Back Up Your Work

What is the first rule of having a writing project? Back up your work. Your writing should be backed up in four different places not including your computer.

1) Online storage

Not only is your work stored online (protected), but you can access it from your mobile devices as well. This allows you to continue your research and writing anywhere, and anytime. Here are some examples of online storage:

2) USB Thumb/Flash drive

This is a drive to attach to your keychain, or toss in your makeup bag. Although they aren’t saved in real-time like the online servers, it still is an excellent idea to have it as a backup. Flash drives can be bought online or in stores ($6-$150). They can range in storage size from 4 GB – 128 GB, and are the physical size of a ChapStick. Here are a few types:

3) External drive

An external drive is capable of storing much more than a few files. Usually, then can store the backup of your entire computer, plus room for other files. You can find desktop as well as portable versions, both online and in stores. The storage size runs from 250 GB – 4 TB ($70-$1000). Here are some examples of external hard drives:

4) Email to yourself

This is sometimes referred to as the modern poor-man’s copyright. However, don’t rely on that as being so. Here is a link about the true rules of copyrights. Emailing it to yourself does, however, allow you to be sure you have another copy stored in case the unthinkable happens.

When emailing the document to yourself, include information that will make it easily searchable (in case you need to find that version in later years). Most email providers can search the text in the emails if you include:

    • Book Title
    • Last updated as of (00/00/0000)

If you have these backups, then if your computer is misplaced or crashes, you still have your work. If you are out of town, you still have your work. If a flood takes out all the online storages, you still have your work. Daily, remember to back up your backups. Always.

Query Letter Help

[found on maxbarry.com; by Max Barry]

“The Query Letter

The idea of a query letter is to take this book you’ve written, this incomparable masterpiece that took five years and destroyed your marriage, and summarize it on a single piece of paper while still leaving enough room in the margins for a publisher or agent to scribble, “Sorry, not for us.” You have to try to pitch your book in such an intriguing way that the publisher immediately writes back to you, demanding to see sample chapters (or the entire manuscript). This may sound tough to do, but in truth it’s even harder. Your query needs to stand out from the other 80 the editor is going to read that day, but avoid amateurish gimmicks, like $50 bills.

There are plenty of good web sites on how to write a query letter and approach agents/editors. Some of them are:

One thing you must do is say what sort of book you’ve written. This is what agents/editors will be scanning for when they read your letter: is it a thriller, a comedy, a rural human drama? Most writers, including me, find this very difficult to do, and tend to produce descriptions like, “It’s kind of a futuristic science-fiction comedy-come-romance set in Medieval France with a strong anti-war message.” This is why authors should be banned from describing their own novels.

So I suggest enlisting help: have your friends read your book and ask them what novels they think it’s similar to. Then at least you’ll have a rough genre to start from. Also, for practice, try to describe your book in a single, short sentence. Ask people if it sounds interesting, and rework it until it does.

This is very much personal opinion, but I think a good description often combines something common (“It’s a detective story”) with something original (“where the PI has a terminal illness”). The common part grounds the story, letting us know what ballpark it’s in. The original part shows it’s something special.

Update (May-07): If you’re interested, I’ve posted my old query letter, which I sent out while agent-hunting in 1998. It’s kinda cringe-worthy reading it now, definitely over the top, but since it worked…”

For more great info from MaxBarry, click here.

[found on http://maxbarry.com/writing/help.html]