Toning Up Your Novel

bigstock_Nine_Vector_Smilies_5512848When I was the editorial director over nine very different publications at the same time, I had to be keenly aware of the audience, tone, slant, and style of each article for all the various publications. One magazine was for pastors; another for single parents, and yet another for empty nesters. One newsletter was for new parents; another for parents of teens. One was for parents of tweens; another for parents of grade-schoolers. Each article for each magazine or newsletter needed a tone that would meet the needs of the audience and speak to them in a appropriate way.

But what is “tone”? As a language arts teacher for grades four through eight and later as an editor for more than a dozen years, I had to assess the tone of thousands of manuscripts that crossed my desk. As a conference speaker and writing coach, I’ve had to critique hundreds of writing samples and instantly give my thoughts.

Basically, “tone” is the author’s attitude toward the subject of the article or story. Is the tone of your writing happy, sad, fearful, angry, serious, humorous, pessimistic, optimistic? You can use just about any adjective you can think of—anxious, depressed, elated, euphoric. The tone of your writing creates the mood that the reader feels as he or she reads your work. Remember when your mom said, “change that tone, young lady!” when you were disrespectful? Your tone created a mood for your mom, and it wasn’t a good one!

In my first novel, The Fabric of Hope, several characters struggled with seeing their futures through a lens of hope, as I did years ago. Although the tone somewhat reflects what I experienced when I went through a traumatic divorce—a tone of feeling anxious and even fearful at times—hope finally triumphs as God helps the characters overcomes the challenges of life. Redemption is evident, and readers can journey through that change and learn how faithful God is.

How does the tone of your writing reflect your life? I’d love to know!



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