A few months ago, I came across an article from 1973 by a man named Bruce B. Clark, titled “Creative Writing in the Church: A Challenge to Young Writers.” I wasn’t looking for an article for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dealing with writing, but I’m glad I found it. What amazed me the most was how applicable this article is almost five decades later. In it, Clark states the importance of staying true to our standards when writing, while also showing the realities of life as members of the Church.
I’ll confess: I don’t often read books from Latter-day Saint writers. For the most part, I find them overly sweet. The characters’ lives? Perfect. The characters’ dilemmas? Perfect. The characters’ reactions to those dilemmas? Perfect. The stories I should be able to relate to the most are unrelatable to me. If you asked me which books in the LDS fiction category I like, the only one I would name is The Makeover of James Orville Wickenbee by Anya Bateman. Those Latter-day Saint authors who have found success have not found it with Latter-day Saint characters and stories.
So, after reading Bruce Clark’s article, I asked myself, What would a compelling Latter-day Saint story look like?
Dreaming up this story occupied my bedtime hours for the next few nights. It started with a quirky family: a drama teacher father and English professor mother who named their four children after characters from Shakespeare plays.
What challenges do the children of this family face?
The oldest daughter has five children and is pregnant with her sixth. Her husband is physically present but mentally absent.
The only son and his wife have been married for eight years and struggle with infertility.
The next daughter is single and feels like she’s in a rut professionally and relationally.
The youngest daughter is a widow, torn between grief and thoughts of moving on with her life.
Talking it over with Brett, we decided this would be my project for National Novel Writing Month in November. My recent pregnancy made writing difficult for me, so instead of a 50,000-word goal, I made a 25,000-word goal for November, with the ultimate goal of finishing the first draft by the end of December.
I managed to finish it yesterday. Only 55 days late.
Despite the frustrations of not meeting my goals, I love the story that came out. No, it’s not perfect and I already know a lot of changes I want to make, but I like this family and I like where they’re going.
The story follows Lindy, the second daughter, and explores the relationships within her family and among her friends. When she runs into an old college classmate who is wealthy and successful, Lindy questions the direction she has taken in her life. She decides to revisit the dreams she set aside and takes on a job as a ghostwriter for a successful tech entrepreneur. But in trying to succeed, she puts her career before her family, and eventually before God.
The trick now is to rewrite, revise, and edit this book into the kind of LDS fiction I would like to read myself. Hopefully, it will be the kind you would like to read, too.
Note: Although I’ve read quite a few books in the LDS fiction genre, I have by no means read all of them. If you know of a smart, clever, and realistic story and think I may like it, please let me know!