People seem to be born with internal label makers. We like to package everything into neat little categories and group them together. It sounds nice and neat, but suffocates creativity and often leads to incorrect stereotyping.
Throughout my literary journey I have continuously stumbled upon the conundrum of “women’s fiction.” This “genre” is anything from mystery to romance, literary fiction to historical, as long as it was written by a woman. A great many agents are currently seeking “women’s fiction” but this is a double edged sword.
I do not wish to be categorized by my fucking vagina. We don’t call everything written by men, “Men’s fiction,” but of course the world of publishing is traditionally a man’s craft. And numerous studies and reading polls show that whereas women and girls will read books with male or female main characters and issues, men and boys prefer male characters and themes that only pertain to men.
From a business standpoint, laying out the vagina card seems important. It’s a way to let readers know: Hey, this book has a woman’s voice so if you’re not sexist, and enjoy the female perspective, jump right in!
It’s a ridiculous reality, but the additional perspective helps. To sell books, or even stories, an author must know their market. If you submit a story about a single mother’s struggles to an all male publishing company that panders to men, odds are your book won’t sell (if it’s even considered).
This “women’s fiction” market opens up new ideals and actually offers women writers opportunities they never had before. It’s giving certain voices a chance to finally be heard.
On the whole I have come to accept this, but inside, I still want my writing to be taken seriously across ALL markets. There is a part of me that fears having any of my work labeled “women’s fiction” and promoted as such. I was forced to read so many boring books written by men in school and had to find great literature from authors like Charlotte Bronte, Louisa May Alcotte, Zora Hurston, and more on my own.
It’s a stacked deck.
The comedy I am currently writing follows 2 women. The male characters are important but not to the major theme of the story. When I sit down to write, I have fun with this “odd couple” type tale not thinking of genres and gender, or any bias some people may have against it.
Just because I accept that “women’s fiction” is a genre and understand why it had to be created doesn’t mean that I want to be a part of it. This is the other end of the blade. The art of writing isn’t about pandering to fads, readers whims, or genres. Unfortunately, balancing business and writing is a seesaw of insanity that drags many authors down.
The main goal should always be to FINISH WHAT YOU START. I have known too many writers who cannot finish anything they write because they are so busy self-editing and fretting over minor details that they never get anywhere.
Ovaries and boobs aside, a female writer’s first job is the same as a man’s: Finish the fucking story first and worry about all the bullshit during edits. Sometimes you have to suck it up and send a story to a market you didn’t initially intend to write for, a great deal of the time it takes outside help to direct your work where it needs to go, and every once in a while everything lines up perfectly.
I may be weary of the negative connotation that could come with having my work labeled as “women’s fiction,” but the benefits might also bring more success than my predecessors were offered. Instead of being reduced to writing under my initials or a man’s name, I have the ability to sell stories to people who know that I do in fact have a vagina and that it does not hinder my ability to tell stories (as was believed in previous centuries).
More options make us better people, and we have more options than ever now.