...and nothing happened. Blank screen. Absolutely no sign of the 60,000 words I'd written on my current WIP that weren't backed up anywhere.
"Come back," I told the document, as calmly as I could manage.
And lo and behold, after a minute or two, it did. (Apparently it was just one of those computer hiccups. I've never had that particular problem before or since.)
After my heart restarted, I did what any sensible person would have done months earlier: backed up my work.
There are two main ways to do a data backup: onsite or offsite. Onsite refers to storage devices that you actually have in your person.
A USB drive (also called a memory stick, flash stick, thumb drive, or "that computer stick thingie" if you're my dad) is a common method of onsite storage. They plug into the USB port on your computer, they're easy to find and cheap (you can get basic ones for as low as $5), and it only takes seconds to back up your data.
Another common method of onsite storage is an external hard drive. This is a device that usually holds tons and tons of data--in fact, I have a complete backup of everything on my computer on our external hard drive. These are a little more expensive, usually running about $100-$300. They also require more computer expertise to set up.
Onsite backups have some drawbacks. What if there's a fire and all of your backup devices are destroyed? Or what if you keep your USB drive in your laptop bag and the whole thing gets stolen?
For real peace of mind, you can combine onsite backups with offsite ones. While there are non-online backup services for companies, individuals are best served by choosing an online service. Once uploaded, your data will remain online (accessible only by you), and will be there if you need it.
A common method of backing up data offsite is using a service like Google Drive or Dropbox. Both of these websites offer plans that will allow you to back up a certain amount of data for free.
A lower-tech method of offsite backup is to email your documents to yourself periodically. As long as you can access your email, you'll have a backup of your work.
Twitter and blogs are full of horror stories from writers who didn't bother to back up and then lost tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands!) of words. Don't let it happen to you! No matter what your budget or level of computer expertise, you can always find a method of backing up your writing that will work for you.