Novel Guidelines

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Our goal is to publish novels that both captures the imagination and is infused with the presence of God and faith – subtly, symbolically or deliberately. We seek good writing and great stories with a Catholic perspective.

The inspiration for Tuscany Press and for authors can be found in the dedication to Letter to Artists by John Paul II: "To all who are passionately dedicated to the search for new "epiphanies" of beauty so that through their creative work as artists they may offer these as gifts to the world . . ."

Tuscany Press believes Catholic fiction has a special place in the world of books, a revelatory role of God's grace and beauty.

A novel is more than 50,000 words, and as John Gardner writes, "The primary subject of fiction is and has always been human emotion, values and beliefs."[i]  The novel should have a beginning, middle and end.  The characters are well developed, and the setting is often like a character in the story.  There are plots, subplots, twists and turns, and authentic action and dialogue of the created characters.  The author creates a fictional dream for the reader and invites them in.  Reality is suspended and the story comes alive in the imagination of the reader.

At the end, a good novel, Gardner notes, is ". . . like a symphony in that its closing movement echoes and resounds with all that has gone before."

Gardner continues: "Toward the close of a novel, the writer brings back—directly or in the form of his characters, events, and intellectual motifs encountered earlier.  Unexpected connections begin to surface; [the] hidden become[s] plain; life becomes, however briefly and unstably, organized; the universe reveals itself, if only for the moment, inexorably moral; the outcome of the various characters' actions is at last manifest; and we see the responsibility of free will."[ii]

So what is Catholic fiction?  First, we must define moral fiction. As Gardner says, fiction should be moral—not in the sense of religious or cultural morality. Rather, fiction—and Catholic fiction—should aspire to discover those human values that are universally sustaining. "Great art celebrates life's potential, offering a vision unmistakably and unsentimentally rooted in love."[iii]

Flannery O'Connor, the great southerner Catholic writer, in her essay on Catholic novelists, writes ". . . the Catholic novel is not necessarily about a Christianized or Catholicized world, but simply . . . is one in which the truth as Christians know it has been used as a light to see the world by. . . . The novelist is required to create the illusion of a whole world with believable people in it, and the chief difference between a novelist who is an orthodox Christian and the novelist who is merely a naturalist is that the Christian novelist lives in a larger universe.  He believes that the natural world contains the supernatural.  And this doesn't mean that his obligation to portray the natural is less; it means it is greater."[iv]

A story should have Catholic meaning—that is, small instances of the theme(s) being explored, sprinkled throughout the story, culminating in a Catholic theme that somehow presents a Catholic message or truth that we (and maybe the protagonist) can discover or realize more fully or in a new way.

At Tuscany Press, we believe the Catholic literary revival is upon us and we invite you to be a part of it.

Guidelines for the Catholic novel, then, include:

  • 50,000 words or more
  • It captures the readers' imaginations.
  • It has a distinct beginning, middle, and end.
  • It has well-formed characters.
  • Its dialogue is authentic—and the dialogue furthers the plot (rather than being dialogue merely for speaking's sake).
  • It is moral fiction (but is not "preachy"—definitely no homiletics) that point to sustaining values.
  • The story represents Catholicism in more than a limited sense (e.g., characters that simply pray or say the Rosary). Instead, it shows Catholicism in the broad sense of John Paul II and Flannery O'Connor.
  • Catholic meaning—that is, small instances of the theme(s) being explored, sprinkled throughout the story, culminating in a Catholic theme that somehow presents a Catholic message or truth that we (and maybe the protagonist) can discover or realize more fully or in a new way.
  • It has "closure" of some kind—in all the ways Gardner states.

For more information, please see the Tuscany Press website, the Writers Resources tab on the menu bar: Required Reading for Writers of Catholic Fiction.  We strongly recommend you read Pope John Paul II's Letter to Artists and the recommended books.

Note: All submitted manuscripts, not just the prize-winner, are considered for a publishing contract. 


[i] John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers (New York: Alfred A. Knopff, 1984), page 14.
[ii] John Gardner, The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers (New York: Alfred A. Knopff, 1984).
[iii] John Gardner, On Moral Fiction (New York: Basic Books, 1978).
[iv] Flannery O’Connor, Mystery and Manners (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1969).

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