Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Women's Fiction

When I dropped out of a Creative Writing MFA program after one measly, expensive semester, I was embarrassed to tell folks what I was working on next. But I've been getting more confident lately and a few posts from Bookends and Pimp My Novel have helped me take pride in what I do.

I write women's fiction. There. You might even call my current novel chick lit, but some say the market got over-saturated and now “contemporary women’s fiction” is apparently where it’s at, although these hilarious girls believe that Chick Lit is Not Dead.

A good three or four years ago, the first time someone suggested that my first novel was women’s fiction, I was insulted. To be honest, I thought my writing was more important than that. I thought women's fiction was too narrow of a category and not taken seriously. For folks who are better at explaining genre than I am, check out posts like this and this.

But a few years of learning about how important it is to define your genre, how many agents are specifically seeking women's fiction, finding authors of that genre who I love (Lolly Winston, if you write another book I promise I will buy it and not just borrow it from the library), I've come to peace with the term.

I love thoughts and feelings. I really, really do. I love to write about thoughts and feelings, I love to experience thoughts and feelings, I love to think about and feel thoughts and feelings. I just can't help it. Granted, that's not all that women's fiction encompasses, but it's what I'm obsessed with and so it's what I love to write about.

However, my books aren’t just touchy-feely emotional dramas. There’s more to the story than just sex and love (but there is sex and love!) They do have some meaty topics, so I can tack on the term “upmarket”.

But they’re not science fiction, crime, paranormal, thriller, historical, young adult, or steampunk (yes, that is a genre!). And based on how quickly I can whip out a draft, they’re not literary either. I tried to use the term “mainstream” fiction, but agents really, really, really want you to pick a genre.

So I picked, or perhaps it picked me, women’s fiction.

And that’s what I’m writing. I’m rather proud of my book. It’s cute. It’s not going to change the literary stratosphere or evoke world peace. But it might make you forget your crummy day when you’re riding home from work, and think, hey, that girl's kind of like me. How does she deal with all the crap going on in her life? Do I want to be like her, or the exact opposite of her?

What about you, what are you proud to say that you write?


  1. Great topic!

    I'm still undecided what to call mine WIP. Is it women's fiction? Maybe so. I know it doesn't fit the romance genre, but it's about a man searching for love and there are lots and lots of "thoughts and feelings."

    But I think it's too dark for chick or lady lit, though it has a hopeful ending. Maybe an agent would classify mine as upmarket women's fiction, too. I just don't know.

    Just curious, do you have an excerpt of yours online anywhere?

  2. Linda, do you think it would help to identify what genre your novel isn't and then work to find where it fits within what's remaining? From reading your blog, I'd agree it's not chick lit. Is it literary or more commercial?

    The first 250 words of my novel are in this month's Secret Agent contest if you want to have a look. I think you did this a while back, too? What did you think of the experience?

    If you'd like to see more, and maybe swap stories, feel free to email me at lisakatz17 at gmail dot com. I've been thinking of asking the same of you!

  3. Well, since literary is dead, I'd rather it was commercial. :-) Part of the problem is that I can identify similar books to mine, but I don't know how they're classified either ... they're just in general fiction on the bookstore shelves.

    I'll check your Secret Agent entry. I haven't done a SA (because my book wasn't finished), just a first page (or something like that). And though I had mostly favorable comments, many people misjudged the genre and and gave suggestions based on that error.

    I'll email you later.

  4. YA fantasy. I've never been anything but proud of the genre in which I write, because it's the genre that made me a voracious reader. Some of the books that mean most to me are YA fantasy, and it's what many of my favorite authors write. What's not to love?

  5. Hi Anica, you're so lucky to always have known what you wanted to write. And probably more normal than me in that way. And YA fantasy is super hot right now. I haven't read much (OK, anything) in that genre -- any favorite titles you'd recommend? It's always so helpful to read outside the genre you write in.