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 clich├ęs, 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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