Hack writer
Encyclopedia
Hack writer is a colloquial and usually pejorative
Pejorative
Pejoratives , including name slurs, are words or grammatical forms that connote negativity and express contempt or distaste. A term can be regarded as pejorative in some social groups but not in others, e.g., hacker is a term used for computer criminals as well as quick and clever computer experts...

 term used to refer to a writer
Writer
A writer is a person who produces literature, such as novels, short stories, plays, screenplays, poetry, or other literary art. Skilled writers are able to use language to portray ideas and images....

 who is paid to write low-quality, rushed articles or books "to order", often with a short deadline. In a fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

-writing context, the term is used to describe writers who are paid to churn out sensational, lower-quality "pulp" fiction such as "true crime
True crime
True crime is a non-fiction literary and film genre in which the author examines an actual crime and details the actions of real people.The crimes most commonly include murder, but true crime works have also touched on other legal cases. Depending on the writer, true crime can adhere strictly to...

" novels or "bodice ripping
Romance novel
The romance novel is a literary genre developed in Western culture, mainly in English-speaking countries. Novels in this genre place their primary focus on the relationship and romantic love between two people, and must have an "emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending." Through the late...

" paperbacks. In journalism
Journalism
Journalism is the practice of investigation and reporting of events, issues and trends to a broad audience in a timely fashion. Though there are many variations of journalism, the ideal is to inform the intended audience. Along with covering organizations and institutions such as government and...

, the term is used to describe a writer who is deemed to operate as a "mercenary
Mercenary
A mercenary, is a person who takes part in an armed conflict based on the promise of material compensation rather than having a direct interest in, or a legal obligation to, the conflict itself. A non-conscript professional member of a regular army is not considered to be a mercenary although he...

" or "pen for hire", expressing their client's political opinions in pamphlet
Pamphlet
A pamphlet is an unbound booklet . It may consist of a single sheet of paper that is printed on both sides and folded in half, in thirds, or in fourths , or it may consist of a few pages that are folded in half and saddle stapled at the crease to make a simple book...

s or newspaper
Newspaper
A newspaper is a scheduled publication containing news of current events, informative articles, diverse features and advertising. It usually is printed on relatively inexpensive, low-grade paper such as newsprint. By 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a...

 articles. So-called "hack writers" are usually paid by the number of words in their book or article; as a result, hack writing has a reputation for quantity taking precedence over quality.

History

The term "hack writer" was first used in the 18th century, "when publishing was establishing itself as a business employing writers who could produce to order." The derivation of the term "hack" was a "shortening of hackney
Hackney (horse)
The Hackney Horse is a recognized breed of horse that was developed in Great Britain. In recent decades, the breeding of the Hackney has been directed toward producing horses that are ideal for carriage driving. They are an elegant high stepping breed of carriage horse that is popular for showing...

, which described a horse that was easy to ride and available for hire." In 1728, Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

 wrote The Dunciad
The Dunciad
The Dunciad is a landmark literary satire by Alexander Pope published in three different versions at different times. The first version was published in 1728 anonymously. The second version, the Dunciad Variorum was published anonymously in 1729. The New Dunciad, in four books and with a...

, which was a satire of "the Grub-street Race" of commercial writers who worked in Grub Street
Grub Street
Until the early 19th century, Grub Street was a street close to London's impoverished Moorfields district that ran from Fore Street east of St Giles-without-Cripplegate north to Chiswell Street...

, a London district that was home to a bohemian
Bohemianism
Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic or literary pursuits...

 counterculture of impoverished writers and poets. In the late 19th century, Anthony Trollope
Anthony Trollope
Anthony Trollope was one of the most successful, prolific and respected English novelists of the Victorian era. Some of his best-loved works, collectively known as the Chronicles of Barsetshire, revolve around the imaginary county of Barsetshire...

's novel The Way We Live Now
The Way We Live Now
The Way We Live Now is a satirical novel published in London in 1875 by Anthony Trollope, after a popular serialisation. In 1872 Trollope returned to England from abroad and was appalled by the greed which was loose in the land. His scolding rebuke was his longest novel.Containing over a hundred...

(1875) depicts a female hack writer whose career was built on social connections rather than writing skill.

Many authors who would later become famous worked as low-paid hack writers early in their careers, or during a downturn in their fortunes. As a young man, Anton Chekhov
Anton Chekhov
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov was a Russian physician, dramatist and author who is considered to be among the greatest writers of short stories in history. His career as a dramatist produced four classics and his best short stories are held in high esteem by writers and critics...

 had to support his family by writing short newspaper articles; Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler CBE was a Hungarian author and journalist. Koestler was born in Budapest and, apart from his early school years, was educated in Austria...

  penned a dubious Dictionary of Sexuality for the popular press; Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.Beckett is widely regarded as among the most...

 translated for the French Reader's Digest
Reader's Digest
Reader's Digest is a general interest family magazine, published ten times annually. Formerly based in Chappaqua, New York, its headquarters is now in New York City. It was founded in 1922, by DeWitt Wallace and Lila Bell Wallace...

; and William Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

 churned out Hollywood scripts.

A number of films have depicted hack writers, perhaps because the way these authors are "prostituting" their creative talents makes them an interesting character study. In the film adaptation of Carol Reed
Carol Reed
Sir Carol Reed was an English film director best known for Odd Man Out , The Fallen Idol , The Third Man and Oliver!...

's The Third Man
The Third Man
The Third Man is a 1949 British film noir, directed by Carol Reed and starring Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli, Orson Welles, and Trevor Howard. Many critics rank it as a masterpiece, particularly remembered for its atmospheric cinematography, performances, and unique musical score...

(1949), author Graham Greene
Graham Greene
Henry Graham Greene, OM, CH was an English author, playwright and literary critic. His works explore the ambivalent moral and political issues of the modern world...

 added a hard-drinking hack writer named Holly Martins. In Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard
Jean-Luc Godard is a French-Swiss film director, screenwriter and film critic. He is often identified with the 1960s French film movement, French Nouvelle Vague, or "New Wave"....

's film Contempt
Contempt (film)
Contempt is a 1963 film directed by Jean-Luc Godard, based on the Italian novel Il disprezzo by Alberto Moravia. It stars Brigitte Bardot.-Plot:...

(1964), a hack screenwriter is paid to doctor a script. In the 2002 film Adaptation.
Adaptation.
Adaptation. is a 2002 American comedy-drama film directed by Spike Jonze and written by Charlie Kaufman. The film is based on Susan Orlean's non-fiction book The Orchid Thief through self-referential events...

, Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage
Nicolas Cage is an American actor, producer and director, having appeared in over 60 films including Raising Arizona , The Rock , Face/Off , Gone in 60 Seconds , Adaptation , National Treasure , Ghost Rider , Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans , and...

 depicts an ill-educated character named Donald Kaufman who finds he has a knack for churning out clich√©-filled movie scripts.

Current usage

The term "hack" has been adopted by UK journalist
Journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

s as a form of humorous, self-deprecating self-description. The term was popularized in the UK by Private Eye
Private Eye
Private Eye is a fortnightly British satirical and current affairs magazine, edited by Ian Hislop.Since its first publication in 1961, Private Eye has been a prominent critic and lampooner of public figures and entities that it deemed guilty of any of the sins of incompetence, inefficiency,...

magazine, which refers to male journalists as "hacks" and female journalists as "hackettes".

See also

  • Ghostwriter
    Ghostwriter
    A ghostwriter is a professional writer who is paid to write books, articles, stories, reports, or other texts that are officially credited to another person. Celebrities, executives, and political leaders often hire ghostwriters to draft or edit autobiographies, magazine articles, or other written...

    , a writer who is paid to write books or articles that are credited to another person
  • Essay mill
    Essay mill
    An essay mill is a ghostwriting service that sells essays and other homework writing to university and college students. Since plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty or academic fraud, universities and colleges may investigate papers suspected to be from an essay mill by using Internet...

    , a ghostwriting service that provides university students with essays and term papers for a fee
  • Churnalism
    Churnalism
    Churnalism is a form of journalism in which press releases, wire stories and other forms of pre-packaged material are used to create articles in newspapers and other news media in order to meet increasing pressures of time and cost without undertaking further research or checking.-Prevalence:In his...

  • Content farm
    Content farm
    In the context of the World Wide Web, the term content farm is used to describe a company that employs large numbers of often freelance writers to generate large amounts of textual content which is specifically designed to satisfy algorithms for maximal retrieval by automated search engines...

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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