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.
As usual, I woke up startled by a nightmare. It always happens in the morning, most likely when the effects of the sleeping pills start to wane, but there's still enough in my system to keep me asleep.
The worst thing of these nightmares is that I am present enough to watch them unfold, yet not lucid enough to wake up, so I am caught in the middle and forced to see the dream through. Eventually, the dream blurs into reality and I find myself awake, a lump in my throat, heart beating faster, shallow breathing.
These dreams are vivid enough that I remember their content even when I finally wake up and untangle myself from their spires.
With what has been happening in my life lately, it should be expected; or at least that's what the school counselor told me.

Human has been in constant changes since the begin, this happened because it’s part of our nature Curiosity, challenges and changes, are our main characteristic. People are never satisfied with constant things. We are always seeking for something new or something different. I agree with this statement for two reasons, first this made what we are today and second the competition made us never be satisfied.
A thousand and thousand years ago someone discovery the fire, not satisfied someone invented the wheel, not content what we were, we created the machines, furthermore still not content we travel to the moon and it keep going until today. If humans were always satisfied, we would still be living in stones. That is the first reason in my opinion that reasonable the statement.
In my view, the competition can get us to a place that we can imagine right now. The second reason that can made me agree with the statement it’s the competition between us and sometime with ourselves that made us never content what we have. As example in something bigger, the cold war, in my opinion is a good example that the competition moves the world, this competition took us to the moon. We live that all role life, on trivial things like when we study to get a better life, when we decide to change a car because we saw the neighbors with the new car, or in our work when if you are not good as your coworker you going to be fired.
Overall, I agree with the proposed sentence this made what we are today and the competition between us justified the fact that we are not satisfied.

Hey this is karthik I am going to write a novel from today.
Lets start this


One long time ago there was a name named suraj who used to go to the bank of the river to bring some water to his house. The river used to look pleasant, beside the bank of the river. The people of that village enjoyed with the sceneries of village. The hills behind the river and The sun rise early morning make them to cheer. One day when suraj went to the river he found a snake near the bank of river. Intially he got scared he don't know what to do. After a while He noticed a snake change to one Man with full of jewellers on his body and diamond ring on his finger. Suraj got astonished seeing this miracle happened. He felt a sudden state of suprise. He don't what to do at that particular moment.
"Hello suraj"

Time was of the essence. I knew how much we all relied on time. We needed it. We needed more of it. We had twenty four hours and we spent eight of them asleep. We didn't have enough time. We needed more.
I thought that when I was a kid and I came out of the house too late, to see the ice-cream van depart.
I thought that when I was in school and I didn't have enough time to study. I failed the exams that day.
I thought that when I was a teenager and I didn't have enough time to be normal.
I thought that when I was a mother and my first child died.
I thought that when I was an old lady, and all my other old lady friends and old guy friends died.
I don't think it anymore.
We want more time. But we don't need it. We can do perfectly well with the time we have. We fit in memories and moments into our time, as much as we can.
But we don't need more time.
We have just enough.

"No, no, no, not now," I thought desperately as my mind began to shut down.
It happened occasionally. They called it depressive attacks. I called it 'robot mode' when I was in a good mood. It sucked. I'd be in the middle of doing something I liked, or listening to the Maths teachers explaining everything on the board, and then my brain would shut down.
I tried to listen to what my teachers were saying, but I couldn't comprehend a word. It felt like the entire world was speaking gibberish. I tried to concentrate and noticed each specific word they said - This. Is. How. The. Pythagoras. Theorem. Works. I didn't understand what it meant as a whole.
And it sucked. I didn't know what I wanted. I wasn't bored, I wasn't interested, I wasn't hungry or thirsty or anything. I was empty, my mind couldn't think. I hated it when this happened.
Soldiers fought a battle with the enemy. Students fought a battle against the teachers, or the school, or homework. But I just couldn't fight against normal stuff, could I? No, I fought a battle against myself.
I heard the teacher say my name, probably yelling at me for not concentrating. I heard the kids laugh. I knew I'd regret not responding or acting normal later, but I simply stared at the wall.
If only they understood, but they didn't.
And it sucked.