What is the tone of your piece of writing: what type of mood are trying to create? Are you writing a light and humorous story? Is it thrilling? Dark and moody?
I have read various comments from agents and publishers and among some of their comments was the fact that the "tone was off."
Tone is one of those abstract concepts. It's not like grammar or even plot structure where there are clear rules or guidelines to follow. The tone of your writing can be "off" through how you write your dialogue and descriptions.
For example, I am reading an e-book right now. It's dystopian. I think the author is trying to go for a dark and tension-filled mood based on what the book is about, but many times I feel taken out of the piece because of her choice of dialogue. It doesn't seem to fit with the mood she is trying to create.
The main character can at times seem overly light and the dialogue is a bit cheesy at points. To me, this underminds the mood. I'm not saying there can't be some humorous points in a serious piece, but when it's continuously laced throughout it can throw the tone" off."
I encounter this with my writing too. When I did the first read-through of one of my recent pieces the tone didn't work. Do you ever encounter that 'je ne sais quoi' in your writing? That abstract tone that is either working or not?