Characters, Fiction, Marketing, My Books, Novel, Publish, Query, Theme, Writing

What’s a male protagonist doing in my women’s fiction?

Yes, I’m back to the subject of categorizing fiction. I’ve been told the key to knowing how to label your book’s category is to picture where it would be shelved in a book store. That advice works for those who write in mystery, sci-fi, horror, YA, and other clearly defined genres, but I don’t. I see my novel shelved in that vast section with the helpful title “Fiction, alphabetical by author.”

Two of my favorite authors are Anne Tyler and Sheri Reynolds. What I write is similar to their stories, and, somewhere, I saw them both listed under “women’s fiction.” Okay, so that’s my category. But wait! Many people (readers and agents alike) hear women’s fiction and think Chick Lit or Romance, neither of which describes my novel.

Another term, used mostly by the publishing industry, is “upmarket,” which denotes more than usual attention paid to character development and language use for the genre. I’ve used either “upmarket women’s fiction” or “literary women’s fiction” in my query letters. But yesterday, I read Lydia Sharp’s definition of women’s fiction and felt like an idiot.

In short, Lydia said, in women’s fiction “the main theme always revolves around some aspect of the female experience.” Uh oh. My themes of love, loss, and redemption are universal, but my main character is a man. There are two female co-main characters, with parts written from their pov, but overall, it’s Jalal’s story. It can’t be women’s fiction.

But wait! That’s not what Jessica Faust said on her blog when she responded to a question almost describing my novel. In her opinion, women’s fiction can have a male protagonist. Hmmm. Was Lydia wrong or had I misunderstood her?

I hope you didn’t waste more than a second on that no-brainer. I asked Lydia to clarify and she did, even citing the same Jessica Faust response I’ve held dear. Whew! So I haven’t been an idiot. Well, at least not for describing my novel as women’s fiction.

Are any of you writing WF with a male protagonist? Have you read one? Would you?

Could you?

With a goat?

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Advice, Inspiration, Memory, Prompt, Tips, Words, Writing

Waiting for the words

You may have noticed that I got off schedule in my blogging. I’ve been de-stressing. I decided to quit the numbers game … I’m not watching my blog stats or Twitter follower counts. If any of you leave comments, I’ll know you’re still reading … and if you don’t, I’ll still assume you’re reading, but have nothing to say. I had forgotten how “de-stressful” cello music can be until Lydia Sharp shared this video on her blog yesterday. So I’m sharing Cello Suite No 1, “Prelude” by J.S. Bach with you and suggest you let it play while you read this post.

Part of my stress was caused by worrying about not writing. I have two novels, two poems, and one short story started, but the flow of words had stopped on all of them. Some of you regularly write from prompts. Christi Craig usually sets aside Wednesdays on her blog to share her results of this method. But for the most part, using prompts has not worked for me. I try. I read one prompt and get nothing, then I go to another site and read that prompt, but still nothing comes to me. I can force myself to write something, but my heart isn’t in it. So what works for me?

Most (all?) of us in the U.S. observe daylight savings time, so on Sunday we rolled our clocks back one hour, and when I woke up at my usual time on yesterday morning, it was still dark outside. A short time later, I stepped out on the back patio just as the sky began to lighten over the mountains. The scent of damp earth wafted up and brought with it a memory of waking in my grandparents’ house.

Then, my writer’s mind began to play with that memory. I was not a little girl; I was a woman. But that woman was not me; she was a woman who had fled something. This house was not her house, yet it wasn’t the house of strangers either. And so it went.

As soon as I could, I sat down at the keyboard and began to write. I worked in spurts, writing until I didn’t know what was coming next and then doing laundry, or vacuuming, or reading while I waited for more to be revealed. By the end of the day, I had written 2600 words. It seems a complete story. Maybe the best I’ve written.

I think, for me, it’s best not to force the writing. That’s not to say I do nothing while I wait for new inspiration. There’s always something to edit, or story ideas to jot down, or blog posts to write. But creatively, my mind balks at being forced. If writing prompts work for you, use them. If they don’t, look—and listen—for inspiration elsewhere. And wait … it will come.

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