Women’s Fiction, etc.

An ongoing discussion for readers/writers of Women’s Fiction

Is this working Jen?

Good morning everyone. I’m so excited to be here (thank you, Char, for thinking of me!)

I wanted to talk today about the difference between Romance and Women’s Fiction.

I’ve been the President of RWA-WF and am a founding member of a new Women’s Fiction group, WFWA, so believe me, I’ve sat in on day-long esoteric discussions of the differences – let’s not go there.

I’m talking about the differences from a publisher’s point of view, and believe me, those are concrete. I wrote my novel as WF. My agent thought it was WF. The editors who read it were evenly split on which genre it fell into. It sold as a romance.  I was glad it fell so close to the line; it would appeal to a larger audience, right? Not so much. Readers of each genre like that genre. They don’t want to walk on the ‘wild side.’

So that meant revisions. Lots of them. Some major. Believe me I’m now crystal clear on how publishers view the two.  The difference is mainly in the focus. In a romance, the focus is on the relationship, and how the two grow to the point where a relationship is possible. In WF, the focus is on the woman’s journey.

I learned that in Romance:

  1. The bad-boy hero can’t be TOO bad. In my debut novel, The Sweet Spot (due out May 28th,) the couple had lost their son in an accident, and it tore them apart – they divorced. To deal with the pain, my heroine developed a Valium habit. The hero’s drug was young and blonde. In my original version, he was still with the blonde when the book opened. I had to change that; my editor told me that if the readers met the bimbo, the hero would be irredeemable, no matter what he did down the line.
  2. I had to soften the heroine as well – she could be damaged and flawed, but she couldn’t be seen as cold, or uncaring.
  3. Because I wrote the book as a WF, most of the scenes involved the heroine, in her POV. I had to add a couple of scenes with the hero’s POV, and even though they weren’t together in the same scene in the first third of the book, I had to add thoughts each had of the other, showing how they were changing.
  4. Sexual tension. It’s not even critical that the H/H have sex (just ask Char!) but there still needs to be escalating sexual tension as the book advances.
  5. I had to be more careful with graphic scenes and wording — and I don’t mean sex.  My hero raised bulls for the bull riding circuit. In one scene, the heroine was helping a cow with a breech birth. My editor had me reduce the level of gore, blood, etc.  I also had to be careful how I covered breeding details like selling semen (can I say that here?)
  6. And, of course, there must be a HEA (happily-ever-after.) That was no problem, because I originally planned for my couple to end up together!

My debut Superromance, Her Road Home, (due out in August) was written as a WF as well. I worried that the subject matter would be too heavy – my heroine was sexually abused as a child, and she had to work out those issues, even as she fell in love with her motorcycle mechanic! Luckily, my editor had no problem with that. But I did have to develop the hero more fully, and give him more scenes and backstory.

So you can see that the differences between Romance and Women’s Fiction are mainly a matter of focus/degree. Have you ever tried to write WF? Or change from one genre to the other? It can be done, but I’d recommend deciding which you want to write to start – it’ll save you lots of revisions!


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