Nancy: Some Love for Women’s Fiction

This past Saturday was Women’s Fiction Day! Don’t worry if you didn’t know and missed it. The celebration doesn’t have to be limited to one day. And if you’re wondering what, exactly, makes fiction women’s fiction and why does it need its own celebration, that’s okay, too. So let’s talk a bit about this often misunderstood and sometimes undervalued segment of the fiction market.

Most visitors to our blog are romance readers. Makes sense, as we 8LW ladies are romance writers. While a few of our followers are die-hard, romance-only readers (and we love you!), many read across a wide swath of fiction. Bonus points if the other-genre fiction has strong female characters with fully-developed inner lives and emotional journeys. If the female characters’ emotional journeys are the central storyline, what you have in front of you is women’s fiction.

Women’s fiction can be written, read, and enjoyed by people of any gender. (Yes, even straight, cis-gendered men can write women’s fiction). The stories can include mystery, suspense, adventure, intrigue, and romance! Some stories include a lot of those elements, and that’s fine. It’s still women’s fiction, as long as the very core story is about a woman’s emotional journey.

If you’re thinking, that’s an awfully big tent, you’re right. That’s on purpose. Although some–like writing mentor and full-throated feminist Lisa Cron–eschew the term, fearing it relegates women’s stories to being “other” as opposed to discussing more than half the human population, many readers and writers embrace it. It makes those stories easier to identify. And those who avoid books classified as women’s fiction probably weren’t down with women’s stories anyway, they would argue.

Regardless of what you choose to call it, take some time this week (and this summer!) to celebrate great stories about women’s rich inner lives and emotional journeys. Don’t know where to start? A few of my favorites are:

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
  • The Third Angel by Alice Hoffman
  • The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  • The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

Five very different stories with a wide range (and sometimes large cast) of female characters. All sagas of women with complex lives and strong emotional journeys. Each, by my definition, women’s fiction. Happy reading!

3 thoughts on “Nancy: Some Love for Women’s Fiction

  1. When I was younger, it seems like I mostly read men’s fiction — men-driven, men-written. It was what was out there, and what people mostly directed me too. And I despised wishy-washy women in my fiction. I think the first real women’s fiction I read was Gone With the Wind (problematic as it was, and I was about 11 or 12 when I first read it). Problematic to the hilt, but damn, Scarlett was a strong woman who knew what she wanted. We may have thought her shallow and vain, but I had to admire her drive and ambition. A bulldozer of a woman, with little wish and no wash.

    Now, I prefer women’s fiction — especially the smart women who are trying to do their best for everyone, not just for themselves. Lois McMaster Bujold, Jennifer Crusie, Terry Pratchett (love all of his stuff, but damn, he does women-driven fiction very well — read his witches!). These women don’t sacrifice themselves (much); they value themselves and they value others, and it’s really nice to read.

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