Voiceworks is eager to read more nonfiction submissions. As we say on our Contribute page, we get far more people sending us fiction and poetry than nonfiction. This means we want to read more nonfiction, and that frankly your odds of publication are better if you send us some, but it also means we’re able to spend more time working with you, both before and after selection.
We encourage you to pitch your pieces to us before writing them, especially if you’re not sure if your piece is appropriate, or what you want to do with it. Pitching is our chance to help you out before you submit. We have a guideline for how to construct your pitch at the bottom of the page, but before you get pitching we recommend reading the information below on how to write good nonfiction for Voiceworks.
What we want
The best way to get an idea of the sort of nonfiction we’re after is to read what we’ve published in the past. We tend to publish literary or creative nonfiction, which can come in a wide variety of forms, such as well-researched articles, memoir, funny pieces, narrative pieces, biographical pieces, or those that skirt between fiction and nonfiction, and so on.
Having said that, keep in mind that maybe one of the reasons we never published any X was because we never received any X. So don’t be afraid to experiment, or just ask us whether we’d be interested. We’re unlikely to publish a piece that covers the same topic as a piece we’ve published recently. What haven’t you read about yet? What interests you? Above all, we want nonfiction that is curious.
Generally speaking, our favourite submissions have:
Insight can come in the form of a unique experience or perspective, expert knowledge on a topic, or a keen interest in researching something. Why are you interested in this topic and why are you the right person to write on it?
- A strong angle
You need a ‘hook’ that sets your piece apart from other articles on the same topic. We want more than just reportage and rhetorical questions. The key question to ask yourself: am I bringing something new to the conversation?
- A deep engagement with the subject
Your piece needs a specific focus, supporting research and recognition of complicating factors. We prefer pieces that interrogate a narrow focus deeply over those that tackle broad topics—the more specific you can be the better. If you’re writing an article or any kind of persuasive piece, it’s hugely important to back up your arguments with evidence—the more research you do the more we will love you forever.
- A compelling sense of relevancy to our readership
Make sure your reader has a reason to invest in the topic. It’s important to avoid unsupported statements and to balance internal/ personal experiences within the wider cultural conversation. Remember that you are writing for an audience—why should they be interested in what you are writing about?
What we don’t want
We don’t really publish reviews or straight-up journalism, unless it’s on something really interesting and unique. There’s a three-month lag time between accepting submissions and publication, so by the time the issue goes to print, a very timely or topical piece is probably out of date. We also urge not to send us your uni essays.
Some good advice
If you have a subject, but don’t know how to go beyond the thing itself, ask yourself why you want to write about the topic and what your relationship with it is (and be honest with yourself). Chances are you have a personal investment or genuine interest in the topic, which is perfect, but you need to harness that—write towards it. This honesty comes through in the best pieces, not necessarily by adding personal reflection (in fact, we prefer less focus on personal reflection), but in the writer figuring out and honing in on a very specific thing that they’re interested in, then really getting stuck into what they’re writing about.
How to pitch to Voiceworks
The best pitches include detail! Clearly lay out your angle and argument, and provide specific examples of the research and anecdotes you’ll draw upon. Submit a document addressing the questions below, along with a 300-word sample from the start of the piece if you have one.
Things to ask yourself either way:
- What is your key point or argument?
- What is your particular angle to take?
- What is the logical and structural progression of your piece?
- Why are you the person to write this piece? Personal experience, willingness to research, etc.
- If you need evidence, where did you get it from? What research have you conducted?
- Why Voiceworks?
- How long is the piece going to be?
You don’t have to know all these answers, but it should get you thinking about your piece thoroughly. None of this is a totally prescriptive guide—we want to give you direction and encouragement, not to close off the possibility of writing nonfiction for us.
What happens if your pitch is selected
If we think the work you pitched would be a good fit for Voiceworks, we will (ideally) get in touch around two weeks after the pitch deadline. We’ll provide advice and direction on how to approach the piece, and request a full draft to be submitted around three weeks later. This isn’t very much time! Because of the tight turnaround, we prefer pitches that demonstrate some prior research, preparation and thought, so that you’re not scrambling to research and write an entire piece from scratch in a matter of weeks. Just to be clear, the full drafts we request are not guaranteed publication, but responding to our suggestions early on gives your piece the best possible chance.
If you have any questions about the nonfiction process, please contact Voiceworks editor Lucy Adams.
We look forward to hearing from you and reading your work!