corti Petska
Dale Thompson writing as Pat Dale
Jane Myers Perrine
Jamie Leigh Hansen
L. C. Hayden
What did we learn from this representative sample of authors about what they do with unpublished work? They save it with the idea of revising or cannibalizing for a future work or just out of sentimental attachment because it was a manuscript that was a stepping stone to their first sale.
Storage? Just about all of the authors save electronically either on their computer, an external hard drive, older floppy diskettes, CDs, flash drives, or online storage offered free or for a small fee. These are all worthy ideas. However, the useful life of all these appliances is limited.
If you're saving on CDs, thinking that is a permanent solution, it's not. CDs are just pieces of plastic and are subject to physical corruption by heat, dust, humidity, and breakage. CDs are dependable only for a couple of years.
Hard drives can fail. Online storage can be lost for many reasons from server failure to power fluctuation to human error. Redundant systems are supposed to guard against this, but the expense of redundancy is increasingly prohibitive. If you opt for this method, be sure you inquire as to their redundancy.
Those who like a paperless environment won't like hearing this but a hard copy printed on acid-free paper is still the best long-term storage option. I'd be willing to bet that most authors who insist on a back-up hard copy saved in a safe place like a safe deposit box do so because they've already lost data in electronic failure.
Always save in a handy electronic way like a flash drive, CD, etc. for easy access, but keep a good quality hard copy too because if all else fails, it can be scanned to produce a digital copy should the need arise.
Probable vs. Possible
Now, is it likely that your house will burn down and your computer and accessories will go up in smoke? Is it likely a hurricane will completely destroy your home and all its contents? No, but I know of several thousand that experienced this a couple of weeks ago including banks that flooded. Is it likely an online storage site will be struck by lightning, catch fire, file bankruptcy, or any of the other perils of modern life?
Perhaps none of these scenarios is probable, but they are all possible. At this point, if you were watching television, you'd probably see a commercial for insurance because insurance is for the terrible possibilities of life.
Get yourself some insurance for your manuscripts, published and unpublished. Use convenient electronic storage so you can access it easily on a daily basic. Once a project is finished, make a permanent electronic copy or two. Save in two different places like a fireproof safe at your parents' home and a bank safe deposit box. Then print out a hard copy and save in the safe deposit box too.
If you don't believe me, ask any museum curator. Despite our technological advances, acid-free (archival) paper, when stored properly, is still the most reliable source for long-term storage.