Toggle Writing Method

About a year ago when one of my sons challenged me to try NaNoWriMo for the first time, I confess I was not initially thrilled to accept that ‘write a novel in a month’ gauntlet as thrown down. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I could do a rough draft of a new novel in a month, it was just that I was in the middle of a few things including a near final rewrite of my ninth. The last thing I felt like doing was to put aside one writing project to dive into another. Besides, I hadn’t decided which of my most forward ideas ‘wanted’ to be my next story. Which simmering pot on the back of the creative writing stove should I attack next? I didn’t know yet.

But, you see, to be supportive of my son, and to encourage other writers in the family to join in on the challenge, I decided to just put my ‘nearly done’ 120K words ‘manuscript’ up on a shelf, throw caution to the wind, and just write ‘the next one’ in a flurry. Seize the moment, right? I decided to write like crazy and clean up the mess later. I figured I’d throw a sketchy story together and then I could fix it all up later sometime. NaNoWriMo was worth trying once, right? Besides, I had an almost forgotten 30-something year old idea that I could just throw down to see what it was made of. Wouldn’t hurt to try. So I did.

More than a month later, within days of completing the Novel in November challenge, I began to give my new novel draft a read-through, and found ‘her’ a good deal better than I thought ‘she’ was or would be. Still, ‘she’ was soon on a shelf, waiting to live and breathe again, while I went back to novel #9 and finished ‘her’ up so she could go out into the world to try finding her readers.

Then it was back to #10, which, except for summer vacation time off playing with my grandsons, I have tried to keep working on since. I’m currently finishing off my third rewrite on #10, but instead of digging in and getting ‘her’ ready for publication, I’ve decided to do what I did last year. My tenth novel (near completion) goes up on a shelf to wait while I begin my eleventh in another try at NaNoWriMo. I figure the ‘write a novel in a month’ challenge is a very good excuse and motivator to knock down another rough draft.

To allow for a fresh perspective for every read-through, I always walk away for a few weeks or more between rewrites anyway, so why not write something new instead of doing anything else? Yes, I oft need to organize/clean house, garden, and I like to paint (canvasses rather than walls), have a little fun, and do other more or less important things between rewrites. But, sometimes, you just have to get back to work right away. Since ‘change is as good as a rest’ (so ‘they’ say) it can be applied to writing, right?

All this got me thinking about a new method to write more, faster. Yes, in theory. The mere fact that I will be writing instead of finding other things to do while I step away from my current novel between rewrites, theoretically means I will finish novels faster. (I’ve got a hundred more solid ideas than I have years left to live and write, so I’ve got to get cracking on them, you see.) To make this method work for you, you’ll have to be able to dive from one story into another and then back again, over and over again, without mixing up characters/names and story threads but if you can do it, here’s:

The Toggle Writing Method

Write a draft (novel A), and if you like, then do a quick read-through (rough/relaxed rewrite).

Write a draft (novel B), and if you like, then do a quick read-through (rough/relaxed rewrite).

Rewrite novel draft A. Rewrite novel draft B.

Rewrite novel draft A. Rewrite novel draft B.

Keep toggling your A and B rewrites until you are done novel A and then get that one out for publication (unless B more easily gets done first – then that one becomes A, in its way).

Write a draft (novel C), and if you like, then do a quick read-through (rough/relaxed rewrite).

Finish novel B and get that second one out for publication, or toggle rewrites with novel C until you are done B (and then get it out there).

Write a draft (novel D), and if you like, then do a quick read-through (rough/relaxed rewrite).

Rewrite novel draft C. Rewrite novel draft D.

Rewrite novel draft C. Rewrite novel draft D.

Keep toggling your C and D rewrites until you are done novel C and get that third one out for publication.


Plow forward, one story after another, toggling rewrites, getting one done, one after another. A, B, C, D, E…


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Jessica West says:

    What a fantastic idea! I’m still working my way up to novels, but I see no reason why the toggle method shouldn’t work just as well for my short stories. Thanks!

    1. Thanks! Definitely should work for short stories too. (Come to think of it, it has worked for my paintings for years!)

  2. Cat Lumb says:

    I am currently involved in this very process. Rewriting NaNo #1 and just about to dive into completing NaNo #3 (I abandoned a complete NaNo#2) as part of CampNaNo because the rewrite for #1 isn’t going so well!
    Despite the fact that both novels share characters (and #1 has elements of a prequel) I’m enjoying the freedom to switch between them. Gives me hope for all those other ideas I have – especially as I already have the possible seed for NaNo #4 already!
    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Thanks for commenting!
      Yes, the freedom to switch between stories also breathes a freshness into them. You keep coming at them again, but rested and with a new eye.
      I’ve toggled between artistic projects over the years and now I’m applying that method to my novels. I hope it will improve my process and efficiency. So far, so good.
      Speaking of idea seeds, if you think of each story as a growing plant, you can water more than one in your creative garden at once.
      All the best on your novels!

  3. I’m really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout
    on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you customize it yourself?
    Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a great blog
    like this one nowadays.

    1. Wow, thanks for the nice comment. No, my daughters helped me with customization a while back – probably needs updating by now. So much to do, so little time. Thanks again for the nice words. 🙂

  4. I’ve been hesitant to do this, or rather, something similar to this. Your idea is actually brilliant because it shows how to go about doing something like this in a practical way. I have three active projects (though only one has been getting all the attention), and a few other ideas floating in my head. I’m regrouping now, thanks.

    1. Thanks for your nice comment! I’ve always been a bit scattered – trying to do many things at once, and I finally realized that my tendency to toggle between multiple projects could be applied to writing my novels. Initially I feared I wouldn’t be able to do it (especially well), for various reasons, but it turned out to be easier than I thought, and actually better and faster than sticking with one novel at a time. I always have to step away for at least weeks between rewrites, so why not use that time to work on ‘the other’ novel.

      Work on ‘the pressing’ project, but you can pop over to another work to write notes or whatever is needed, and works for you. All the best! 🙂

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