Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What Is Women's Fiction and Why Is it Needed?

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What is Women’s Fiction for The Thursday Night Book Club at
Neva Lomason Memorial Library, Carrollton, GA--July 21, 2016

I loved sharing my genre with the Thursday Night Book Club. Ladies, your questions and discussions were delightful. The fact that you meet month in and month out to read, share, and discuss good books is something I wish more people did. After all, books are food for the soul.

Here's what I shared with the group. The library provided copies of Diffenbaugh's The Language of Flowers, Kibler's Calling Me Home, and Meissner's A Fall of Marigolds.  Many of them had read more than one of the books. To be able to share some of the best in Women's Fiction with astute readers was a treat.

Why have the genre?

·        If I want to get my good story in front of your eyes, I have to find an agent.
·        Once I find an agent, they need the genre specifics to find editors and publishers.
·        Without a genre classification, you can’t narrow down the hunt.
·        Even if a writer self publishes, they must have the genre clear to find readers.
·        The term WF isn’t denigration. In fact, publishers are actively seeking it. It’s one of the fastest growing genres with a wide-open market.

What is Women’s Fiction?
  • First of all, remember, that books that could be classed as WF have existed for a long time: Jane Eyre, Ann Tyler, Gail Godwin, Anita Shreve, Anna Quinlan for example.
  • Women’s Fiction Writers Association's definition: “…layered stories that are driven by the main character’s emotional journey.”
  • Romance Writers Association's definition: “a commercial novel about a woman on the brink of life change and personal growth. Her journey details emotional reflection and action that transforms her and her relationships with others, and includes a hopeful/upbeat ending with regard to her romantic relationship.”
  • RWA ceased allowing Women’s Fiction with Romantic Elements as part of their association in 2012. This was the reason that writers who felt disenfranchised created the WFWA
  • We began this organization in 2013 with the idea to create a safe, nurturing place for male and female writers of women’s fiction. The publishing industry is morphing – with new opportunities and, as yet, unknown futures. Some of us came from the Romance Writers of America, where a shift of focus left many of us out in the rain. The founders of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association wanted somewhere to amass and disseminate information to and about our chosen genre”. The current membership is 791 as of June 29, 2016.

My personal working definition of WF is a story that pulls back the character’s outer layer to find the vulnerable core that makes them tick. In fact, much of what people do is because of the view of our inner core and how it doesn’t stack up to others who are only showing their outer layers. WF works when the core vulnerability creates the tension of the story.

Tropes for Romance vs. Women’s Fiction
Romance Tropes:
o   Heroine and Hero meet early and “cute” or at least in the first few pages.
o   Obstacles must abound to keep them a part making both doubt the outcome.
o   End with Happily Ever After—ends when courtship comes to end. What comes next is out of the Romance parameters.
Women’s Fiction has but one—the emotional journey of the protag(s) with both internal and external conflicts.

Because WF is such a large, general group, we have many subgenres.
·        The first distinction is on this continuum: Literary with the emphasis on character over plot, Upmarket with character still strong, but plot growing to equal importance, and Commercial in which plot is more important.
·        All of them are marketed for book clubs, usually with readers’ discussion guides in the back.
·        Then there are the elements of other genres—the most prominent are Romance and Chick Lit, but you can find mystery, SF, fantasy, and suspense.

How I found this genre:
·        I found my current main story during a dream and began writing. Then I looked into finding an agent and hit a wall. Agents had specific genres that they represent. It’s about a retired teacher and an abused foster child.
·        My story wasn’t mystery (though there is a bit of mystery about why the foster child looks like the MC’s deceased husband), romance, SF, fantasy, Historical, Suspense, or Horror (though some people think abuse fits this category). I knew I didn’t write Literary.
·        That left me with Mainstream. How could I sort through the hundreds of agents?
·        Then I came across Amy Nathan’s blog—Women Fiction Writers—and found my home.
·        When people ask me what I write, I say Women’s Fiction. Let me tell you about my story.”

Here are some Women's Fiction titles that I wholeheartedly recommend!
(In alphabetical order by author:)
Kathryn Craft:
--The Art of Falling
--The Far End of Happy

Vanessa Diffenbaugh:
--The Language of Flowers

Margaret Dilloway:
--The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns
--Sisters of Heart and Snow

Julie Kibler:
--Calling Me Home

Sue Monk Kidd:
--The Secret Life of Bees
--The Invention of Wings

Susan Meissner:
--Secrets of a Charmed Life
--A Fall of Marigolds

Amy Sue Nathan:
--The Good Neighbor
--The Glass Wives

Barbara O'Neal:
--The Garden of Happy Endings

Barbara Claypole White:
--The Forgotten Garden
--The In-Between Hour
--The Perfect Son
Coming in September: Echoes of Family

I'll be taking a break next week. See you on August 9 with the latest edition of The Book Pusher.


  1. Nice round-up of information and titles!

  2. Thanks, Sandra! I love WF and good books. When I can suggest my genre and good books at the same time, I'm thrilled!

  3. How fun to be able to talk with so many people about books for an evening! What could be better than that?

  4. Great post, Zan Marie!
    Ooh, I'd forgotten that Barbara Claypole White has a new book coming out. Must add it to the wishlist!

  5. Deniz, I thought you weren't buying new books right now. ;-)


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