Tandem Writing

My brother used to go tandem riding a lot with his little sisters, me being one of them. If I remember correctly, I only ever rode once. The break-neck speed at which we “rode” down hills was an experience I didn’t need to repeat. Worse than roller coasters.

Despite my dislike of tandem bicycling I had discovered that I am an accidental tandem writer. Being a novel writer and a playwright, I often have at least one project in each category brewing at the same time. I go back and forth between which pot I stir depending on deadlines, interests, time, etc.

I’m working on my second grouping of play and novel, and as I thought about my third grouping I realized a trend. I write plays and novels that are complimentary to each other and work in tandem.

My first full play, Rifton Diner, and my first decent novel, Chrysalis, both have several similarities: daddy issues, recovery from trauma, bitterness, and a cheerful character who helps bring the protagonist out of her darkness. Chrysalis is quite dark and explores the issue of trauma in greater depth while Rifton Diner has a more light-hearted approach. One of my students attended read throughs for both works and found Rifton Diner to be much more enjoyable and not as heart-wrenching.

My current grouping is the play Love Labors Happily Ever After and the novel Mercy and Justice. The similarities are not as strong with this group, but they are there in subtle ways. In both of these works I am beginning to explore questions of love and why we tend to define women by their relationship status. Again, the play is a comedy and is a much more amusing take on it. Mercy and Justice is much more serious and also deals with questions of ethics and civil duty, so the romantic element is not as important. The strongest link between them is found in the female protagonists. Ella and Marian would get along very well I think and agree with each other’s words.

My future grouping may not be written at the same time as I am focusing more on my plays than my novels, but they are at least in development together. Love Labors Happily Ever After is about to complete it’s third draft and will be performed in June by my theatre company. Once rehearsals start I can move on.

No title yet, but my next play will be about the early pioneers of feminism. If I can ever get finished with Mercy and Justice and Chrysalis, which are taking much longer than I expected, then I can move on to They Will Know We are Christians by Our Jean Jumpers. 

When I write, I write about things that I am grabbling with. Right now I am thinking a lot about the framework with which I raised and wrestling with some of the shortcomings I see, while trying to not overlook the amazing parts as well.  One of shortcomings I am trying to figure out how much I disagree with is the way women are dealt with in the very conservative Christian culture. I am really looking forward to processing more of that through writing the play and the novel. I am hoping that I will be working on my first draft of both projects in 2017.


All that to say that I write about issues, themes, characteristics in tandem. Do any of you other writers experience a similar phenomenon?


4 thoughts on “Tandem Writing

  1. That’s a fascinating idea! Thanks for writing about it. I always have so many projects going at once (academic writing, blogging, novel, short stories, poems) that it would be hard to chart it out. But I definitely go through genre-phases. Right now my creative writing is half murder mystery, half science fiction. Before that it was dystopia. Funny that I don’t do creative work on the same themes as my academic work, though! You’d think that while editing “The Inklings & King Arthur” I would write Arthurian stuff. But no.


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