While I was away, something…monumental happened. My blog was flamed for the first time. In a way, I guess it’s a good thing that this was the first negative comment to come through in the almost-year I’ve been writing here, but it stung all the same. However, in frantically reviewing the post in question(Things to Do in a Library) to see what the problem was, I realized that there were some things that could be misconstrued. The commenter had a point.
As such, I deleted the post, did some thinking, and am now sitting here, writing this. The post itself was only meant as humor, and I apologize to anyone I’ve offended. I value your readership, and intend to be significantly more careful in future. I would also like to reiterate that I am in fact still in high school. I have no expertise, no training, and no real business giving advice. But I’m doing it anyway–mostly to myself, as a way of organizing my thoughts and motivating myself to stay focused on my own writing–so don’t take anything I say too seriously.
In writing, there’s nothing more important than tone. Its importance is exactly the same on the page (or the screen) as it is in conversation. Perhaps more so. And unfortunately, it’s significantly easier to mess up when writing rather than talking. A phrase intended as sarcasm or humor can be taken seriously twice as easily through written words as when spoken, and it’s three times as hard to smooth things over. It doesn’t do either the writer or the reader any favors and generally results in an unpleasant experience for everyone. So, without further ado, here are the things I plan on doing to avoid further problems.
All those writing technique manuals have an excellent point. Every author has a unique tone, and the more varied range of tones you’ve experienced, the better equipped you are to skillfully form your own. By studying successful authors, you can see how to capture an emotion or a idea effectively. Without coming off as condescending when you meant to be welcoming, ingratiating when you try to commiserate, or purely stupid when you try to be funny. Better yet, don’t try to be anything. Except yourself, of course.
…your own work. Simple proof-reading. As important as we all know it is, it’s easy to forget about tone when you’re hunting for typos, working on deadline(AHHH! IT’S 1:00 AM AND I’VE GOT TO WORK IN THE MORNING! Now, where’s the publish button…?), or simply in a hurry.
Secondly, reading phrases that you have doubts about out loud is good. Try them out, put emphasis on different sections and see if any of the versions are…not so good.
3. Don’t Take It Too Seriously
It’s impossible to be perfect, especially in an area as subjective as writing. There will always be people who love your style and people who loathe it with every atom. Misunderstandings will still occur. Problems will still arise. Take the criticism and learn from it, but don’t sweat it. It’s not worth the time and tears(those are far better spent on those problem chapters of your novel), and there are far more productive things to do with your time.