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Occupation: Girl

Please close the door and switch on the fun without fail.

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A couple of things
So, here are the other things I wanted to mention:

First of all, a bit of an update from yesterday's discussion of data backup: I actually have my most important files--documents--backed up in four or five places, including email, a couple of personal sites, and a couple of storage services. (I don't want to say which ones, in a weird fit of privacy.) My concern is more that I can't back up everything online. The Resurrectionist just kept saying over and over, "You have SO MANY FILES." Probably one or two million images, honestly. A lot of them are screencaps, which--if you own the DVD, you can get them again. Let 'em go. But a lot of stuff came from GeoCities sites, which, as you know, don't exist anymore. A lot of it is costume/location research, dozens of Victorian-era paintings, vintage photographs, images of Victorian clothing and jewelry that have now been sold and so aren't online anymore, screencaps from the better-researched costume movies, hundreds of photographs of locations, the graphics I made for my old websites, icons I made, the images I used to make those icons--okay, you know Tumblr? Imagine if Tumblr lived on my computer. That was what my computer was like. And I had research for more than one era, because I also had a one-off novel set in 1790 that I wanted to write, as well as a couple of other things in different periods. And those are just the images--that doesn't include the e-books and period-contemporary documents I had saved. I don't even know where to begin backing all that up in the "data cloud" online. Zip files, I guess? Forty-eight GB of zip files? You see why I pulled the crucial Word documents, backed all of them up, and took a chance on everything else.

Also, a lot of it was music. I'm going to pull a few rare/live tracks that I can't replace (witness my flailing on Twitter that I am TRYING TO BE A LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN but NO ONE will SELL ME things, WHY IS THIS) and back them up, but I really don't know that I can back up 2000 mp3s, you know?

So an external drive was very attractive. But, realistically, you can't trust any one backup, I don't think. I know it sounds crazy, but what if some megahacker decides to go after Google and its services? More probably, what if a particular site goes out of business? You've got to have a redundancy of backups, both on- and offline, and whatever you don't backup thoroughly, you're going to have to write off as expendable, I guess.

And part of my problem right now is that, in my zeal to make sure I had backed everything up, I have a number of zip files with unintentionally redundant files. Like, copies of the same folder nested within other folders. You know? So last night, I sat down with my Black Ribbon backups and went through all the files and consolidated everything. (Windows 7 makes this a lot easier than XP; it'll actually tell you the dates and file sizes of the two files, rather than make you go back and look, and let you choose whether to replace or auto-rename. You know, as opposed to XP simply asking you, "Replace this, Y/N?" So it actually didn't take that long.) I still have to go back and reread all my notes/documents and mentally catch up on everything--there are a few minor characters I'm dropping, combining, or changing, for example; others, I've forgotten what the hell I had them for. Other-others, I've thought of new things for them to do. So. I have to reread all my documents and work up a game plan of who's doing what. I wish I could tell you why, but--there's a reason for all these people, because something happens midway through that changes their place in Rose's life and how they relate to her, and you need to see that. Anyway. I have homework to do, is what I'm saying.

Second of all: the glass of water thing. I wanted to address this comment, because it both misses the point and is absolutely correct:

I've read through the comments, and I'm afraid to say I'm a loner in Critical Land. I, myself, don't see the necessity of this over analyzing. You're essentially saying, "living beings generally are doing something with someone or something". I knew that.

I suppose this metaphor can be helpful to new writers who don't understand what a plot is, but when completely calculated, where does the humanity in a story go? I would never say this sort of metaphor shouldn't be used at all (naturally, if people find it helpful), but should probably keep in mind Robert G. Ingersoll's own metaphor, "The beautiful in nature acts through appreciation and sympathy. It does not browbeat, neither does it humiliate. It is beautiful without regard to you."

The last thing you want to do, when you begin writing something, is view it in the cold, cynical terms of ciphers and objects. "You should be writing from your heart" is an exceedingly smurfy way to put it, but you see what I'm getting at. You need to--well, let me start over. I can't tell you how to write; everyone writes differently. What I do is get interested in the idea of one or two characters (oddly: usually a male character first, and then I get more interested in a female character that relates to him) and start figuring out something for them to do, and then start thinking of other people to do things around them, and then think of some kind of story arc. That is to say, why I'm writing about them. I know I use certain books or movies as examples a lot, but it's because people are more likely to be familiar with them, so--it's the equivalent of, I would think of Harry Potter, I think of him going to school at Hogwarts and being a wizard, I think of his friends and his enemies, I decide that the arc of the series is going to his quest to defeat Voldemort. "Story arc" is a really formal way of saying "the A to B to C of the story I want to tell, and why I want to tell it." And along the way, I start to notice certain themes crop up, and at that point, I start mulling it over, and when I decide that yes, this is an idea that already seems to be running through what I'm writing, maybe I'll work on that theme a bit more and think of ways to bring that out in the story, which itself will suggest new things I can have happen. So I start out playing around, daydreaming, imagining things, coming up with and then discardng ideas--I do this for weeks, sometimes without writing anything down at all. I let my subconscious come out to play. And then, once I've started writing things down, I start thinking in more complex, editorial ways.

Writerly jargon, if it comes up, is mostly going to harsh your flow at this point.

The time to bring in crafty mechanical things is after you've got your freewriting or initial drafting or however-you-do-it done. I'm sitting there looking at what I've drafted, and then I say, "What is my inciting incident?," which is a fancy way of saying, "Where do I start the story, and why do I start it there? When would the reader be most interested to enter the story?" Because they are probably not going to be interested in five (ten, twenty) pages of rambling about the characters and the setting. What is the first interesting thing someone does? You should probably start the story there. The first twenty pages of rambling were useful to you, and you should be glad you wrote them, because it helped flesh out a lot of things in your mind. They are probably not useful to the reader, and if there's information there they need to know, you can work it in later. I'm not saying this is an absolute; I'm just saying, as both a reader myself and someone who's critiqued other writers' works in a number of workshops, it often works better. And the great thing about the digital age is that you can save your draft as a separate document, try something out, see if it works, and if it doesn't, discard the experimental document and go on your merry way. I can't tell you how many times I've written a scene three or four different ways and then gone with, say, version #2--and then, weeks later, decided I liked #4 instead. With computers, you can do this, and you can do it easily.

(And now you know why I have so many documents to back up.)

So my point about the Glass of Water thing is that you do not need to start with it. It's an exercise you apply if you need it--if you get stuck or lost or blocked. It can help you view your characters and your story in a new, simpler way. I got stuck when I realized that my villain was doing things because I needed him to do them (reveal his plans, let characters live, conveniently ignore opportunities to screw them over), not because they were actually in his own best interest at all. So I sat down and asked myself what his glass of water was, and revised his actions to be in line with what he actually wanted. So I'm not telling you to start off your story with the equation of "living beings generally are doing something with someone or something"; I'm saying, if you get lost in the wild-and-woolly initial draft, the glass of water version can be like an X-ray into the structure. And then, once you've located the bones, you turn that X-ray off and get back to the flesh and the humanity of the story.

Which I didn't make clear at all, by the way. Hopefully, people understood that; I had a number of commenters to say that, as an exercise, the glass of water thing had helped them get unstuck in something they were writing, which is how it ought to work.

Well, hell. I've gone on so long that I'll have to save the other thing for Monday. Which is probably for the best, so more people will see it.

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Windows 7 has built-in full system backup. Connect an external drive, set it up, and it'll back up automatically, with backup copies showing up in previous versions tab. If you don't trust a single drive, you can use several and rotate them.

Well, here's my question: the external essentially has two other drives backed up on it already. Will that erase the data that's already on it?

I think in screenwriting, or at least the way I write, you need to know what your glass of water is pretty quickly. I mean, we've only got about 90 pages with a lot of white space to figure it out but because of time limitations, movies are much more streamlined and the glass of water is more obvious.

I was just thinking about this as I'm working on my screenplay since plot has always been an issue for me. I can come up with great visuals and write a good scene or two but when it comes to coherent story? Argh. My professor was always on me about this. "Beautiful shot, I can totally see this. Now what the hell is it doing here?" Always be looking for the glass of water. I want that on a t-shirt now.

That's true--it does seem like a more vital question for movie/TV writing.

That description of all your files sounds so much like what my computer was like when I used to write. (Fic, but still.) Do you pick actors to visualize your characters? Because I saved so many actor photos it was ridiculous.

I do, but I try to pull at least 2-3 actors (or at least, different faces) for each character, so it doesn't turn into me writing that actor as this character. If someone asked me who, I wouldn't tell.

The Glass of Water exercise is really useful. My story was going no where, and then I realized, "Well, what is the main character's glass of water? He's just sitting there waiting for a glass of water to come to him." So, thanks for the advice!

but I really don't know that I can back up 2000 mp3s, you know?

What, only 2000? Amateur. :P

I couldn't remember if it was 2000 or 10,000, so I decided to go with the more conservative figure.

I have a friend who has a mini RAID - it's like multiple back up disks so if one fails, it doesn't kill your stuff.

I'm like you - I have tons of folders of saved images and stuff. And I'm having issues with my back-up disk (I think because Time Machine filled it) and I had to reformat it today and I'm re-backing everything up. But now I'm super paranoid, like what if something happens to my computer in the next couple of hours before that finishes! Eep.

You remember all the stuff we did for Marie Antoinette and Sweeney Todd and The Prestige? Yeah. Stuff like that. I held on to everything in case you lost it, and because I was using some of it myself.

This is going to sound ridiculous, but I almost wonder if you should send some of your stuff to me as a back up, although I'm sure you've got like half a terabyte of stuff over there. If nothing else, apparently dropbox.com gives you 2GB free, with more for $10 a month, and I think mozy.com does something similar for more like $5. I don't think you can host files off it, but you can use it for basic storage. There's also box.net as well.

God, thank you so much for articulating all that.

My tl;dr saga is that I have been writing poetry (namely, performance poetry) for about 4 years now, but I used to be all fiction all the time action girl, sitting up late at night all ticka-ticka-ticka on my glow-in-the-dark keyboard. And then I lost that part of my brain somewhere along the way, and then I got much much better at lit crit in college, and now I'm trying to delve back into fiction again (even experimenting with the crutch of fanfic so I don't have to do half the work--all the character & setting & suggestions toward conflict are THERE, I just have to WRITE it) and I keep getting bogged down in crit of my own lit. It's maddening. And I have no idea how I managed to just keep plowing away at my stories when I was younger. But you're totally right, and I think that the glass of water thing is going to be ridiculously useful to me. So: thank you, Cleo, you articulated what I'm feeling extraordinarily well and helped point me back in the right direction for my own writing.

Aw, no problem.

I think there is a point where it's easy to get too critical at too early a juncture; I probably developed it from spending a long time in graduate level lit seminars and writing workshops. There's a point where you can start to internalize it, though. You start to be able to think unconsciously in those terms--like you just think of a story beginning naturally in terms of starting with an "inciting" event or realization. It's like muscle memory with a sport or walking a particular route or something like that--you start to seek out structure automatically and organically, instead of letting that editorial voice distract you.

The reason I found the glass of water idea so useful is that I want to write (in a fictionalised way) about a real person and real people don't tend to conveniently portion their lives into stories with a nice thematic beginning middle and end! By identifying a glass of water, the story goes from people generally doing something with something until you get bored and stop to an actual plot with a goal and an end point.

I liked the 'glass of water' metaphor because I think it put a complicated concept simply.

And honestly I've seen so many writers, pro and hobby, who just yammered on and on about things I didn't care about.

I mean I'm more interested in why Jane is hunting Jim with her macguffin then I am about her wardrobe of poofy skirts and intense feelings about the color green.

I mean yes if wearing poofy skirts lets her channel her magic power and if green is her favorite color because it reminds her of someone she cared about then work it in in a way that doesn't wind up turning the reader off.

I think a lot of authors forger the 'glass of water' so you end up having characters act in a ways that makes them look like idiots and stories that don't go anywhere.

Mozy is an excellent "cloud" based service. You do have to pay for it, but there is none of this zip file nonsense. Sign-up, download their software, and tick off which folders you want backed up (in my case, all of them; I've got over 75,000 songs chilling on several external drives). This service does not pack up programs, so you would have to reinstall software if your hard drive gave up the ghost.

I also use Acronis True Image for imaging my hard drive (so I can restore it completely if it borks out); it, like Mozy, supports not just your internal drive, but also imaging of externals as well.

I use a two prong redundant approach: Mozy backs up all files (including the images made by Acronis) and Acronis images all my drives (including the files Mozy backs up) to externals. So in the catastrophic event that my computer dies, I have two ways to save my digital life.

Both of these options have deals and such going on that bring down their price.

I am kind of insane for flash drives. I have an 8G full of nothing but music, two 1Gs with text [which doesn't take up a lot of space, glory be], a 1G with pictures, and a 4G which has rotating content.

I am Mulder-levels of paranoid about losing my writing, and I keep one of the text flash drives with me at all times. This served me well when my computer DID die; I'd've freaked out to lose the writing.

And I'm still considering external storage as well.

So I've been a lurker for a while; I don't think I've ever laughed as hard reading anything online as I have while reading your blog. I *loved* that glass of water example, and at the same time, didn't really think it was necessary (unless you're stuck, I guess, as you're clarifying now).

This is chiefly because I have always sort of cherished the idea that if a writer is getting published, or even just sitting down to write in the first place, he or she has something important or noteworthy to say. That instead of creating a story arc in relationship to an object as he or she goes along, the story progresses in a thought-out, planned direction, a direction that matters, for whatever reason, to everyone involved.

I mean, if you look at amid the drivel being published today, there are always a few books that you feel will become classics. Because there's something *more* to them. Because the author isn't sitting down to describe a story arc but to tell you something that matters. It's not just story arcs, it's real people, or real emotions, or a core of truth that will resonate.

Of course, there are probably exceptions; there are exceptions to everything.

Whew! That turned into a soapbox moment. What do you think?

I guess what I'm saying is that the story arc is the organizing structure of those emotions and truths.

It's said in my family that I have "a sickness"; that being my insatiable need to have ALL THE MUSICS EVAR. And after that? MOAR MUSICS. My collection stands now at 10,641 songs n' it still only clocks in at 47-and-some-change GB. Totally back-up-able, so I'd definitely declare your collection back-up-able, too. :)

However, if it's something you're still worried about, but you have an iPod that's got everything on it, you can always get iRip to move everything from your iPod to your new computer. I had to do that recently when my (less than one year old) computer's hard drive died, forcing me to purchase a brand-new, naked hard drive.

I had been a bad, bad girl and hadn't completed a backup since somewhere around September, and I'd gotten a -lot- more music since then. iTunes will only recover your purchases for you, not anything else, and I'd burned a lot of stuff from old CD's, and bought a few albums from Amazon. iRip worked like a charm, and was totally headache-free.

Best of luck to you with the rest of the recovery process! I only wish I had been as cautious as you, having saved all your important stuff. :( Since I hadn't backed up in so long, I've lost a lot of things to the ether - not anything super-important, but still - I really should've been a lot wiser! *wry, sheepish grin*

I do love the "glass of water" analogy, especially the way you've explained it here--that can definitely be helpful. I think I tend to ask myself the same things about my characters anyway--what do they want, what's their driving motivation, why would they do X or say Y or not do Z--but the glass of water thing is a nice way to focus it.

Re: external drives--if I were you, I'd buy an additional external drive purely for backup purposes so you won't have to worry as much about the other; you could probably even plug them both into Lizzie and move/copy stuff from one to the other. For what it's worth, I got my 500GB external drive two years ago for just over $100, and in that time it's been knocked over, bounced around, hauled to friends' houses and back, and had orange juice dumped all over it, and so far it hasn't lost any data. If you've got a setup with an old computer drive being used as an external, I guess it may be different. As for the question of backing up 48 GB of pictures and 2000 mp3s, though, that would be easy on an external drive (and again, if you had two, then...that would be your double-backup right there); plenty of space on a relatively cheap one.

I'm just beginning to perceive the problem I'll have with backups in future. I used Dropbox until a crash during the software update corrupted the program. I was lazily backing up on just my USB, with the intention of finding alternatives, and lo and behold, the USB began glitching and I nearly had a coronary.

Luckily my new ISP has a facility to back up online, but I realise I'm probably going to have to be selective - I've never even addressed the problem of backing up my photos, but clearly I need to start. Sigh. After having a hard drive die last February, you'd think I'd be more pro-active about this, but health issue-related exhaustion has been a reason (though not a good one) to procrastinate lately. Thanks for the motivational kick. :)