The Meandering Path from Numbers to Words

The Meandering Path from Numbers to Words, Guest post by Alan Orloff, author of I Know Where You Sleep

Guest post by Alan Orloff, author of I Know Where You Sleep.

The Meandering Path from Numbers to Words

The Meandering Path from Numbers to Words, Guest post by Alan Orloff, author of I Know Where You Sleep
Some little kids, from the time they could hold a pencil in their hands, wrote stories. About dragons and fairies and cowboys and firefighters and astronauts. Great tales of adventure featuring heroes conquering villains in wildly imaginative ways.

Not me. I didn’t like to write. Too much work.

When I was in high school, I hated English class (much to the chagrin of my father, an ex-English teacher!). I didn’t read all the classic novels by the classic writers, mostly because I was never patient enough to try to understand all that old-timey English and run-on sentences (Faulkner, anyone?). Instead, I opted for the Cliffs Notes version, which I usually crammed into my brain the night before the exams (shh! Don’t tell my mother!). I couldn’t get through Melville or Joyce, but I loved Asimov and Heinlein, King and Koontz. I was a happy camper, as long as I could choose what I wanted to read (and didn’t have to analyze it in any fashion).

And while I liked reading, I was always a numbers guy at heart. So in college, I majored in engineering and never had to take a creative writing course. Or read any fiction, either, for that matter. After graduation, the extent of my writing consisted of the occasional grocery list (not much of a plot, no characterization). I didn’t like engineering very much, so I went on to business school, where I wrote a lot of papers and reports and case studies, all dry as dust, full of clichés, buzzwords, and jargon intended to confuse even the most dedicated readers.

No writing of fiction.

But a couple of decades later, something happened. I wish I could tell you what that something was, but I honestly don’t know. The upshot? I decided to try my hand at writing fiction! (Much to the surprise of my wife.)

It sounds like my convoluted transformative journey would make a good story. I wonder who I could get to write it?

Here are some things to consider if you’re considering making that leap to writing fiction:

Start slowly: Dip your feet into the water before taking the plunge. For me, that consisted of a “proof of concept” exercise. I wrote a number of short stories to see if I liked writing. I did, and I kept at it! Whatever you do, don’t quit your day job! (Not yet, anyway!)

Increase your knowledge: Read books on writing, take classes, participate in workshops to learn more about your (new) craft. I started by taking an Adult Ed class on creative writing. The instructor said that the story I wrote for class didn’t stink, and I interpreted that as encouragement. I took more and more workshops until—eventually—I was able to teach workshops at the same writer’s center where I was a student!

Get feedback: Try to find and/or develop some trusted readers. Getting feedback on your work keeps you from spinning your wheels and getting discouraged.

Get plugged into the local writing community: Networking with other writers proved invaluable for me. In addition to learning about potential markets for my writing, I got a lot of support; writing is a lonely endeavor and it’s nice to be able to commiserate—and celebrate—with others on the same journey.

The Meandering Path from Numbers to Words, Guest post by Alan Orloff, author of I Know Where You Sleep
Alan Orloff’s work has won the ITW Thriller Award and Derringer Award and been a finalist for the Agatha Award. His ninth novel, I KNOW WHERE YOU SLEEP will be released in February from Down & Out Books.


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