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gilgamesh's avatar

What is the most effective writing style used by a novelist and why?

Asked by gilgamesh (227points) July 13th, 2009

I am in the process of writing a novel and I feel that the author’s style is imperative in conveying meaning to the reader. This is important because I want to find a way of writing which doesn’t inevitably bore the reader (sentences of giant lengths) or have choppy short sentences. I’m in the process of finding writers who fit this mold. I feel that Dostoevsky and Kafka are the best at this medium but on the other hand, Maugham and Orwell, clear and concise writers, seem to offer another view. Is there any writer or writing style which seems most effective in writing a novel? Any suggestions of novels which have been beautifully written and still hold value to the reader today?

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16 Answers

lillycoyote's avatar

A writer’s own style is the most effective. You need to find your own “writer’s voice.”

wundayatta's avatar

Isn’t this a matter of taste? It sounds to me like you are trying to make your novel fit into a market niche of some kind, and while this is possible, I wonder if you will be happy doing this. Are you writing to make a living, or living to write? From Hemingway to Faulkner express a range of styles and a widely differing use of sentence length.

I’m a little worried about using writers that you must read in translation as an example. Anyway, there is no “best” style. Personally, what I think is best is to write to please yourself. In this way, you’ll develop your own “voice.” It may or may not be marketable. However, it’ll teach you more than trying to copy anyone else.

gilgamesh's avatar

I’m just trying to find a way of writing which can best convey meaning and carry on a story.

marinelife's avatar

Write the way that feels meaningful to you. There are many equally effective and different styles of writing.

Jeruba's avatar

Just go ahead and write it the best way you can. It’s great for you to be aware of style and have a model in mind, but really, a style is effective only in the hands of a writer whom it fits naturally. If you do it well, it will work. If you don’t, no amount of self-conscious imitation is going to do it for you.

jamielynn2328's avatar

I think if you give yourself a little cookie cutter format of how you intend to write a piece, then the work ends up forced. Just write what you know and what you want to say and worry about that during the editing process.

Ria777's avatar

@gilgamesh: the writing style to use depends on your natural inclinations and the needs of the particular novel.

lifeflame's avatar

Stephen King wrote in his book “On Writing” about an Ideal Reader. For him it was his wife, whom he would bounce ideas off with, and be the first to read the manuscript. She was the litmus test for his writing. I think having a specific audience in mind is helpful—I find that I actually do my best writing in my letters (yes, I am someone who still persists in snail mail), when I have a very clear, specific feeling that I wish to articulate to some dear to me.

So first and foremost, I would think of writing as a type of communication, a need to express something specific. Form/Style comes from a desire to be as precise as possible with that need. Sentences aren’t long or short throughout the novel because you are trying to manipulate the reader, they are long or short because the feeling, or situation, or whatever you are trying to convey (excitement, suspense, loneliness, humour, etc) demands that rhythm.

As for developing your own writing style. You basically need to read more, and write more. Read more of your favourite authors. Figure out some way to process the way they write (e.g., translate them, try to write a chapter in pastiche of Maugham, etc) In doing so you have an intimate sense of why they made the choices they did. If you like authors of very different writing styles, even better. After swimming in their language, gradually, you will figure out what works for you, and shake off what is unnatural (for you).

But above all, write more, write more of everything, and pay attention to what you write and how you write. When you write your question on fluther, is it in the clearest and most attractive form to this particular audience? Write your novel. Write short stories.

good luck-

marinelife's avatar

Let me second Stephen King’s book if you have not yet read it.

jamielynn2328's avatar

I will third Stephen King’s book. It is an excellent reference book, and it is the only book, besides some childhood favorites, that I have read repeatedly.

lifeflame's avatar

Actually, if you are talking about books on writing I would re-read, Stephen King is not the first book that comes to mind. (I mean, I might, just because it’s on my bookshelf, but if I want to be inspired, I would head for:

- Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones
(commitment to the writing process)

- Sol Stein’s How to Grow A Novel
(good for technical stuff, e.g., plotting, character, etc)

and maybeThe Art of Fiction by Ayn Rand.

mattbrowne's avatar

Paint the picture. Mentally look through the lens of a video camera when writing your story. There’s great advice from Sol Stein.

serendipity's avatar

Write what feels comfortable to you and what you’d enjoy reading. Personally when I write I like lots of dialogue and am sparse on description. I do describe things but try to use as few words as possible to set the scene, preferring for the characters to speak for themselves. But that works for me—that may not work for you.

MrBr00ks's avatar

I absolutely love Stephen King’s book. I read it this year, and it has made me a fan of his other works. Great, great book. I have read other how to write books because of the creative writing classes I have taken, but this one is my favorite.

give_seek's avatar

I’ll hop a ride on the Stephen King train. On Writing is one of my favorite books. I’ll also echo what others have said about style. The best is your own. It’s not about imitation, duplication, or following someone else’s. It’s about tapping into your own authentic voice. There’s no great writing traits that “a few greats” have that everyone else should use.

Find out what makes your writing wonderful/unique/compelling and cultivate that strength.

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