How to Protect and Store Your Manuscripts: Practical Tips for Aspiring Authors

Are you an aspiring writer unsure how to safeguard your manuscript? Read on for a host of tips dedicated to helping you navigate this stage of your career!

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If you are an aspiring author, your manuscript is like your baby. You have spent countless hours labouring over every word, sentence, and chapter. The last thing you want is for all that hard work to become lost or damaged. Protecting and properly storing the manuscript is crucial, whether it’s a Word document on your computer or loose, printed pages. To that end, here are some practical tips to safeguard your literary masterpiece.

Backing Up Digital Manuscripts

Let’s start with electronic manuscripts stored on a computer, laptop, or external hard drive. Losing that precious digital file can be devastating after years of hard work.

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Use Cloud Storage

Invest in a cloud storage service like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, or iCloud. This creates an off-site backup of your files, protecting you from events such as a computer crash, theft, fire at home, or a ransomware attack. Automatic syncing means the manuscript is continuously updated to the cloud as you make changes. Most services allow file versioning too, letting you restore previous drafts if needed.

Utilise an External Hard Drive

An external USB hard drive provides local backup storage that travels with you. Copy your manuscript folders from your computer regularly, at the very least monthly. Store this drive somewhere other than with your main computer in case of theft, fire, or other localised disaster at home or your writing office.

Email Yourself Copies

This old-school method still works and can be combined with cloud/external backups. Email yourself an attached copy of your latest manuscript file every couple of weeks or so. That way, you can access it from any computer or device, no matter what happens to your main ones. You could also email copies to a trusted friend or family member.

Secure Your Computers and Devices

Of course, lock all your computers and devices with a strong password or biometrics like a fingerprint scan. Keep security software, like antivirus and firewalls, updated. This protects your precious files from unauthorised access, malware, or ransomware attacks that could corrupt or lock you out.

Protecting Physical Manuscript Copies

While digital is increasingly common, many authors still prefer working with printed manuscript pages during writing and editing phases.

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Use a Fireproof Safe or Box

Purchase a fireproof safe or storage box designed for home use. The thick fireboard insulation protects documents inside during a fire for 30-120 minutes, depending on rating. Store copies of your full printed manuscript in this for the ultimate physical protection. Use desiccant packs to absorb moisture, too.

Invest in Plastic Storage Boxes

Heavy-duty plastic storage boxes or bins with lids offer great protection for your printed pages from the likes of water damage, dust, sunlight, and pests. Look for opaque or tinted bins to block UV light. Label each box clearly by book name, draft version, and date.

Fireproof Document Bags

For added moisture and fire protection when storing smaller amounts of manuscript pages, affordable fireproof document bags made of reinforced fibres are compact storage options.

Store Off-Site

Just like having off-site cloud backups, consider storing a spare copy of your printed full manuscript at a trusted friend, family member, or office location in case of a home disaster. Update this regularly.

Lockable Storage

If writing a novel while at your job, take advantage of a workplace lockable storage cabinet or closet to securely store printed manuscript chapters while away from home.

Organisational Methods

Now you know the best ways to shield those precious manuscript files and pages from fire, water, pests, and other hazards, but staying organised is just as vital for protecting your work.

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Use a Dedicated Storage Area

Whether it is a drawer, shelving unit, filing cabinet, or plastic storage boxes, centralise your manuscript storage. Do not let chapters, notes, and drafts get scattered around your home office, bedroom, or other areas. This just increases risk of loss or damage.

Clearly Label Everything

Use sticky labels, binders, folders, or archival plastic pockets to accurately label all boxes, bins, and manuscript stacks/piles. Include the book’s name, version/draft details, date, and any other key identifiers. Consider colour coding by storyline, character plots, or draft versions.

Keep a Chapter/Scene Index

Maintain a separate master index document listing all your chapters, scenes, and their descriptions. This index copy makes reassembling your full manuscript easier if anything gets damaged or disorganised.

Back Up Regularly

Whether digital or printed, back up your manuscript frequently — weekly if you write intensively or monthly if you write during lighter periods. The more recent the backup, the less work you could potentially lose if something catastrophic happens.

Use a Cloud Productivity Suite

Apps like Google Workspace, Office 365, or iWork allow you to create, edit, and automatically synchronise your manuscript files across all your devices through the cloud. So, you will always have access to the latest draft from anywhere.

Environmental Factors to Consider

Finally, give some thought to environmental factors that could slowly degrade or damage your manuscript over time.

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Avoid Heat and Humidity

Do not store manuscripts, whether printed copies or backup drives, in an attic, basement, shed, or garage prone to temperature extremes and humidity fluctuations. This can warp paper pages, make ink run, and potentially corrupt digital files on drives through condensation over time. Aim for a cool, dry, temperature-stable indoor location.

Keep Away from Sunlight

Ultraviolet rays from direct sunlight can fade text on printed pages and degrade paper over long periods of time. Draw curtains or use opaque boxes/bins in rooms where manuscripts are stored.

Pest Protection

Use plastic storage bins and keep storage areas clean and dry to prevent pests like silverfish, cockroaches, mice, and other rodents from snacking on your manuscript pages or chewing through cardboard boxes.

Storing Manuscripts Long-Term

If your manuscript needs long-term physical storage, like while querying publishers or between book projects, take extra precautions. Use only archival quality, acid-free boxes, folders, and paperweights designed for long-term document preservation. Temperature and humidity-controlled storage units can be rented.

Fireproofing Your Writing Space

While fireproof safes protect documents inside, you can further fireproof your writing space. Use a fire-resistant filing cabinet or storage closet. Keep a fire extinguisher nearby and reduce paper clutter. Overall, fire safety benefits your precious manuscript’s protection.

Conclusion

Following these tips means you can rest assured your novel manuscript and hard work is safe and secure throughout your whole writing journey.

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