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Sunday, 19 January 2014

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARCHIVE: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

My archive isn't lost. It's sleeping.
   For READ TUESDAY 2013, Misha Burnett asked how often I backed up my work. I gave this answer...

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An autosave kicks in periodically. I’ll save a file if I must leave the keyboard, even for the briefest stretch. Typically, I won’t get through a paragraph without saving. I’ll save much sooner than that if I type something vital, complex, or an item that is vital and complex.
    Microsoft Word is set to back up a copy of each file. When the world was younger, I had fiction archives. Now I have fiction folders inside annual archives.
    But that’s basic management of files, and not backing stuff up. Generally, files are copied to a mirror archive on an external hard drive once a file is created or added to.

   Come the half-way point of the year, I used to create a DVD of the year-thus-far – that was before I had an external hard drive. The archive is copied to DVD come year’s end, and the DVD is lodged in a fireproof safe.
    That’s all changing now – I moved to the internet. I follow my own blog via e-mail so that an archived copy exists in an e-mail folder. Just in case Blogger decides to chew up a few pages. Now I have the option of cloud storage to mull over.
    Electricity let me down once – by adding data to a file. I was chopping the hell out of a chunk of writing and the power went. So all the stuff I cut – without saving – was back again when electricity resumed.
    The other form of backing stuff up is publication. I thoroughly recommend that to writers. Don’t store your tales in a digital drawer. Publish them. My early blog entries were written for collection and publication. That’s the ultimate version of backing something up – putting it out there.
    Placing your work on file at a Library of Record, to fulfil legal obligations, is another way of backing things up. You can walk into the British Library – between Euston and St. Pancras, and request access to a digital copy of Neon Gods Brought Down by Swords, for example.
    If you are hard-pressed and all other methods fail, you must rely on recreating material from memory. This is a poor solution, but if it’s all you have then make use of what marbles time has left ye.


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What to report? Life is much the same. Except for the part about the extra layer of backing something up. The external hard drive. It doesn't want to come out to play.
   The 2013 fiction archive was roasted onto disc and locked in the fireproof safe. I amused myself, and one or two others, by Twittering about this as it slowly slowly happened.
   Look, you can see data turn to fossils. Woo.
   As for the external hard drive, it's so external that it might as well be sitting on the dark side of the moon. I'll work something out.

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This blog post is not about that. No. This blog post is about archiving. What to keep and what to ditch. Over the course of a year, you...
   Forget that bit. Try again.
   Over the course of ten minutes, you can accidentally, deliberately, or dacciliberately create duplicate files of duplicate files of duplicate files.
   At the distance of a year, a reserve copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of a file might just no longer be relevant. (Went out on a limb there.) I save periodically. And I duplicate stuff.
   Duplicated material is ALSO saved periodically.
   After a year, there's a hefty slice of detecting. What is this? Do I need that file? Here's a folder of files copied over from, from, from, er, somewhere south of Mordor. Best guess.
   Tolkien looks askance at me.
   Weeding files is a problem. That's done regularly, but duplicates still creep in on soft shoes chosen for the purpose.
   In weeding out a year's supply of files, the worst offender stinking up the place was an older copy of a published work. MURDER BOX. How the hell did that clone survive? Easily. I was at the end of the year.
   MURDER BOX was published on the 27th of December. Except that it wasn't. Oh, but it WAS.
   First, we'd best scramble over the Amazon time travel bullshit. Even if I publish on Amazon late in the day, next to midnight, Amazon still deducts one day from the publication date.
   That's neither here nor there.
   I went to publish MURDER BOX on the 27th and had to stop at the last hurdle to fix an item in the PRC file. This is the finished file that you'll read on Kindle.
   So I fixed the problem and returned to battle. The story was published that day.
   I run a laptop as a storytelling computer. And I run this PC as an internet computer.
   Stories are written in the office. They are transferred by USB to my library, where the internet resides. I have various USB devices kicking around.
   Updating the book, I went out of my way to ensure that I wasn't noodling around with the same file from earlier. So I used a different USB. (No messing about with deleting every single contradictory file, in case I made a mistake on that front.)
   Year's end. I am archiving. Checking duplicates. I decide to lay all the cards on all the tables, and I strip all the USB devices of their files on the off-chance that certain files are ONLY stored on USB.
   Everything stripped is dumped to the annual archive. There are folders everywhere. The desktop is cluttered. I start weeding out duplicates. And I also start preserving rare birds - files that did only exist on a memory stick.
   This thing with rare birds - it happens to copies of important e-mail messages, not to copies of my novels.

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Upshot. An earlier version of MURDER BOX surfaced off the USB stick. One of those quirks. The incident happened on the 27th of December, and I started putting the archive to bed on the 1st of January. I killed the right file.
   There weren't any other incidents like that. I'm extra-careful when it comes to those finished PRC files for Kindle. The entire archive is geared to their production, after all.

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I feel like continuing this archival theme in another post. Filing is normally straightforward. Blogging about this just brought back a lot of non-engrossing moments for me. So I'll try to veer off at a tangent next time.




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