Style is one of the most important considerations when writing a bestseller, and as we mentioned in previous articles, they key is consistency. It's almost a hallmark of a top 10 best seller to have a strong, consistent style. Therefore, hit on a style, and stick to it throughout the novel. Here's a quick checklist for you that should help ensure you keep a consistent style as you write a book. You can save yourself an awful lot of time if you try and avoid the need for editing any copy you use in your plotting stafge. For example, if you create a useful plot card for one of your chapters, write it properly, in the style you intend to use within the actual text of the book. That way you can cut and paste it simply and start expanding WITHOUT having to rewrite it from scratch. The Plot Card system on www.GetPlotted.com is excellent for this - when you swap over to manuscript format to actually start writing your chapter, the plot card is right there alongside, so if you want to cut and paste, you can.
Number 1 novel writing style point - passive or active voice. The choice is yours, but most readers prefer the active style - after all, you are telling them a story! If you don't understand the difference, contrast these 2 sentences:- 'Is it time for tea' and 'Do you think it's time for tea'?
Number 2 novel writing style point - don't telegraph your punches. In other words, don't keep repeating yourself, You want your readers to be surprised at developments. If you foreshadow too strongly, the plot will seem obvious and even turgid.
Number 3 novel writing style point - try not to begin sentences with 'It' or 'There'. For example, writing 'There were 3 wise men who decided to visit Bethlehem' is clumsy in the extreme. How much better is 'Three Wise Men, observing a new star in the sky, decided to travel east to Bethlehem'. Likewise, 'It was impossible to find room at the Inn' is nowhere near as good as 'The travelers found it impossible to find lodgings that night as all the Inns were full'.
Number 4 novel writing style point - write like you talk. If you try and use too many 'big' words, or clever phrases, you will probably end up looking like a clown, or worse, like Jeffery Archer. It will also enable you to write faster, as you won't have to keep checking the spelling. Thirdly it will help avoid your work sinking into cliche, and will finally avoid alienating your reader. You aren't gonna win any points for word complexity, either from your readers or potential publishers. This is writing, NOT scrabble!
Number 5 novel writing style point - sentence complexity. The Goldilocks principle operates here - i.e. neither too short or too long. This sentence is too short. This perfectly chosen combination of words making up a single element of narrative description, on the other extremity of an arm, is possibly verging on the point of being perceived as potentially a little on the less than short side.
Number 5 novel writing style point - James Joyce already did it. In other words, don't imagine you can ditch the basic rules of grammar and write sloppily. Basic grammar is essential if you don't want to turn off the vast majority of your potential readership. Seriously young Jedi it is.
Number 6 novel writing style point - dialogue to die for. Check your punctuation. One of the most common problems is losing track in the narrative. You've probably seen examples of this - you get confused as to who is speaking, and need to go back over a paragraph. Instant reader turn off! ALso ensure your characters speak naturally. If, when you re-read your dialogue, it sounds stilted to you, it probably is. Never be afraid to reword dialogue until it sounds 'right'. Good dialogue, by the way, should advance the plot, or show some new facet of a character. Small talk is for the bar, not a best seller. The interactive writer's course at www.GetPlotted.com has some good tips on this topic - writing good dialogue is actually quite straightforward, as long as you obey the single easy 'golden rule'. Ultimately, if you can differentiate your characters properly, you will even be able to occasionally drop the 'he said' qualifier - the character's speech will identify them to the reader!