Apply E.M. Forster's Five Elements to make your writing more balanced.

In Aspects of the Novel, E.M. Forster identifies five key elements of a novel: story, plot, people, pattern, and rhythm. The balance of these elements helps determine the overall “feel” of both non-fiction and fiction writing. Develop the habit of tracking how you are applying each of the five elements to ensure that your work is balanced and communicates the right message. At regular intervals in your writing process (e.g., every 5,000 words, twice a week, etc.), revisit these five elements and write down how you are applying them in your work.

Download the Five Elements worksheet (PDF)


How writers write

(A resource by Joseph Grammer, 6994 words to date.)

Habits! We all want them (even if we think we’re free spirits). Each author has her or his own process for putting pen to paper, so I thought it would be helpful to check out a few habits of some well-known writers.

Vladimir Nabokov

The legend himself, creator of such mind-tickling books as Lolita and Ada. The Russian émigré wrote standing up and jotted his sentences down on 3x5 index cards, which let him mix up the narrative as needed. Interesting that his poet in Pale Fire did the same thing… Anyway, check out his interview in The Paris Review.

Plus, there’s the health benefits of standing.

Jennifer Egan

The Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist tends to write her fiction in an Ikea chair and edit behind a desk. First drafts are on legal pads, with the notable exception of a chapter in A Visit From the Goon Squad that is told entirely in PowerPoint slides. She says, “A first draft takes about 10% of the total writing time, but in terms of importance it’s probably 50%.” Each of her 3-4 drafts reflects “20 rewrites of each individual part.” She shoots for 5-7 pages a day of original material. Read the rest.

Truman Capote

The eccentric master behind In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s took a horizontal approach to writing—he wrote lying down on a couch or bed. Cigarettes, coffee, and sherry were kept close at hand for creative stimulation of the chemical kind. Mr. Capote wrote two drafts in pencil longhand and a third draft on the typewriter, supine-style. Want to know what happens if you lie down all day and write?

David Foster Wallace

The loquacious and searing DFW called himself a “Five Draft Man”. Two handwritten drafts, two typed, and the final product. Hard to imagine the total word count he racked up while composing Infinite Jest

Haruki Murakami

Japan’s bestselling author is a model of self-discipline. Here’s an excerpt from his Paris Review interview:
When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim for fifteen hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music. I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep to this routine every day without variation.
What a badass. I’m tempted to say something to the effect of ‘Holy Hard-Boiled Wonderland!’, but that would be awful. (See: paralipsis) (Also see his interview).

Interested in more authors’ writerly habits?

Check out Write To Done’s article.

Now write, writers! Idiosyncratically, conventionally, quickly, slowly—whatever. Just stick letters to pages.

Need some inspiration?

Here are all recent public snippets written in Twords.
My wife Carol and I have left the Midwest to visit my brother Dan and his wife Connie in California.
They are both retired and have lived in Yuba City for years.
We save up during the year, to fly out in January and stay a few weeks.
Our doctor said my wife has a slight case of SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder,) which would be minimized if she could get more sun.
My brother and I have visited each other several times over the years; so since my wife had been diagnosed with SAD, we decided to visit during the winter months.

We always enjoy our time with them, and we love the weather; most of the time.
Last year, we were in California during the middle of a torrential downpour which was so bad that one day towards the end of our vacation; the authorities gave us an hour to evacuate. Oroville, the largest earthen dam in the U.S. was upstream from my brother's house, was at risk of failing.

it

days when he was found. At this, the Slater family was furious because no one had bothered telling them that their son was dead. To make matters worse, no one had reported him mission or called the police to tell them that they had seen Brett Slater near the church.
Now that was a travesty in itself, as not only did Adam have to deal with an oppressive public that wanted him to be their Harry Potter and yet held him and his family hostage, but they had to deal with a city that show little to no care or concern for people who didn't appear to fit the mold, as it were. Those people who didn't fit the mold were thrown away or shoved into the Harry Potter villages, where they were forced to be in the Harry Potter world instead of getting help for their problems.
And that's not fair.
As it turns out, Adam couldn't have picked a better time to leave Nander Castle.
Right now, the Harry Potter Association is furious that the new Harry Potter movie isn't being made (Amelia made it explicitly clear that she was finished with Harry Potter shortly after the last Harry Potter movie bombed in theaters), the fans of Harry Potter were taking up too much attention with their over-the-top behavior and loud rude indifference to the fate of their Harry Potter. Plus, those who hated Harry Potter turned up the heat with their protests, claiming that the people who loved Harry Potter were ruining everything for the normal people living in Nander Castle.
All in all, Nander Castle was not safe for ANYONE, let alone a boy who spent the first 8 years of trapped in an underground bunker.
So, while everything is happening, I’m sitting in my room reading New Moon and trying to ignore everything that's going on around me. I don't care how much you want to force me to like (or hate) Harry Potter, I won't do it. Besides, I have the answer to that problem on my bookshelf.
While that's going on, I get a call from Travis Strickland. He says, "There's going to be a meeting at church tonight."
"Indeed," I said as I stared at the clock. "What's going on here?"
"My parents say that Maya Banner has something to say to us," said Travis, "and it's really important that you pay attention to what she's saying."
"I see," I said, remembering that Maya never told anyone where she came from or who she was. She had been the city's biggest mystery since she moved here in 1996 and to say that she refused to leave was to say that about almost everyone who lives in Nander Castle. I mean, our town was literally in teh middle of nowhere and the nearest town was over 100 miles away. we were three days away from Reno and six days away from Carson City. And any movie relaesed in our city's theaters would be on DVD everywhere else.
That's why Nander Castle is called "The Useless City".

I dno't know what's going on here, but I know one thing.
what's that?
claire violet thorpe needs to go.
why do you say that?
because it's the truth! do you even want to know what she's doing to us?
well, it's not like we haven't been used and abuesd by every other fanfiction writer in teh world.
and what do you think happens when th efanfiction writer gts tired of us and starts writing original fiction? we get left out in the cold, that's what happens to us!
you're saying that like we're a bunch of children's toys.
we are toys! all of us! but for some reason, we are being abused by this claire violet thorpe for no reason other than she likes to abuse us!
well, it could be worse. i mean, can you believe what would happen if some teenaged girl got her hands on us? she'd destroy us faster than you can say jack robertson!
indeed. that's why we must kill claire violet thorpe before some other person gets to us.
why would you want to do that? when last i checked, claire violet thorpe is a real person and we're all a bunch of fictional characters.
who cares? i just want her gone.
why?
because she's ruinging our lives, that's why!
she needs to die! and the sooner she dies, the better!
you guys are insane! why are you trying to get rid of her? it's not like she actually beat you or anything like that! am i right?
well...
what's your answer?
well, look at what she did to you, jacquelyn! in most of claire's stories, you're either being tormented by evil vampires, kicked around by evil old wizards, mocked by elves, tortured by cruel demigods, and let's not mention what happeneed to you in those harry potter fanfiction stories; they're horrible!
and your point is???
my point is that claire violet thorpe...
...or whoever she really is, seeing as therer is no such person as claire violet thorpe that we know of...
...really needs to die!
and how is her death going to help us? when last i checked, there's no way you can delete the stories people write about you off the internet.
i see. but we have a way of destroying people who destroy us using their so-called fanfiction!
and what's that?
how's about we

Wally knows, alright. He knows that when he looks down and sees his legs disintegrating that there's not much chance he'll be walking away from this.
He's alright with that.

Of course he's going to miss Artemis and Dick, and his Aunt and Uncle, and even Bart. But he knows his death means they'll have a world to keep living in.
What he doesn't know is why he wakes up after.

* * * * *

THE WATCHTOWER
EARTH 17

When Wally wakes, the first thing that returns are vague sensations and memories.

The echo of a powerful wind, the feeling of electricity and speed coursing through him, saying goodbye to Barry. Asking the man to tell his partners he’s sorry…

Then, the repetitive beep of a heart monitor, bright lights, the itch-sting of an IV and murmuring nurse staff.

He’s in the infirmary.

Wally groans, curling fingers and toes to make sure he still has them.