Sunday, July 20, 2008

On Being a Hack

By Vikki Perry

I’m a hack: a writer of poorly formed sentences, underdeveloped characters, and plots that make very little, if any, sense. I admit it and accept it. This is a problem I face each time I put pen to paper or open a document on my laptop.

What does it mean to be a hack? I think being a hack is a little like being an addict--you can’t do anything about it until you admit you have a problem. Unfortunately, there are no “Hacks Anonymous” groups to help writers overcome this problem. The good news is that there are some things a writer can do to conquer this issue.

Write and revise. Accept yourself as you are, and let yourself write a really bad first draft. Spending a lot of time trying to write a perfect first draft is counterproductive for me. I find that I never complete anything if I worry about getting it right the first time around. Revision is the place where I fix the bad writing. I bet it will work for you, too.

Read books about craft. There are many books on craft out there and each one has a nugget or two of wisdom to impart. I’ve learned things from those books that I would have never learned on my own.

Join a professional organization. I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America) back in March, but if you’re not a romance writer, there is probably another organization out there for you. RWA offers online courses on craft and a monthly seminar at their meetings. I’m sure other professional organizations offer similar things.

Join a critique group. Last, but certainly not least, join a critique group like the South Carolina Writers Workshop. I have learned so much from bringing my work to be critiqued and from listening to others being critiqued. Everybody in the group brings something different to the table, and I’ve found the diverse opinions to be valuable when trying to improve my own writing.

What do you guys do to improve your writing?


WritePersona said...

Good ideas! One thing I do is set aside the story I'm working on and start something else. After a month or so, I go back to it. Then I see flaws I missed before.

Ginny said...

Hack does not come to mind when I think of you, Vikki. And I agree with Bonnie's revision technique. Ususally I can't believe the drivel I wrote thinking it was really good at the time I wrote it. :-)

purpleprose 78 said...

We're all hacks when we write our first draft. :) Show me someone that can write a nearly perfect first draft and well, I promise to hate them forever.