Women’s Fiction? Romance? What?


First let’s get the fabulous news out of the way. Drum roll, please…

I was chosen as a PitchWars mentor for 2018!!!


For those of you who don’t know what that is, PitchWars is an amazing mentoring program where agented, published, or authors with industry experience work with a mentee on their entire manuscript to polish it up for an agent showcase. PitchWars has an amazing reputation, and I’m thrilled to be included. More information here. And my mentor Bio is here.

I’m mentoring in the Adult category, and later in August all mentors will put up a post on their blogs about what they will be looking for. But before that, I thought it would be helpful to slap a post up about the difference between Romance and Women’s fiction. As a writer who wrote a Women’s fiction when I thought I was writing a contemporary Romance, here is how I figured out what the hell I wrote.


There is often a fair bit of confusion about these genres. Both are predominantly written for and by women (although there are exceptions). And when it comes to funny rom-coms and chick-lit, differentiating between them can be even harder.

Let’s start with defining. Romance (note the capital R- we’re talking Romance as a genre, not books with romance in them) is easily identified as a book where the relationship between two (or more) people is the central plot, and ends with either a happily ever after (HEA), or a happily for now (HFN) (I’m going to say HEA from now on, but I mean either HEA or HFN). Romance is a huge genre, with pretty much every sub genre under the sun, but those two points are key. The main story is the relationship, and they end up together at the end. If you’ve written a romance where the couple (or more) don’t end up together, or one dies (*cough* Nicolas Sparks) it’s not Romance. This is a hard rule– no budging on it.

But what if you’re like me, and love to write big shiny HEA’s? Doesn’t that mean it’s automatically Romance? Nope. Women’s fiction with romantic elements (sometimes called Romantic Women’s fiction) may or may not have HEAs. So how do you know?

Women’s fiction is about the woman. The story is focused on her, and although the romance can be a huge part of the plot, it is not the only conflict. The story is about how the woman’s family, friends, career, and romance contribute to her personal growth. I’ve already written a post here about commercial women’s fiction– and the dreaded term Chick Lit, and why it should be a respected genre. I recommend reading widely in the genre to understand it.

In a nutshell, here are some ways to tell if your big shiny HEA book is actually Women’s fiction, and not Romance. These are not hard and fast rules. One important rule in publishing is that there are exceptions to every rule.

You book *may* be a Women’s Fiction if:

  • You have only one POV, and it’s the woman’s. Each romantic partner in a Romance gets a POV, but in Women’s fiction, it’s usually only one POV. If there are other POVs the focus is still on her, and the other POVs are there only in relation to her experiences.
  • The heroine is a bit older. Women’s fiction tends to have over thirty heroines. They can be married, single, or anything in between.
  • There is a lot of time devoted to women talking to women– girlfriends, sisters, mothers, etc.
  • The sex scenes are less explicit, off the page, or take less time on the page. While Romance can have anything from sweet to explicitly erotic, Women’s fiction tends to have a little less on the page sex.
  • Women’s fiction is longer. While Romance can be anywhere from 50k words (for category Romance), and is commonly 60-80k, Women’s fiction tends to be 70-90k

Hope that helps! If you are like me and wrote what you thought was a Romance, a mentor can help you steer it towards Women’s fiction, or center it squarely where you want it. I’m a fan of both genres. Stay tuned for the blog hop next month and I’ll let you all know exactly what I hope to see. I’m excited!

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