MACE for Plotting Stories

My attorney gave me a book to read: Legal Writing in Plain English. And while my work computer has been backing-up, scanning, diagnosing, blue screening, rebooting, and generally failing, I’ve been reading bits and pieces of it.

It has a good system for planning research papers, but it can also apply to writing fiction (although, admittedly, I’m not the type of person to do this; I rarely pre-plot; most of my ideas come as I actually write).



– This is the stage where you do your brainstorming. If you have plot cards, this is when you use them and jot down what they suggest. If you come up with any other interesting ideas, character names, settings, etc., write them down.

Architect – This is the stage when you take your brainstorming ideas and select those elements which will actually fit together in a story (be sure and save the discards for future use, though). Get a loose plot outlined. If you need to do research, now’s the time.

CarpenterThis is when you actually write your story (or research paper). I always recommend working on the NaNoWriMo principle, which is make yourself a word-count (or page-count) goal–something fairly ambitious–so you will be forced to write without editing.

Editor* – This is when you actually do your editing. I recommend at least the following number of revisions:

  1. Check for plot holes; clear up inconsistencies; strengthen characters, dialogue, and descriptions; make changes suggested by pre-readers; make sure you don’t abruptly switch POV.
  2. Double-check facts.
  3. Make sure every sentence makes sense; read your dialogue aloud and make sure it sounds like something someone would actually say; cut out unnecessary sentences and words.
  4. Proofread for tense, grammar, punctuation, and typos.
  5. Format for e-book or print.

*The original book referred to this as the “judge” stage, but that word doesn’t created a neat acronym; besides, “editor” has more meaning to writing folks.

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