I’m currently reading, for review, a fantasy novel which is chock-full of exciting and creative situations and ideas. But it’s turning into rough sledding because the author’s prose style has a hard time carrying the story.
Cardinal rule: Don’t let your writing get between your reader and the story.
Sentences must be crafted to flow smoothly. They ought to have a certain meter or rhythm–without, of course, being too obvious about it. In fact, your prose should be as unobtrusive as possible–unless you’re Ngaio Marsh or P.G. Wodehouse, and half the fun of reading you is the unexpected tricks you play with words.
A good rule of thumb is to read your work aloud, to yourself. If it’s hard to do this, there’s something wrong with your prose. You don’t want a start-and-stop, herky-jerky prose.
For fantasy writers only: if, like so many of us, you place your story in a medieval setting, for Pete’s sake, don’t start slinging around rubbish like “methinks” or “I wot not what he sayeth” or “I prithee.” I really hate “I prithee.” You must also make and keep a vow never to resort to current American slang.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, plain English is the way to go. It always does the job.
Forsooth, I wot not what serveth yon medieval jargon, and I prithee, let me suffer it no more!