What Is Women’s Fiction Anyway?

Perth Festival Writers Week 2019

Last minute changes to sessions I attended were dictated by availability and my capacity to endure the incredible humidity that hit Perth, especially on the Saturday. Admittedly inside sessions were in air-conditioned comfort which made it far more pleasant.

This is the first of three posts on selected sessions I attended over the weekend.

What is Women’s Fiction Anyway?

In this session Tess Woods interviewed Anthea Hodgson, Jennie Jones and Sasha Wasley. While the whole session was of interest, especially the dialogue around the topical question, it was virtually the last sentence spoken – that stories today need to be character driven – that caught my attention and answered a latent question about how to write my own story.

Some take-away notes from the discussion

According to the panel-
• The term Women’s Fiction is a convenient marketing label that is patronising. (The equivalent for men’s writing is Commercial Fiction.)
• Women’s fiction as a term is almost past its use-by date, with non-binary fiction becoming the focus of the up-and-coming generation. However, the label, Women’s Fiction, may be easy for readers to find, even though it is a huge umbrella covering many genres.

Women’s Fiction is third in the hierarchy of writing:
1. Literary Fiction
2. Commercial Fiction
3. Women’s Fiction
4. Chick lit
5. Romance

From the discussion on Romance I noted that even though Romance is the biggest selling genre in the world, the label (still) carries a distinct stigma. While some readers enjoy escapism through crime or thrillers or other genres, there still appears to be a need to justify escapism through either writing or reading romance. Even so, today’s readers can enjoy romance in a wide range of sub-genres as well as novels that include elements of romance as opposed to novels that are Romance as a genre.

Take-away comments

On how to grow your own writing career –
• Join a key organisation like Romance Writers of Australia.
• Attend conferences and network
• Make a pitch to an editor (at a conference).

On how to keep writing
Continuance – according to Jennie Jones – just keep going and write what writers want, write what readers want and stay true to self in the process.

Eileen Susan is a writer based in Perth's Darling Ranges, Western Australia. Her love for writing began as a child with compositions at school. Writing remains a passion, though it varies in nature, from short stories, to poetry, family biographies and memoir. Reading across a range of genres contributes to her love of life long learning. Studies at university broadened her horizons and love of the world of literature. She also enjoys photography and dabbles in art and other crafty hobbies, such as sewing. She is often found indulging in a good cup of coffee and gazing over the hills from her patio.

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