Jun 14, 2009

The problem of greatness and LDS literature

Some discussions from one of my new favorite websites.

I'm beginning to become disillusioned with the LDS market. It's funny; I'll read some of the stories that Covenant (arguably the most prolific publisher of LDS fiction) puts out, and I cringe at the editing, and at the sort of sugary-shallow storytelling. I used to think it was because LDS people just beat around the bush. They're afraid to take chances in their writing, and so it winds up flat and somewhat empty of any real conflict.

I have a different opinion now, after having gone through the process of two separate submissions: it's the publishers, not the writers.

The publishers have their vision set on a certain narrow, defined audience. They have a preference for a certain style (that I have not really ever enjoyed all that much.) It chokes me up, to be sitting in front of a keyboard, trying to write real feelings and conflict, all the time feeling like these editors are reading over my shoulder--the picture in my mind includes collared dresses and penny loafers--tut-tutting because I used the word "crap" or had my character actually question his or her beliefs for a moment.

All right, I'm not being fair. But honestly... really? Really?

This is what I'm expected to come up with?

Well, that last one could possibly be interesting... the title could have sort of an overtone.

OK, sorry. I'm being snarky. I'm a tad frustrated. It's just... I mean, I want to write. Really write. Not just sell books. I want to write something that means something, that actually changes someone. I feel like that's almost impossible, though, in the current context of the LDS market. Maybe when people go into Seagull Book, they're looking for either doctrine, or some light fluff to help themselves feel better about their challenges. There's nothing wrong with fluff, either. Don't get me wrong. I just wish that there were a place for fiction that's a little deeper, too.

I'm going to start another story soon. I'm making this one firmly, unequivocably adult LDS fiction. I hope that this will improve my chances with Covenant or Deseret; the feedback Covenant has given me so far has been simply that they don't sell many Young Adult novels. Their big seller is Adult Fiction. I just don't know; I'm feeling so scattered over this new manuscript. How do you do "deep" and "real," without scaring the General LDS audience away?

Any suggestions will be most welcome.

And--update--I'm making good headway on recording the episodes of my podcast novel. I hope to have it finished and ready to start broadcasting in a couple of weeks.


Putz said...

well as usual my opinion is not worthmuch, but it seems to me the more you don,t hold back and put it all out there on the line, the better people will respond..of course then foolishness is artibuted to you and you et mocked

Mark LDS Rock Music said...

I've been seeing similar stuff in music. It's locked into certain sounds and it's tough for anything outside of that to get anywhere.

the nice one said...

NSG-i'm new to this whole publishing thing but are those your only two options or the two that you really would like to go with? i know it maybe a dumb question but if you want your work out there and you don't want to sacrifice the emotion and feeling that comes with good writing?

David L said...

First, congrats on the girls.

Second, I know what you mean. When I first started looking at actually writing to be published, I entertained notions of the LDS market. The thing that truly drove me away in the end was knowing that the only thing I had to do to make it truly successful would include a touchy-feely testimony experience at the very end. Everything else was just wasted time to get to the testimony.

I think I threw up a bit in my mouth when I realized that. Just a little.

Oh, and you know my suggestion for doing anything else different with your writing; "needs more ____ and _____."

NoSurfGirl said...


it's true... I need to not limit myself. But I have these goals. I want to write general fiction, and have a couple manuscripts like that. But I also want to write for the LDS audience. And there are only a few publishers out there that will actually get your books on bookshelves.

Yes, there is another option... self publishing. I've been putting a lot of sweat into this podcast novel, and I hope, in the end, that a lot of people enjoy it. There's something about creativity... half the joy is in transporting people. If there aren't any people to transport, it feels just a bit stillborn. Still wonderful, the process... but there's the insatiable drive to bring your vision, the thing you have creative, to others.

NoSurfGirl said...

sorry. I meant to type, "have created".

Maybe the reason I haven't been published is that I can't write!!! Lol.

Th. said...


The good news: Lots of smaller publishers rising up to fill in the huge gaps. Because adult fiction is written at a pablum 7th-grade level at Covenant. And that's not good for everyone.

Th. said...


(and congratulations on your daughter!)

Hannah said...

I hate LDS fiction for that reason! Everyone wants to live in a pretend world. I've thought about writing a book, too ... but non-fiction for LDS people. It was fun visiting with you today!

NoSurfGirl said...

Hey Hannah,

it was fun talking to you, too. I think I like people who don't mind the fact that I like to talk and I'm wierd. So we're a good match that way, haha.

michele said...

Hey, I hope I can listen to your podcasts! I'm sure you'll let everyone know when they're ready.

I too find it disappointing that so much art is created mostly for money making. Whether it's the publishers or the producers or the artists or whoever... bleh. I'm not interested. I'd rather watch/read/listen to something real.

Cameron said...

Haha! The link to the Anita Stansfield book made me laugh out loud. My mom reads those books, and a couple of months ago she lent some to my wife so I started flipping through it and found the most ridiculous lines I think I have ever read. So I read them out loud in my most ridiculous sappy voice. Something along the lines of "the rain may have stopped, but it's always raining in my heart." Ugh. It's now the running gag in my family. My wife read them out of duty (since her mother-in-law gave them to her), and told me the rest of the book pretty much follows that same dialogue.

But they sell like hotcakes! I'm sure that's why that style continues to get published. When I was a kid I read the Tennis Shoes series and enjoyed them. That was a while ago though, so I don't know how good they really are. That was probably the last LDS fiction I've read. I have enjoyed some historical fiction, but that's mostly for the history. So I'm not sure what draws people to those books.

For me to read an LDS fiction book, it'd have to have zero references to rain in my heart, not rely so much on cheesy love story, and dwell more on how an LDS person uses his/her faith to get through everyday struggles. Normal people struggles. I don't care about a story about some make believe easterner producer/rock star/movie star/reporter/whatever coming to their senses in a small mormon town. I'd like to read about someone with real live faith and how that effects everything they do each day. You know, a story about a real Mormon.