Thursday, October 19, 2006

Everything You wanted to Know About Women's Fiction But Were Afraid to Ask

Women’s fiction

A very short definition of women’s fiction would be stories about women by women. I’m not saying that a man couldn’t write women’s fiction. It’s entirely possible; however, I would advise that he use a pen name that’s feminine.

Where romances are about, well, romance, women’s fiction is more about relationships. Where a romance most often ends with the main characters winding in a satisfying relationship of some sort, women’s fiction can end with a woman facing life without romantic entanglements. When I say relationships, I don’t necessarily mean those between a man and a woman. Women’s fiction, a good deal of it anyway, contains stories about siblings, mother-daughter relationships, friendships, and the relationships between mothers and their children.

Women's fiction is longer and uses that space to develop multiple point-of-view subplots that are deeper, more descriptive and more introspective than shorter novels.

There might be a guy waiting at the end of the heroine’s journey, but he never gets equal time or equal depth in his own journey. Whereas in romances the author gives her male character the same billing as her heroine, this is not the case in women’s fiction.

Commercial women’s fiction touches its reader at a more emotional level. As stated, the stories are about relationships, generational sagas and love stories, but more importantly the stories should touch on things that women readers can connect with in their own lives. Whether the reader cries or laughs out loud, women readers love reading that which tugs at their heartstrings.

New York Times Best-selling Author Nora Roberts says: "Women's fiction is a story that centers on a woman or on primarily women's issues, not necessarily the romantic relationship-based books I do, but the woman's story."

As usual, I like to remind readers that this definition is based on what the editors I work with want and on THEIR definitions of women’s fiction. Definitions of genres can vary WIDELY, so reading other blogs and resources about women’s fiction, if that is what you write, will give your background in your subject the breadth and depth needed to tackle this very complex genre. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

My current novel centers around a female character as the lead. It's a supernatural thriller, and it's very chracter driven. The work is the first time I have ever attempted to write a woman as a main role, and I am wondering if there is a good resource out there for "men learning to write women" or some such thing. Any suggestions?

Wylie Merrick Literary said...

My only suggestion is to read published supernatural thrillers with women as lead characters and see how successfully published authors handle this problem. I can add this also: if your female lead is not feminine enough, the book won't be picked up by a publisher. There is a fine line to be walked here and women writers have the same problem with this as men do and will. So my advice is that you can't go wrong studying success.

Manic Mom said...

Good to know. I'm going to share this with the women in my yahoo women's fiction group... expect some queries! I'll tell them the RIGHT way to submit.

Mary Marvella said...

I think the man writing a supernatural thriller can try for the "women's fiction" audience, but he might find it difficult to give enough attention to women's concerns while keeping the other parts of his story going.

When he called his work a supernatural thriller, he probably hit the main elements that will attract his audience to his book.

He'll definitely need to read a lot of books by women to get a handle on how women think.

However, there are plenty of women who will read a supernatural thriller but shun romances or women's fiction.

I started a book intended to be one of three about male protagonists. The stories had romance in them but were not intended to be romances, as such.

I had to put the first book aside for now. My non-romance critics said the "heros" were too much like romance heroes. The romance critiquers wanted the heroes to be more heroic, more like romance heroes.

Anonymous said...

Your original post brings up a very good question that perhaps I blogged in the incorrect space before (I apologize!). My novel is a mix of mystery and women's fiction. Several of my beta readers qualified it as women's fiction, and others said it was a mystery. The heroine is a woman and relationships are painted for the reader, however the heroine solves a mystery to find a missing girl. This novel also has a paranormal twist. In the end, the plot and subplots come out very happy, bringing warm feelings to the reader - another women's fiction attribute (I think). In a lot of ways, I think it is comparable to Jodi Picoult's Perfect Match. It is longer, too, which was very important for the reader to bond with each of the characters. It's 159,900 words.

Some agents have advised that billing it as a mixed genre is too confusing to market - but how do I determine where it really fits? Am I better off billing it as women's fiction simply because an agent might be more apt to look further?

My second novel is definately women's fiction, without a doubt. But how do writers who see themselves as mixed genre best bill their fist novel?

I'm sorry that I am a novice, but we all have to start somewhere. And remember, we are only NEW authors once, then we are PUBLISHED authors who still have the same learning curve as we did before.

Thanks again for the blog space. I find this site very, very helpful!


Ward said...

Oh, no! I've written a novel for women -- it certainly isn't a man's book -- but the main character is a man. Surely there are women who like reading about men but don't want to read war, sports or other men's fiction and who have lost patience with romances and their heroes.

The more I try to find where it fits, the more it seems my novel defies classification, alas. It's fiction for women, but if it's not women's fiction, I don't know what it is.