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One Stop for Writers

The creators of The Emotion Thesaurus and Writers Helping Writers are collaborating with one of the talented developers of Scrivener to bring you a one-stop writer's library experience like no other. If you're a writer, and you're not already aware of one…

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Short Fiction, MICE Quotient, and Nesting Codes

At the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in October 2014, I attended a workshop called “Short Fiction Explained (to Novelists)” led by Mary Robinette Kowal, a longtime friend of the conference and co-host of the fabulous Writing Excuses podcast.

Mary’s workshop approached short fiction using a concept originated by SFF author Orson Scott Card, called the MICE Quotient. M.I.C.E. stands for Milieu, Idea, Character, and Event, and the mnemonic is a way of identifying what kind of story you’re telling, where that kind of story starts and finishes, the kind of reader expectations you’re setting up and need to satisfy, and what you need to include, and what to exclude, to tell your story while keeping it tight. (What you need to include is conflict that delays or prevents the ending; what you need to exclude — from a short story — is anything that doesn’t support that kind of conflict.)

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Pens and Pencils.”

When was the last time you wrote something substantive — a letter, a story, a journal entry, etc. — by hand? Could you ever imagine returning to a pre-keyboard era?

Funny you should ask! I do this pretty often, and am trying to do it more. There is something about writing by hand that makes me feel more connected to the process than banging away at a keyboard. For instance:

  • I am handwritten-letter pen pals with my friend Kam Oi Lee. In fact, it’s my turn to write to her. (The postcard I sent from the UK doesn’t count as a letter.) I do sometimes bang out letters to her on my manual typewriter, because that’s hilarious and fun. We still count it as handwritten, because my terrible dependence on the computer’s DELETE key is patently obvious in these missives.
  • I do Morning Pages by hand.
  • I keep my Writing Log by hand.
  • I do my outlining by hand.
  • I do some of my freewriting by hand, too.

I do occasionally get frustrated by the slowness of handwriting, and by my tendency to try to write too fast, and thus make mistakes and have to correct stuff. But I just remind myself to slow down, think it out, and then write. The worst for me is the Morning Pages, which I’m always trying to cram in before the real world intrudes (i.e., before my husband gets up).

I should go finish today’s Morning Pages, maybe.

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