Friday, October 18, 2013

Understanding Book Club Women's Fiction

I was in a conference call yesterday with literary agent, Andrea Hurst and author Anjali Banergee discussing our upcoming panel on romance and women's fiction at the Whidbey Island Writer's Conference. As we talked about the things we wanted to discuss, the question came up about defining women's fiction, and more specifically, defining "Book Club" women's fiction.

Like a lot of the genres out there, there are really a ton of variations of the definitions of each of the genres and sub-genres. For myself, here at Greyhaus, I have found that I need to really define some clear definitions of the genres to better assess the manuscripts that come to me for consideration. For me, defining that level of women's fiction was very important.

For me, defining "Book Club Women's Fiction" begins first with defining the women's fiction category by itself.

  • First of all, this has to be fiction; therefore, we will automatically pull out memoirs and biographies.
  • Secondly, these stories can really be in any genre. For this reason, we can find women's fiction pieces in contemporary, historical, paranormal and so forth. Don't feel limited by this.
  • There can be a romance but this is not the focus of the story.
  • There can be a happily ever after but this is not a requirement
  • Next, the focus on the story is crucial. The emphasis on women's fiction is seeing the world through the female lens. The idea is we are following the female journey and understanding how women can perceive and work through individual issues. In other words, the central story arc is taking a journey with this character, or these characters so we can understand this unique point of view. The key here is the central story arc!
That's it in a nutshell. Now let's look at the issue of "book club" women's fiction.

When I think of books that are picked up for these gatherings, the story will often have a different level of depth to it. Book clubs are about discussions and sharing. It is a chance for a group of individuals to relate to the characters in the book and bring to the table considerations and topics that can translate to the real world. Therefore, these books have to take it to the next level and really be discussion pieces.

I do understand we can talk about any book out there, but some certainly are better placed for bringing out the best discussion possible. I think for me, when I see some women's fiction out there, it is really more of a personal interaction with the characters. Some of these stories are meant for entertainment. These would not be those books I would classify as "book club." There are others that force us to agree and disagree with the characters. These are the books we call our friend over and want to just talk about it. These ARE book club.

Please understand this is just one definition. I am sure there are a lot of other writers, editors and agents with different ideas, but for those of you just looking for one definition, this might help.

Have a great weekend!

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