Guidelines for Writing LDS Fiction by Karen Jones Gowen, WiDo Publishing

October 17, 2012

in Business of Writing, Guest Posts, Writing Miscellany

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The LDS fiction genre encompasses everything from inspirational novels where characters accept the gospel and get baptized, to historical fiction about elements of Church history, and a whole lot in between.

The LDS fiction label can be a fairly clean novel written by an LDS author, with no Mormon characters or references, somewhat like the label “Christian fiction” might be given to one just like it. It can also be ascribed to a novel with some swearing or sexual scenes (not graphic however), but that contains Mormon characters and themes.

Surely there are books listed on Amazon under LDS Fiction that a reader might be offended by, and others that are so squeaky clean and spiritually uplifting as to be dull for those seeking the kind of conflict, tension and turmoil that a novel requires.

By now you may be thinking: But isn’t this a post on guidelines for writing LDS fiction? Then why is she essentially telling us there are no guidelines?

The fact is that ebooks have changed the guidelines. It used to be that LDS Fiction was what you found when you browsed an LDS bookstore.  The stores set the limits, sometimes restricting them so severely that shoppers got frustrated by the same formulaic genre.  Stores decide what they will or won’t carry. If it doesn’t suit them, they don’t order it.

For this reason, WiDo Publishing stopped accepting manuscripts that fit the strictest definition of LDS Fiction—Mormon characters and themes and squeaky clean. Reason being, there weren’t enough LDS bookstores around to sell them to, if you took Deseret Bookstores out of the picture. And other bookstores didn’t want “Mormon books.”

Hooray for the Kindle! We wish we could call up all those talented authors who submitted their LDS Fiction to us, because we can now sell it. In fact, it sells very well through the Kindle, which is how we distribute our ebooks.

Through the maze of inappropriateness that gluts their selections, LDS Kindle owners are desperately seeking clean fiction for themselves and their families. Even if it’s not “squeaky clean” or not strictly fiction, WiDo will label a book LDS Fiction if it fits three or more of the following criteria:

  1. It’s written by an LDS author.
  2. It contains Mormon characters.
  3. It deals with themes that are based on true principles.
  4. There’s restraint used in language and scenes, although we can’t always promise squeaky clean.
  5. We think LDS readers will enjoy it for all of the above reasons, and because they are seeking out the best books.

By these guidelines, Jewish author Mirka M.G. Breen would no doubt be surprised to see that her middle-grade novel, The Voice of Thunder, about two ten-year-old girls in Jerusalem during the Six-Day War, is categorized by WiDo as, among other things, LDS Fiction.

And those of you who sent us manuscripts we turned down back when “we can’t sell LDS Fiction,” please submit to us again. Because now we can.

 

About Karen Jones Gowen: Born and raised in central Illinois, the daughter of a Methodist minister from Indiana and a school teacher from Nebraska, Karen Jones Gowen has down-to-earth Midwestern roots. Karen and her husband Bruce have lived in Utah, Illinois, California and Washington, currently residing near Salt Lake City. They are the parents of ten children. Not surprisingly, family relationships are a recurring theme in Gowen’s writing. She is the managing editor for WiDo Publishing and the author of four books, all of which fit loosely into the category of LDS Fiction.

Karen’s website: karenjonesgowen.com

WiDo Publishing website: widopublishing.com

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