Tone Deaf. And why reading is important for writers.

Oh man. This week has been busy. My freelance writing job has been increasing the amount of available work for me, and I’ve had no choice but to accept as much as I can. February and March were rough, so I need to catch up. The result is that I’m just so dang tired of writing after I’ve met my quota that I don’t feel like writing at all. I’ve actually missed two days of working on my fiction because of laziness. I share that because we all have down days. I’ll make up for it later, though. But this isn’t want I really wanted to talk about. Instead,  want to talk about what I call “tone.” And note here, that my definition of tone is a little different from textbook definitions (I don’t need your labels, man!)

Tone, for me is the feeling of the book. Some people call this “Mood” some people combine mood and tone with style to get what I’m defining. But the overall feeling of a book, both for my characters and readers, is what I describe as tone. For me as I’m writing, tone varies.  I’ll have an overarching tone that ties in to the theme of the book, but I’ll also deviate from this tone where appropriate. Again, note here that what I’m defining as tone is probably wrong, but hey, this is how I write, you know?

But I’ll always go back to the overarching tone. For me, tone ties into many parts of my book and could be likened to the string that binds everything together. Tone for me includes my pacing, which can easily affect what a person feels. It also includes the word choice I use and how I order particular words in a sentence. It also affects what my characters are going through and how they react to what’s going on. In short, tone, for me, is pretty important.

But how do you improve or build upon this concept that I’ve labeled as tone? Well, if you call yourself a writer, you’ve no doubt read a lot. At least, I hope so. I personally think the reading a person does can be in the past or ongoing, but the point is a lot of books have to have passed under your nose. Regardless of what definition you use for things like tone, style and mood, if you’ve read a lot of particularly good fiction, you understand tone.

It’s one of the benefits of reading a lot. I think reading a lot helps writers develop a kind of “sixth sense” when their own writing is concerned. For me, I’ll find passages in my books that just don’t feel right. Or are just weird. I won’t be able to explain it, but they are often weak points in my storytelling that need correcting. It might me small, like using too many words, or it  might be big, like atonal dissonance, but the point is reading helps writers identify parts of a book that work and parts that don’t without having to put too much thought into it. My definition of tone is one of those. I have confidence, that if you read a lot, you’ll start picking up on things like that. And if you’re not, then maybe you should add an hour or so of reading to your daily writing schedule. I find reading is also an excellent place to generate fresh ideas, and also make myself feel better about my writing when I read something stupid (Really? The only way to defeat the sword of darkness is with the sword of love?)

So, that’s it, really. That’s a little bit into how my mind works while writing. Will it translate to tons of sales and hundreds of thousands of sold books? We’ll see. If it does, I’ll revisit this topic. If not, well I’ll admite that too. After all, one of the reasons I’m here is to share my opinions on writing and see what other people think. And this is my opinion of tone and reading. I hope it helps.

🙂

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