Tom Foster is a professional freelance writer/editor/proofreader and novelist that has been an active writer for 17+ years.
Here are 5 reasons why hack writing is as important as quality writing.
5. Hack writing gets to the meat of the story/article without as much prose.
Prose is great when one wants to use flowery words and describe an object, a setting, a person, or even a feeling for pages on end. There are many great authors that are highly capable of this and make use of the style in many of their writings. The trouble is that prose can often lose the intended audience, even those that happen to love the style. The trick is to know how to balance a story so that certain moments are slow, meaningful, and yet pregnant with the possibilities of what might happen at any moment.
Hack writers tend to take full advantage of this when it comes to gaining the audience's attention and keeping it for a long period of time. The average hack writer will know when to inject an action scene and when to draw out a bit of dialogue so that people can catch their breath.
Being 'action-packed' doesn't necessarily mean that a story needs to be filled with jump scares, action sequences, and tense moments that are made to keep an audience on their toes. Hack writers won't keep people on edge every page. They'll keep a person ready and fully anticipating that the action could pop off at any moment.
But the wise hack writer will realize that they need to get to the most pertinent points of the story in a manner that will bypass the flowery speech and abundance of description by showing the reader what they need to see and telling them that yes, this is happening, so buckle up and strap in.
Hack writers are typically more interested in getting to the 'good parts' of the story and will end up pushing things along by negating a lot of the description that many 'quality writers' will end up focusing on. This might not be well regarded at times, but it's a style that gets quick results.
4. This style of writing is looser and much easier to read.
Quality writing and hack writing both have their virtues and their vices, especially given that both styles are equally enjoyed at times. But the reality is that quality writing will often resort to using longer words that are meant to confuse and somehow intimidate the reader into thinking that the writer knows a little more than they do and will give the piece of writing the feel of being intellectual and deep, along with a level of importance that, in some ways, hack writing can't really compete with.
But the truth is that hack writing is often simple, to the point, and might even use the same words in a manner that's almost mocking when compared to quality writing.
Hack writers aren't going to worry too much about sounding intellectual since there's far more cunning in this style, and it's all about hooking the reader and getting them excited to keep reading—not necessarily because the writing is that great and carries a strong, well-ordered structure, but because it's entertaining and might speak to them in a different manner. The type of voice often used in hack writing is essentially that of a snake oil salesman promising one thing and delivering another, but with the twist that a hack writer promises nothing and gives a fun story to enjoy.
Too often it's thought that hack writing is best left to those who are great at writing the colorful, sensationalist tripe that is considered a low to medium style of writing. But here's the truth: Writing is writing, no matter what style it is. If you want one bit of advice that you can stick in your pocket and take with you, that's it.
A hack writer isn't a moron; let's get that straight. Anyone that has the gumption to create a story, write an article, or create an original piece of work that's legible and can grip the attention of the reader is someone that could be worth the words they're putting on the page. Just because a writer dishes out a story that's easy to read, easy to understand, and doesn't deal with anything too deep or too descriptive doesn't mean that their writing is worth any less. Hack writing is meant to be easier to read, and it's definitely bound to give people what they want—and plenty of it.
3. Hack writing can tug at the emotions in a quicker and more effective manner.
One thing that any writer wants to do when writing is to reach their audience in one way or another and find a way to get people to care about what they're writing. The trick that any author must learn is how to grip the emotions of the reader and either rock them, pander to them, and care for them, or shock and titillate them. One of the greatest parts about being a writer, as I've found, is being able to provoke an emotional response from a reader. It's not the hardest thing in a world, provided that one knows their readers and what they want, and what will 'get their goat' so to speak.
A hack writer, vulgar as that term sounds at times, isn't going to mess around when comes to punching a person in the feels and letting them know what they're all about. You can interpret that in any way that you'd like, but the fact is that a hack writer is paid to put words on the page and get them out as quickly as possible sometimes.
If a person doesn't like what a hack writer is doing then so be it, there are thousands of other articles and pieces to read out there, but the hack writer is going to be producing a lot of them since this is a style that's typically more to the point and will end up outpacing quality writing.
2. It's much easier for beginning writers to fall into this style and build a reputation.
In the world of writing, which is insanely competitive, it's important to know when to say what you have on your mind and when to lay back in the cut and see what others are doing so that you can find an easier flow to go with. Hack writers are professionals, but once upon a time they were also beginners just like everyone else.
The point here is that hack writing is one of the easier forms to get into since it doesn't require the refined sense of taste or touch that comes with writing and allows a person to simply dive into an idea and run with it in every which way possible until a clear path opens up that can drive the writing and allow it to be easily understood. Some might think that's a haphazard way of going about it, but the truth is that a lot of us have banged away on the keys for years at a time and know very well that what we have to say isn't going to come out perfect every time.
Even those who have been writing for years on end now and have seen, done, and experienced many different forms in their time will make mistakes now and then. Some writers might not want to admit that they've done a bit of hack writing in their time, but the truth is that sooner or later, all of us practice hack writing as either a habit, or as a way to survive. One way or another, hack writing, while it might be considered a lower form of writing to some, is a great survival skill to learn in this particular jungle.
1. Hack writing is fun and not nearly as demanding.
If you have a passion for writing then you're bound to understand what it means to do anything you can to keep that passion and fan the fire of that love for the written word. Without that, well, there's not much point to writing since after a while it can become kind of boring and droll. It's true that this passion doesn't suit everyone since writing does take a while, and if you can't fall into what you're doing and enjoy it, then the act becomes more work and less passion. But here's the fun part: writing is different for every writer.
You can be a 'quality writer' and still have passion and you can be a 'hack writer' and still have passion. There isn't one way to enjoy writing since everyone approaches this craft in their own way and are entitled to do so. Sure, there are rules and conventions that every writer needs to follow and flouting those rules isn't that great of an idea. But when all is said and done, hack writing is just as important as anything in this profession for one simple reason: it's part of the foundation of writing.
My advice to you is this, as a writer, an editor, and a human being: If you're passionate about writing, you'll find your voice. But hack writing is one of the simplest ways to get into this business, and if you're smart, you'll use it as a way to step into the craft. From there, it's your choice what direction you take. But make it the right one for you.