Wednesday, August 26, 2015

What Greyhaus Is Looking For - Contemporary and Women's Fiction

I am putting these two genres into the same category because so many authors tend to confuse the two. So, I figure, by talking about the two at the same time, I can also insert a little educational moment into the post.

Let's start with the difference.

In simple terms, it is all about the focus and the message of the story. What you as an author emphasize in the story determines, in many ways, which of the two genres your story would fit under. Please note, you will not be able to combine these two. It is going to be one or the other.

When it comes to contemporary romance, the emphasis is on, obviously the romance. The goal of this type of story focuses on watching a relationship build to that Happily Ever After. The readers are on the journey with those characters as they fall in love.

Women's fiction, on the other hand, has the focus of understanding the world through a female perspective. The goal here is to get into the mind of the female. To understand feelings, emotions and thought processes as they tackle the issues going on around them. There may be a romance in the story, but that romance is just a plot device to some level of learning. There may or may not be a happily ever after.

I have said it here on the post before, but when I have people pitch stories to me, having them tell me the story without notes really brings out the focus. If all they discuss is the romance, then we are heading in that direction. If the focus is a character driven story that seems to emphasize the learning, we might be heading in the direction of women's fiction.

So, what I am I looking for in both? At the broad, general level, all of the stories should be in the range of 75,000-110,000 words. Both stories should have a strong single title feel to the stories. But here is the big one. I want simplicity, even on single title stories. Don't kill me (or the readers) with a ton of back story and melodrama just to keep the story flowing. I would rather see a story with a single strong external conflict keeping the characters from moving forward, than a ton of smaller little issues that read more like complications.

Now to the specifics...

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE - When I say contemporary, I mean stories set in today's world. Although I grew up in the late 70's and 80's, these really have a historical feel when used as a setting in the story. There is just too much emphasis on the world building to create that feel. Needless to say, that world building becomes a characters on it's own.

I am looking for contemporary romance that is about "real people." I am always cautious of using this term because I have a lot of authors writing stories "based on the life of a real person." That is not what I mean. When I speak of real people, I simply mean these are characters that can indeed be our neighbors or colleagues. We don't have to go over the top with creating characters that the readers cannot relate to. These are going to be real people in real situations, facing real conflicts and falling in "real" love.

The setting can be anywhere. I don't care if it is small town or in the city. Just stay away from stereotypes and cliché storylines. Sure, stick them in a small town, but this does not mean the hero has to be a cowboy and they always meet at "The Lazy Ladle" coffee shop for pie and sweet tea.

The sex and the sensuality issue is entirely up to you. Please note, these scenes have to be happening for a real reason with the characters. Don't throw these scenes in simply because you heard "steamy sex sells."

And finally, no adultery.

WOMEN'S FICTION - These stories can be set in any time period so yes, you can have historical women's fiction. What I want in these stories is to know what that central theme and message is that I am going to learn by the time I get to the end of the story.

There is a trend going on right now that I will honestly say, I am not thrilled about. Writers seem to want to fill these stories with all of this baggage. Let's say the heroine is simply a mother hitting her mid-life crisis. That's fine. But adding in a husband who starts to cheat on her, a son who is becoming a criminal or is doing drugs, and a daughter who is pregnant and then finally adding in a mother with Alzheimer's is too much. Please keep it simple.

These characters need to be people the reader can relate to. Again, it is the "keeping it real" message here.

Finally, I want resolution. I don't want the magic fairy dust solution here, but have the characters figure it out on their own. For example, the family is struggling with money due to, say the husband losing his job. She goes back to work to make up that money, but is still trying to keep up with the wife duties. But then, in the end, they win the lottery or crazy Aunt Agnes dies leaving them with 5 million dollars. That's the magic fairy dust and you WILL get the rejection letter on that. I would rather see her feel that she can be the bread winner and it is OK for the husband to do the stay at home dad thing for a while. Simple, straightforward and to the point!

As always, if you have questions, make sure to email me!

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