Like I say at my website, a good freelance writer should not only march to the beat of a different drummer but should in fact BE that different drummer.
This advice makes sense only if you recognize that you, as a freelance writer, make music with your words.
OK, wait. Let me clarify that. You make music, yes, but not a melody. The music you make with your writing is purely rhythmic.
It’s my opinion that words are a type of percussion instrument. There is a beat that sounds out as a word is read or spoken. When you string words together they form a rhythmic pattern.
If you string the right words together the right way, the rhythmic pattern is pleasing to the brain.
If you string the wrong words together (or string the right words together but in the wrong way), the resultant rhythmic pattern is unpleasant.
So, basically, a good freelance writer is like a drummer.
A drummer uses sticks to strike the drums (and cymbals) to produce a pleasing rhythmic pattern. A good freelance writer uses words the same way – and to the same effect.
It’s important that you, as a freelance writer, think of yourself as a musician of sorts because readers and listeners get thrilled being immersed in words that rock. Indeed, the more the words rock, the more immersed the audience becomes.
This is why I’ve counseled freelance writers who want to be really good at their craft to forget about learning the difference between a preposition and a participle and instead concentrate on learning the difference between a paradiddle and a pataflafla.
RUDIMENTARY DRUM BEATS
Paradiddle and pataflafla are rudimentary types of drum beats. People who take drum lessons learn to do paradiddles and pataflaflas not long after they learn the proper way to hold a set of drumsticks.
I learned how to execute a paradiddle and a pataflafla when I was a kid (that’s when I took drum lessons). I never played drums professionally, but I do like to jam a little to recorded music every now and again to keep my skills intact.
However, one thing drum lessons did is they gave me a strong appreciation for the music that words make. That appreciation has practical application in that it gives me an ear for how a sentence, a paragraph, and entire story should be constructed in order to maximize reader or listener engagement.
Engagement is key. Engagement is the name of the game these days because your clients – the editors and companies that retain you – want you to give them writing that audiences will truly dig.
You can go a long way toward satisfying their wants if you think of yourself not just as a wordsmith but also as a drummer.
HERE’S WHAT TO DO, FREELANCER
After you write a sentence or a complete graf, go back and read it over to yourself. As you do, try to hear the beat those word strings are making.
You know you’ve got a potentially great sentence or graf if you like the way the beat grabs you. It’s probably a piece of smokin’-hot prose if it has a pulsating feel to it.
Bottom line: a good freelance writer has an ear for the rhythms that words make and knows how to string those words together in a way that will get audiences dancing to the tune being played.