Okay, here's a good one: Several years ago I decided to write a story for NaNoWriMo. I chose "chick lit" because I was going through sort of a rough patch in my life and I wanted to write something lighthearted to offset it all. Long story short, I wrote it and it was good (I thought).
But after querying many, many agents, I learned that no matter how pleasant my story, "chick lit is dead" and "no self-respecting agent or publisher would touch it with a *&#^@ing bargepole." (I'm paraphrasing, of course--at least the second quote.) However, agents have no problem with "contemporary romantic comedy," and an agent has made me an offer. (We're working on an R&R before I sign.) This makes me happy.
So what's the problem, you ask? Well, it's this: A while back, I figured I should become very well versed in my genre, which apparently defaulted back to "romance" after the death of "chick lit." I started reading all sorts of romances, joined the RWA, and entered a few contests.
I haven't won any contests. The ones that offer critiques praise my "voice," but savage my story's structure and main characters. I've been told to totally rewrite the story to focus more on the love story, get the hero in there in the first chapter instead of the third, and lose the MC's growth and development. In fact, I've been advised, I should completely change the MC's personality to make her strong and pretty much ideal so readers can root for her.
No, I'm not listening to this advice.
However, it's made me realize that I'm having an identity crisis of sorts. My novel is not a romance novel. I am not a romance writer. Not only does my story contain "other stuff" besides the love story, sometimes it even takes precedence.
In addition to that, I've also realized that I don't like very many romance novels, even ones that come highly recommended and are highly rated. (I don't mean to offend any mainstream romance writers here AT ALL--this is all me--my personal preference. Doesn't make me right.)
So what in the world do I do now? Am I women's fiction? I always think of women's fiction as more serious than the stuff I write. Do I have to cling to the chick lit moniker and wait till it loses its stigma and comes back into vogue? Do I have to say "*&#^ you all" to the traditional publishing world, call it whatever I freakin' want, and self pub so I can function without fear of trend backlash?
I have to admit I'm a bit flummoxed (can you tell?) at being genre-less. It's kind of like being a soul without a body. Any suggestions?