Romance and Women’s Fiction are genre classifications that matter to publishers and book marketers, but if you ask most readers and many writers to explain the difference, they will look at you in confusion.
The difference confused me for years too, and the only reason I’m bringing it up at all is that I just saw a multi-book giveaway that was called Women’s Fiction, but many of the covers looked like Romance to me. I think it doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as the reader can get a good idea from the cover what kind of story s/he’s getting.
To me, the difference between the two genres has to do with what writers call the main character’s story arc – from low to high, lonely to happy, unfulfilled to fulfilled, confused to working [something] out. In a longer book, there can be more than one arc, and Women’s Fiction (when using the phrase to specify a genre, I’ll capitalize it) are often longer books with more complicated plots. And they often have a significant romance plot, although not always – think Jodi Picoult.
But to qualify in the publishing industry as Women’s Fiction, the [something] the main character is struggling with has to be the main story line, starting on page one and ending on the last page, and the romance and other sub-plots are shorter.
In a Romance, the the romance plot line should be front and centre, almost on the first page,
definitely in the first chapter. Other plots are definite subplots. shorter and less intense.
I call my books romantic women’s fiction because like a lot of other authors, the stories fall somewhere in-between. The issues usually involve family, alcoholic parents, lost pregnancy, and they are the stumbling blocks that the characters have to overcome before they can accept the happily-ever-after that’s staring them in the face.
Kind of like the struggles many of us have faced. Kind of a lot like life.
Thanks for reading Fortune Bay.