Getting Your Writing To Flow, Part 5: Tone

This is part five in a five-part series.

The fifth installment in “Getting Your Writing to Flow” (in case you’ve missed them, here are parts one, two, three, and four) focuses on an issue that is at once more global and more local than any of the others we have covered. It’s tone, and it’s at the very heart of your work as a writer and of your writing’s flow. If your tone doesn’t work, your writing won’t work.

Tone is the writer’s emotional attitude toward the topic at hand. (In the case of fiction, it would be the speaker’s attitude, which the writer may or may not personally endorse.)

A writer’s tone is sometimes paralleled with a speaker’s tone of voice. However, a writer’s voice is something slightly different. A writer’s voice is analogous to a personality, which is consistent day-to-day and unique to that person.

I will use blogs to illustrate the difference between voice and tone. Each of your favorite blogs has a distinct voice that unifies all of the posts the blogger has written. Voice is a perspective, a way of looking at the world, and many times a blog is successful because many readers enjoy that writer’s unique take on life. Within a single successful blog, however, posts can have many different tones. Depending on the topic and the writer’s thoughts and feelings about it, the tone could be passionate, content, defiant, pleading, assertive or a thousand others.

Some tones will glue your readers to the page; others will drive them away. So, what do you need to consider to set the perfect tone for your topic? I’m glad you asked.

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Seek And Destroy Your Writing Style Enemies

 This is part four in the five-part series “Getting Your Writing To Flow.”

The previous entries in this series focused on ways that structure affects flow.  I provided tips for structuring sentences and paragraphs (both a paragraph’s topic/wrap-up sentence and its mid-paragraph details) to improve flow.  In this post, I’ll focus on the choices a writer makes about which words and phrases he or she uses to construct sentences: a writer’s style.

When writers get to a certain comfort level with their writing, they sometimes get into bad habits.  For these writers, writing has become a tool that they use without thinking rather than an exciting, fresh experience of expression.  When that happens – and I think it happens to all of us at some point – we stop consciously making decisions about how we put sentences together in the name of “getting it done.”

As a result, a writer’s style often slides from the clear, albeit simplistic, style of the novice to the inexact, tortuous style of the apprentice.  Not “one step forward, two steps back,” exactly – more like one step forward and one step sideways. 

The two undesirable aspects of style that we will consider today are vagueness and wordiness.  The following tips will help you reframe the way you think about sentence construction so you can seek and destroy vague and wordy phrasing.  (For a related post, check out On Removing Weakifiers.)

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We’re Back!

Hi, everyone —

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!  Some major winter weather put Writing Power on hold for the last 48 hours, but we are back.

So look forward to two posts today.  Thanks for your patience.

Cheers,

Loren — Writing Power

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A Quotation From Joseph Heller

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”

— Joseph Heller

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How To Make Your Paragraphs Flow

This is part three of a five-part series.

Thus far in our exploration of the phenomenon of “writing that flows,” we have been working at the sentence-to-sentence level of flow.  We have considered the importance of establishing continuity between sentences and presenting plenty of details.  Our overriding concern has been for what our readers will need rather than what we as writers want.

Today, we are going to consider paragraph-to-paragraph flow.  We’ll use the same perspective we used to create sentences that flow together – what does the reader need? – but we’ll be looking at the piece from a higher altitude.  The following tips will help you look at each paragraph from your reader’s perspective; they can dramatically increase your writing’s flow.

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Links To Love — February 10

   Enjoy this week’s links!

How to double your productivity (series) at Personal Development with The Positivity Blog – This is a solid collection of basic productivity advice.  I’m not saying it’s new information: you’ll find much of the same advice across a variety of personal development blogs.  However, it’s great to review this information in one clearly organized place.  As a bonus, this blog has a nice, congenial tone that makes it a pleasure to read overall.

50 Ways You Can Be The Change: one of the bedrock posts at http://www.wethechange.com/.  I love the way We The Change puts a conscious living/environmentally aware spin on the personal development niche.  I hope you’ll check it out.

How to Cope with More of Those Pesky Distractions – Lifehack.org  Distractions and procrastination: the bane of every aspiring writer’s existence.  This amusing and helpful post breaks distractions down into six levels, each of which requires a different strategy to overcome.  The post can apply to any work-related situation where distractions plague you, but it seems well suited for defending designated writing time.

The Simple Dollar » Little Steps: 100 Great Tips For Saving Money For Those Just Getting Started  Personal finance is indeed outside this blog’s purview, but good writing isn’t.  This post is a great example of audience-driven writing.  It is also detailed and organized, two things we’ve been thinking about at Writing Power a lot recently.

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A Quotation From F. L. Lucas

“And how is clarity to be achieved? Mainly by taking trouble; and by writing to serve people rather than to impress them.”

— F. L. Lucas, Style (London: Cassell, 1955), p. 76.

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Getting Your Writing To Flow, Part 2: Details

This is part two of a five-part series.

In the previous article, I began a detailed examination of what makes writing flow. The most important thing to understand about flow is that it results from looking at your writing from your reader’s perspective.

This exhortation – to look at things from the reader’s perspective rather than your own – seems obvious to the point of truism. By definition, writers write and readers read. Thus, if you’re writing at all, you’re writing for readers, right? Wrong.

The default position for a writer is writing for himself or herself. It can be an uncomfortable process akin to an out-of-body experience to pull yourself out of your own perspective and look at things from your reader’s viewpoint. The more you try to do it, however, the more flexible your perspective will become.

How do details contribute to flow? Providing an appropriate amount of detail helps to clarify the conceptual ligatures that bind your writing together.

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Getting Your Writing To Flow, Part 1

This is part one of a five-part series.

“Flow” is an interesting concept. Among productivity gurus, “flow” most often refers to that elusive sweet spot within work where you’re getting things done with maximum efficiency and effectiveness. People used to call this state of work nirvana “the zone,” as in “I’m in the zone today; I have knocked out five projects already, and it’s only 1:30.”

But now, it’s all about flow: you need look no further than Csikszentmihalyi’s book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience for evidence.

Among writers, flow has been a sought-after concept for a long time. Flow is simultaneously easy to recognize and difficult to define. It is universally desired but too often achieved by happenstance. When I ask a group of students how they approach academic writing, at least one person usually says, “I like to read my paper over again after I’ve finished writing it to make sure it flows and to catch errors.” It’s as if in their minds the term “flow” represents the apotheosis of all good qualities that they want their papers to have. And actually, I quite agree with them: flow is the hallmark of good writing, and the hallmark of a good writer is attention to flow.

So what is flow, and how can we achieve it?

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Writing As Personal Development

I have been thinking a lot recently about the intersection between writing and personal development. How does writing influence personal development, and what is there to gain by thinking about them together?

What I have concluded so far is that writing is a form of personal development. Writing helps you evolve toward being a better person, even if you’re not writing about enhancing your sense of self, goals, or life direction.

Personal development is a side effect of writing regularly. Of course, “personal development” encompasses much more than writing. However, if your goal is to write better, you’ll find that you become more reflective and more conscious as you focus on – and work toward – that goal.

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