Guide to Being Edited

Voiceworks is excited and proud to be the first place of publication for many talented young writers and artists. Every quarter the strength, daring and damn fine writing of under-25s has been the beating heart of our magazine. We simply wouldn’t have it any other way.

To make sure that we publish the very best of what you are capable of, the editorial committee edits all selected submissions with their writer. This isn’t just a chance to get paid for putting pen to paper, but also a hugely valuable learning experience. Becoming a successful writer is not only about learning your craft, but also how to be edited.

And that’s no bad thing! The editorial process is about more than finding typos—it’s a chance to develop your ideas, clarify logic and reinforce structure to make your writing as good as it can be before we distribute it ’round the country.

Having said all that, there are a few things the Voiceworks crew would love you to keep in mind after that heady moment of acceptance into the magazine.

Engage with your editor

This might seem strange or scary for first-timers, but the editorial process at its best is really a discussion. While there will generally be a number of changes we’d like to make, or elements we’d like to flesh out this is still your work. Not ours. Yours. You know it best and you know what you want to communicate with it. Talk to us about it—we’re already curious.

Justify your changes

Everyone on the editorial committee is very careful to explain why they want to make their changes and what they hope to achieve in doing so. Editing is a much richer and rewarding experience when the writer does this as well. This will also make you think more deeply about what you want to do and how, which is ace.

Address changes within your manuscript

Your editor will be asking you a lot of questions throughout the editorial process, generally to do with clarity, characterisation, tone, voice and consistency. Feel free to communicate with them in emails and comments on the document, but also make sure you attend to their queries in the document itself. Remember that when publication is the end goal, you are writing for an audience. Working with an editor is the best way to draw out what needs to be made clearer and to ensure that the writing speaks confidently for itself.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

While it is super tempting to continue working on a piece after it has been selected, this quickly muddies the editorial process. Avoid making unsolicited changes or additions to your work, and be sure to clearly mark substantial changes if you do make them.

Confirmation email and punctuality

As a courtesy, please send your editor an email ASAP confirming that you’ve received their first edit and that you’re on board. While Voiceworks is quarterly, with a longer production cycle than some other publications, we’re still run off our feet most of the time. This means that deadlines for your responses are negotiable but important. Also, let your editor know straight away if you will be unable to meet a previously agreed upon deadline so that we can work a new deadline into our schedule and avoid big problems later on.

Read Voiceworks

If the Editorial Committee has selected your work for publication, that means we are excited about it and we want lots of other people to read it too. This is how we feel about everything we publish! We think we make a really good magazine and we strongly encourage you to read the issues that your own writing does not appear in. Support from readers, through subscriptions, purchasing single issues, or even requesting Voiceworks from your local or school library, helps us to continue providing these opportunities to young Australian writers. Plus, reading Voiceworks will also give you a better idea about house style, what we’ve published in the past, and what has been missing in our pages. Handy!

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Guide to Digital Writing

Voiceworks online publishes all kinds of cool stuff that can’t be printed on the page (or that can’t be printed within our small printing budget). This includes interactive fiction, hypertext writing, code poetry, bots and generative text works, writing with sound or video elements, full-colour comics or comics with animated elements, and so much more! We are keen to provide a space for young makers of digital work to get published and for young writers curious about digital work to learn to make their own. To help you out, our online editors have put together this handy guide to digital writing!

Getting Started

  • Familiarise yourself with experimental online writing. The wackier, the weirder, the more exhilarating and genre-bending… the better! The best way to get a sense of what kinds of things we’re interested in publishing is to read what we’ve published so far, or to check out some of our favourite digital writing below:

  • If you’re daunted by the prospect of developing a digital work on your own, consider collaborating with another writer/illustrator/technologist.

  • Digital works come in all shapes and sizes, and the internet is full of inspirational examples of what is possible in interactive forms. If you find work doing something technical you haven’t seen before, make sure you bookmark it so you can refer to its code if necessary!

  • Experiment with different forms, styles and arrangement of work. Brainstorm the most engaging ways to attract a digital readership.

  • Some interactive works stem from a particular interactive structure, others a base narrative idea or theme. However you start, think about how interactivity may inform narrative and vice versa.

The Big Questions

  • Why is an experimental, online platform the best home for your work? How can it be showcased best through digital formatting?

  • What sort of reader, viewer or listener do you have in mind when considering your target audience?

Drafting, Coding and Pitching

  • If you are unsure of how best to code your work (or even what that means), don’t hold back from pitching us tangible ideas that we can help bring to life!

  • There are plenty of tools and tutorials for making digital-based work without extensive coding know-how. Some of our favorites include Twine for making interactive fiction, Tracery for making bots, and P5.js for making animated/interactive poetry.

  • If your work involves a program of some sorts, have you tested to ensure everything works? It’s worth testing each possible path the reader could take through your work, especially if it has branching or circular paths. For smaller works, drawing a tree diagram on paper to map out each potential path can help.

  • Remember: if you have an idea for a piece but we’ve never published something like it before, that doesn’t mean we aren’t interested! We’re just getting started with online publishing, so it’s likely we simply haven’t had anyone pitch us an idea like yours yet. We are keen for you to pitch us all your wild ideas!

Submitting Your Work

  • Proofread! We want to see your work at its best. Also, there are few things more embarrassing than finding an awkward tpyo or misplaced a’postrophe just after you’ve hit ‘send’.

  • Read and reread the submissions guidelines and make sure you’ve ticked off all the requirements. This helps keep everything running smoothly on our end so that we can get a response to you as fast as possible.

  • If it can be printed on a page, perhaps Voiceworks online is not the best platform for your work. We want weird, wonderful, electric, moveable, transportable, and three-dimensional (in more ways than one). For printable work, we encourage you to submit to our physical magazine.

Ok, it’s time to send us your work! Head here to read the submission guidelines and access our submissions page.

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Guide to Pitching Comics

Voiceworks is eager to see comics submitted and to work with new comics artists. Many people think of Voiceworks as a place to publish (very good) writing, which is totally true—but we want to publish more visual art and comics too!

The best way to make sure your comic is suited to Voiceworks is to flip through some past issues of the mag. Some examples of comics artists we love (and who have previously been published in Voiceworks) are:

Before sending us your work, please keep in mind we print in two colours only, so we will need all final images in greyscale, and our page dimensions are 170 x 245 mm—use this space wisely. Please supply your images at actual size and 300dpi.

As comics are a hybrid of narrative and art, we feel it’s a genre that greatly benefits from a pitching process. It’s totally a-okay to send us completed work, but pitching ensures you don’t commit heaps of time to a multi-page comic that may end up not suiting Voiceworks. It also provides an opportunity to workshop ideas and approaches that (hopefully!) will then result in a more fully developed and refined piece of work. While we are not able to guarantee publication to all artists that go through the pitching process, as with nonfiction pitches, this approach gives submitters the best possible chance. Regardless, at the end you will have a polished comic to be proud of.

So, we reckon it should go something like this:

  1. Submit a document containing a visually descriptive, basic idea. This should include a rough script and/or thumbnails, and intended number of pages. We tend not to publish comics over four pages long because of page restrictions, but we’ll make exceptions for exceptional work. To give us a sense of your visual style, include examples of previous work as attached documents or a link to your website or blog.

  2. If we think your pitch is a good fit for Voiceworks, we’ll get in touch with a request for the completed comic and some feedback, which you can use (or not) to create a draft.

  3. At this point, it becomes a process of really refining your work. A deadline will be set for the final inked (or otherwise completed) version that reflects the Voiceworks production cycle. Questions, queries, suggestions and whatever will bounce back and forth until both the artist and editor are satisfied. This process—from pitch response to final comic—usually takes a few weeks.

We can’t wait to see your art! Head here to submit.

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Poetry Guide

Getting Started

  • Read poetry. Read as much as you can, and then read some more. If you’re considering submitting to Voiceworks, have a read through some past issues to get a sense of the kind of poems we are interested in.

  • Experiment with the styles you like (or hate) as you find your own voice.

  • Keep a notebook in your pocket, bag or phone at all times—and fill it.

  • The power of poetry lies in its brevity. Distil the language; make each word count.

  • Experiment with form. Follow the rules to a T… then abandon them all, and rewrite the poem. (You might find the final draft, with just the right devices, sits somewhere between draconian rule and complete freedom.)

  • Don’t just rely on sight-based imagery. Make your reader smell, taste, touch and hear your poem.

  • Consider the whole gamut of poetic devices available to you as you write.

  • Find a writing routine that works for you and stick to it.

  • Join a workshopping group online or in the real world. Reading and critiquing the work of your peers (and having them do the same for you) is one of the most helpful tools for improving your skills.

The Big Questions

  • Why are you writing this poem? What does it have to say? Interrogate every line and word to determine its worth.

  • What are your poem’s intentions? Make sure it speaks for itself.

  • Keep your target audience in mind. Is your poem solely personal (in which case it might need to be reworked before submission) or are you writing for a reader—through print or performance, maybe even both?

Drafting

  • You can always return to the previous draft. Don’t be afraid to edit, alter, experiment, or cut up your whole poem and rearrange it. Just remember to use Track Changes or save each draft along the way so you can return to an earlier version if you need to.

  • Cut unnecessary modifiers (adjectives and adverbs), articles (the, a, an) and conjunctions—but don’t chop just for the sake of it.

  • Avoid tautology, e.g. ‘enormous vast emptiness.’

  • Show through action and imagery, rather than merely telling.

  • Evoke feeling in the reader, rather than exclusively recording feelings literally.

  • Keep in mind that active tense has more punch than passive, and is usually easier to read. (I.e., ‘She punched him’ rather than ‘He was punched by her’.)

  • Choose concrete descriptions over abstract concepts (e.g. ‘love’, ‘justice’). Powerful imagery will evoke abstract ideas, anyway.

  • Read your poetry aloud—to yourself, a mirror, your cat, or a friend. Consider the poem’s natural rhythms and how you can manipulate them.

  • Just as your words must work hard, so too must your line breaks. Consider the pace and shape of your poem as you make line and stanza breaks.

Submitting Your Poem

  • Proofread! We want to see your work at its best. Also, there are few things more embarrassing than finding an awkward tpyo or misplaced a’postrophe just after you’ve hit ‘send’.

  • Read and reread the submissions guidelines and make sure you’ve ticked off all the requirements. This helps keep everything running smoothly on our end so that we can get a response to you as fast as possible.

Ok, it’s time to send us your work! Head here to read the submission guidelines and access our submissions page.

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Nonfiction Guide

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

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 is: am I bringing something new to the conversation?

A deep engagement with the subject

Your piece needs a specific focus, supporting research (if necessary) 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 the reader

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 will not accept work that contains racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic or ableist material, or that claims authority on an experience that the writer does not share. 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 you not to send us your school 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, 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 Mira Schlosberg.

We look forward to hearing from you and reading your work!


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