So, What Is Chick Lit, Anyway?

Photo courtesy pear83 and Stock.xchngI found one definition: “Chick lit is genre fiction within women’s fiction which addresses issues of modern women often humorously and lightheartedly.” Wikipedia

If I go by this definition, I’m definitely NOT writing a chick lit novel. There is very little humor and it’s the absolute opposite of lighthearted.

Now, I’m stymied. What genre does my novel fit into. It’s very emotional, tragic, and at times suspenseful. It boils down to this: it’s a story about loss and the different ways we deal or don’t deal with it.

When I asked my CP to describe my writing in one sentence, this is what she said:

Missy’s writing is strong with fleshed out details and characters boasting both tenderness and tension to enlighten and engage.

(Sidenote: I plan to use that on my website, which is in the design stages at the moment and will be unveiled soon.)

Rachelle Gardener wrote Identify Your Novel’s Genre and I took her advice. I looked up a book whose readers would probably like mine. Folks on Amazon labeled it as chick-lit. Huh? I thought chick-lit was lighthearted and humorous.

Next, I looked at a list of genres and crossed off the ones that I KNOW my work doesn’t fit within. For example:

  • Commercial Fiction is usually plot driven and my WIP is more character driven.
  • Literary Fiction is character driven, but I don’t think I have a lyrical writing style.
  • Crime has elements to it that you find in my novel, but that isn’t the focus.
  • Fantasy. Well, I haven’t created any faraway places, mystical lands or fictional creatures
  • Historical Fiction. While the setting is 2010 with flashbacks to 1987, it doesn’t have any other characteristics for that genre.
  • Horror. Nope.
  • Science Fiction. As with Fantasy I’ve not used any technologies to further my story.

I’ve considered using the term thriller to describe my book. There are threats and life and death situations; it never occurred to me that I could write a thriller/suspense novel. There is a bit of mystery. Maybe I could define it as a mystery thriller women’s fiction novel.

How would you define a novel that wrings emotion out of you?

  • Hello Missy. Personally, I believe book classification is to help a reader search and find books of interes; I don’t think it is meant to act as a straitjacket , for lack of a descriptive phrase, but I’m sure you get my point. Good luck with your writing and I hope you finish it soon. Maybe a suitable genre will come to you when it is eventually done.

    • M. Frye

      Hi Zizi, I completely agree. I’m writing the story, not to fit a genre, but to unleash the characters that have been demanding I write about them for years. I do believe it would fall under the women’s fiction label because it would appeal to women more than men. With that being said, I just received a positive review of my short story, Abandon (which is definitely a women’s fiction story), from a guy that usually likes horror. If the message is strong, it could appeal to anyone.

      Thanks for stopping by and I hope to see you here often.

  • Holly Gilliatt

    The whole “what genre is my book” question is right up there with “what’s the meaning of life” and “if a tree falls in the forest…” Sometimes it seems impossible to define. Sometimes it’s easy. My debut novel is clearly women’s fiction. Some may call it chick lit, though that is a sub-genre of women’s fiction, so either way it’s definitely women’s fiction. If you look at it in terms of movie genres, it would be a romantic comedy or chick flick.

    However, my second novel that’s being published in fall 2013 is more difficult to peg. I, like you, am not sure exactly what the heck you call what I wrote. I queried it as general fiction or mainstream fiction. I stressed and stressed about it. My publisher called it women’s fiction, though the protagonist is actually a male so that surprised me. Perhaps women’s fiction as a genre is more a reflection of the target audience, and I would agree that more women would read it than men. I would put it in that whole Nicholas Sparks category, which I most definitely DO NOT think is chick lit. Chick lit is more along the lines of Sex and the City or the like. Nicholas Sparks is no where in the same stratosphere.

    By the way, you may want to steer clear of labeling your book as chick lit…it’s my understanding that much of the publishing world thinks chick lit is dead or on the decline. Better to call it women’s fiction than to label it as something the great publishing gods view as a dead genre.

    Regardless what you call it, if it’s good–it will find an audience. I stopped stressing about my genre and just write what I like to read. What do I like to read? Engaging stories with characters that I get to know and care about. Sounds like that’s what you’ve written.

    Whatever we want to call it. 🙂

    Great thought-provoking post!

    • I agree about the chick-lit label. Some are saying it’s dying out, others say it’s going strong. Regardless, like you I’ve written something that I would like to read. I’m getting more comfortable with the women’s fiction label. I have about 15,000 more words to write before the first draft is finished. Between that, editing and rewrites – I have plenty of time to assign a genre.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Perhaps you could start with the basic genre of Women’s Fiction and go from there. Some books are labeled as “Women’s Fiction with strong (x) elements”, so you could put the elements you feel best suit the story- thriller, suspense, mystery if you’re not comfortable using the term Chick-Lit. It could be that Chick-Lit is become more all encompassing than just for the humor/lightheartedness. There is a Tragedy genre with a sub-genre of Melodrama, but without reading your book, it would be hard to say if that works. You know your book better than anyone and I know you’ll figure out what fits it best. 🙂

    • Thanks Taryn. I’m learning more and more about genres and am confident that I’ll have it figured out by the time it’s ready for submission. Gotta finish the thing first. 😉

  • Nicholas Sparks says his novels aren’t romance (no happy ever after), and he certainly knows how to wring out the emotion. Not sure how he catagorizes what he writes – general fiction? Good post! Kathy

    • Katherine! I looked at Nicholas Sparks books and they are tagged as chick lit. LOL I know A Walk to Remember was a tear jerker. I’m becoming more comfortable using that label for my novel.

  • Jo-Ann Carson

    Missy I love your blog, so I’m passing on to you the Sunshine Award. I wrote about you in my post today Lisa
    (http://lovindanger.wordpress.com/2012/06/25/sunshine-award/).
    Best Wishes
    Jo-Ann

    • Whoo hoo! My second nomination! Thank you, Jo-Ann!