Monday, August 20, 2012

Last Licks: Remember Your Audience, Remember Your Editors, Embark on a Writing Life

Writing Nonfiction for the Literary Magazine

I chuckle every time I think about the character Milton from the movie Office Space. It makes me laugh because how much the entire office seemed to torture the poor guy. His bosses kept pushing him from one office to the next, and eventually put him in the basement with the junk and cockroaches. “I told them if they move me one more time I'll—I'll burn the place down, take my stapler and traveler's check to a competing resort.” Hell of an image, right?

I wonder how often Miltons exist in workplaces? And even in my workplace at Umbrella Factory Magazine, I wonder if this “Milton position” may be at the nonfiction desk? What? Did I really just equate the work at the nonfiction desk with working in the unlit basement with storage boxes and cockroaches? Yeah, I did.

I began this series “Writing Nonfiction for the Literary Magazine” at the beginning of June. It's now the end of August. I have not read a single nonfiction submission in that whole time. Sad, isn't it?

I still think that there may too much mystery around this business of nonfiction. As a somewhat experienced editor new to the nonfiction desk, I do not see why there is such a lack and lackluster response to nonfiction. If anyone can tell me why, submit it to Umbrella Factory Magazine.

Please remember your audience before you submit this “let me tell you why,” nonfiction piece to UFM. Perhaps it's important to remember your audience before you even sit down to write. Remember that a piece of memoir that has no pertinence on anyone else except for you has no place outside of you. I'm not saying that it lacks merit, but it lacks an audience. When you write for an audience, your purpose is just as important as your writing. In this series we've discussed the interview, the review, investigative journalism and the essay, if this doesn't give writer of nonfiction fodder for the next conquest, I don't know what we've come to. At least there's ample work at the fiction and poetry desks.

Your editor thirsts for something good to read. Your editor longs for the delight of a piece of well conceived, well researched and pertinent expository writing. Remembering that the editors of nonfiction at literary magazines see very little good writing should be incentive enough to write and submit some nonfiction. I'm willing to bet that many nonfiction editors are will willing to help writers with their work by providing copy suggestions, content organization and style considerations. I'm also willing to bet that if a writer of nonfiction writes solely for the editor, the rest of the audience will follow. Think of it like this: write something to delight an editor, and that editor will find an audience to read your work.

Whatever you choose to write whether or not it's nonfiction, you must commit to it. Whatever it is, write it down. Write it again. And again. And again. I write fiction. I write novels. Ten novels, in fact. And I'm not ashamed to admit that I've really written the same novel ten times. When you embark on the life of a writer, it's just what you're going to do. And when it comes to the nonfiction portion of your work, write for an audience, write something pertinent, and keep at it.

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