Friday, October 17, 2008

A little bit of Jack Hart

I just started Jack Hart's book on writing, and he mentioned Tom Hallman, the Oregonian's Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. So that's an excuse to link to some Hallman stuff like The Boy Behind the Mask and the classic Life of a Salesman, and to say that you won't be sorry if you read both of those stories right now, and to shed a little light on Hallman via Hart, the Oregonian's writing coach.

Years ago Hart posted drafts of Hallman stories online, as a way of shattering the idea that there's some kind of magic to great writing that allows people like Hallman to instantly write awesome stories while the rest of us stare slack-jawed and drooling and wondering how he did it and knowing we'll never find out.

"Tom's fellow journalists were astounded to see how far the story developed over the last three drafts he produced. They, too, had been victims of the writing mystique, assuming that someone of Tom's accomplishment would spin webs of gold the first time his fingers hit the keyboard. What they saw, instead, was a damned good writer hard at work, applying his method and honing his craft.
"Tom's first draft was just that, an initial run at the story that mixed great promise with plenty of disappointments. The second draft tied up loose ends, tweaked the structure, and sharpened the character development. The third polished the language, refined the imagery, and pushed through to the final level of excellence. Seeing that progression, one editor told me, was the most instructive lesson he'd ever had in newspaper writing."