The universe has just given me a salutary lesson in script writing: make regular back up copies of your screenplay, and save them in a second place off your hard-drive. Not just save – a second copy, in a safe place.

Here – let me write that in capital letters…

BACK UP YOUR SCREENPLAY RIGHT NOW.

For me, this was a heart stopping story of irony. I am writing a screenplay about a boy in a coma, and my computer (literally) fell into a coma. It seemed at first as though it had died. It just stopped while I was using it.  Fully charged, no unusual usage, no warning, stopped. Scary – not turnonable, no fan, not hot, no response, not working, inexplicably no longer on.

I am blessed to live with a geek who knows all about removing the hard-drive and  rebooting the script externally – but the fact remains… I had not created an off-site back up. I save regularly – but this (obviously) is not the same thing. This is the old-school equivalent of losing your original, of leaving the your typed manuscript on a bus, of having your computer stolen, of dropping a glass of wine onto your keyboard, of erasing the whole thing in an accidental moment of insanity.

I was faced with having to (as quickly as possible before I forgot) re-write half a screenplay. It wouldn’t be the first time – but it shouldn’t be the second.

Ask yourself: how much of your work are you prepared to lose? A day? A week? An hour? That is how regularly you need to back up. There are three different ways of doing this which are all relative painless.

1) Buy and external hard drive and save a copy of your script and materials to it. You should do this regularly for your whole computer in order to save e-mails and photos.
2) E-mail a copy of your screenplay to a trusted (or at least tolerant) friend.
3) Sign up for a ‘drop box‘ and lodge your work there regularly.

I back up to an external hard drive whenever I travel, but I now have a ‘drop box’ account, and my work is going there on a daily basis.  For peace of mind, I highly recommend you do the same. While re-writing a script is a tremendous way of cutting out extraneous material – it’s the sort of thing we’d all rather do by choice.