After a recent conversation with a writer/editor/journalist friend, and having spent much of the past two days proof-reading an 80p technical product catalogue, I am reminded of the benefits of keeping a style guide — even as a novelist. Particularly when one is writing fantasy.
Style guides are used to maintain consistency across a publication. For example, if only the author(s) of the catalogue I’ve been proofing had decided up front on how to express compound words such as ‘infra-red’ (as opposed to ‘infrared’ or ‘infra red’). It’s of particular benefit where there are multiple authors, who each might be predisposed to choose a different version over one of the others.
I’ve been keeping a style guide for my fantasy novel, although perhaps not as diligently as I might. This is because I’m forever making up words and I need to remember how to spell them, especially where they are compound and I may not recall whether I used a hyphen or not . . . or whether, for example, I capitalise the made-up word or not. Because I’m the sole author of the piece, most of the other potential variables are ironed-out by my own habits — but not always!
Novels are large, messy beasts, and if they are written over a long period of time it is possible (some might argue probable) that some of the finer details get lost in the broader picture. I figure that any available tool that could help with consistency — to save the poor editor and/or proof-reader some valuable time — is a tool worth implementing.