Fiction, Novel, Writing

I took a writing course … wha-huh?

If you follow this blog, you know I’ve been engaging in that horrid pastime of housecleaning this month. On Friday, I tackled a stack of papers, spiral notebooks, and writing magazines. When I reached the bottom, I found a ring-binder. When I opened it, I saw this heading on the first page, “Writing the Romance Novel.”

Oh yes, I thought, these are hand-outs from the RWA chapter I joined after I started writing my first novel. (No, it wasn’t a Romance, but at the time I thought it was.) I had opened this binder before, had the same thought, and put it back down. However, this time I looked closer.

I saw now these were printouts from a website, dated January and February 2000. These were lessons from a Virtual University course. I started paging through them and the name Anne Elizabeth Garrett caught my eye. Hey, I thought, I once named a character Annie Garrett. I started reading—Duh! This was a two-page bio on that character. I had in my hands the homework assignment I’d completed for that week’s lesson.

So … yeah.

I know my brain’s a little creaky, but it really creeped me out to realize I’d taken a writing course I didn’t remember. At all. Unfortunately, though I have all seven weeks’ lessons printed out, I have homework printouts for only two. Did I not complete the course, or just not print out the homework? Have I just not run across the other pages yet? Could these assignments be on my hard disk in some obscure folder, or were they written to floppy disks, which I burned last year, but couldn’t access even if I hadn’t?

Does the fact I’ve never written a Romance novel hold the answer? *Sigh* The world may never know.

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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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