Better Safe Than Sorry

As many of you will have heard on Twitter, Reddit and elsewhere, script storage site Scripped has suffered a system collapse, apparently resulting in the deletion of everything stored there, and has subsequently shut down.
There seem to be a lot of answered questions surrounding the site, its owners, and the technical issues, but there’s one thing that’s very clear – no writer should be relying on one site to store their work, especially one outside their control.
It may seem boring, but paying attention to practicalities is going to save you a lot of time and effort at some point. So what are some of the practical steps you should be taking to safeguard your work and your screenwriting career?

Back-ups. They don’t have to be expensive or complicated. I have several years of work backed up on two separate pen drives, and they’re extremely affordable now. If nothing else, print a copy and keep it safe. Retyping from a hard copy is a nuisance, but it’s better than losing work.

Organise drafts. The last thing you want is to save an old draft over the top of a newer one. Come up with a system to differentiate between drafts – date, draft number, both – and stick to it.

Auto-backups are great. Losing the last half-hour’s work because you didn’t hit save is the last thing you want at the end of a long day. Many programs can be set to save work automatically every five minutes without interrupting your workflow, so make sure you turn that feature on.

Have a system for non-draft material too. Losing notes, scribbles and research material can slow you down too, so come up with a system to keep each project separate, contained and safe.

Defunct projects don’t always stay defunct. That script you half-finished five years ago but couldn’t quite crack? You may work out how to turn it into a sure-fire hit any day now. So make sure old projects don’t get deleted and thrown away, accidentally or deliberately.

Upgrades are dangerous. I lost several scripts when upgrading from an old desktop to my first laptop. Still don’t really know how! So ensure everything that’s supposed to move gets moved…

Don’t rely on others to keep back-ups for you! Your producers, your agent, sites like Scripped – don’t assume they’re going to be able to save your ass if you lose a draft. They might, but then again they might not – and you’re going to look like a right idiot having to ask them. Take care of your own scripts, and they will take care of you.

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One comment on “Better Safe Than Sorry

  1. Pete Chown says:

    Computer engineering is my ‘proper’ job; I’ve noticed that the tools for writing fiction are nowhere near as good as the tools for writing computer software. If you want an old version of software, the tools will provide it for you. If you want to know what changed between two versions, the tools will tell you. If you are collaborating and two people change the same file at the same time, the tools will merge the changes.

    When I write fiction I use the same tools because on a purely technical level, the problem is similar. Authors and engineers both have to produce a product which is made up of high quality text, which will probably undergo a number of revisions.

    I think it’s a shame that these tools aren’t available to most authors. Most authors don’t know about them, and the documentation is usually written for a technical audience. (If you want an example, Git is probably the most common one: http://git-scm.com/ .)

    This functionality could be made available to non-technical writers, probably by producing alternative documentation. The question, though, is whether it’s important enough. Is keeping track of drafts hard enough that it’s worth learning a new tool?

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