Monkey see, monkey app

I have an essay on the overlap between engineering and writing in the Wall Street Journal. Curiously, online they title it “An Engineer’s Blueprints for Writing,” but in the print edition it was “An Engineer’s Blueprint for Fiction.” It begins:

I’m an engineer; I also write novels. When I explain this to someone, I often get an odd look, as if a monkey had just performed a particularly strange trick, like creating an app or reciting from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

The combination isn’t really so strange. At root, both engineering and writing are disciplines of combining small things (pieces of steel, or words) to assemble a larger, more pleasing and useful thing (a cruise ship, or “Moby-Dick”). And many of the skills that one learns for engineering a machine carry over into engineering a tale. Here are three.

Read the rest.