Chick Lit by Any Other Name?

~ By Hillary Raymer

As I delved into my first attempt at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), it occurred to me that my soon-to-be hopeful novel needed a “genre.” Though I don’t write the sassy chick lit that many of us have come to love, I do believe I have a strong chick lit voice, one that carries significant weight when I write my paranormal romances. So when it came time to choose a genre for NaNoWriMo, I was torn. Should I choose Romance or Fantasy? But then there was Chick Lit. A genre that many had sworn was a one hit wonder of its time but yet I had the ability to choose it for my NaNoWriMo novel. And that got me thinking…

There’s been plenty of talk about authors with Chick Lit voices but whose works are listed under other genres entirely. Historical Romance. Paranormal/Fantasy. Contemporary Romance, which I feel is the genre that has begun to encompass chick lit writers as a whole. But what about the writers who love to mix things up? I know I can’t be the only writer out there whose novel doesn’t fit into any “specific” genre. Am I? I may not write in the first person with feisty dialogue as my guide, but my heroine of my NaNoWriMo novel is quite lively and full of the wonderful chick lit attitude. But at the same time, she’s also fighting dark forces beyond her control and battling alongside a rather difficult alpha male who is unfortunately incredibly sexy. So where does my conglomerate of a story fall? Romance? Fantasy? Or Chick Lit?

The decision left me scrambling and ultimately I chose Fantasy because most of my WIP will be taking place in another world entirely. But the excitement of NaNoWriMo brought many interesting questions and revelations. Is chick lit or even those novels with strong chick lit elements, being guised under other genres? Where do novels that don’t follow the guidelines fall? Personally, I am beginning to think genres need to expand their horizons to accommodate those who write…outside the box, if you will. Whose stories don’t fall into one exact category. But if I’ve learned anything so far during my NaNoWriMo experience (other than the fact that it is more difficult than I imagined to keep up with my word count) it is that genres are confining and chick lit is definitely not dead.

It’s been a year since I fully committed myself to writing and realized that it is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  I am currently at work on my first paranormal romance and have fallen in love with it already.  I am from Virginia but currently live in North Carolina with my husband and my daughter.  I like drinking tea, curling up with a good book, and long walks on the beach. You can visit me at

3 thoughts on “Chick Lit by Any Other Name?”

  1. I was delighted to read this entry. My manuscript, which is currently trying to find a home, is basically an historical fantasy written in a chick lit type of voice. I keep it from being ridiculously modern by avoiding inappropriate idioms and so forth, but I like to think that readers will enjoy a heroine with which they can relate — even if she fictionally lived in the 13th century. We need to sack all these silly genre wars. Perhaps that is one good that will come of all of this digital book stuff. We will simply put tags on digital books so when readers search for chick lit, historical fantasy, they will find my type of book. I don’t know if I’ll get an agent and/or publisher to agree with me though.

  2. Hillary,
    I agree that a lot of what-might-be-called-chick-lit is camoflagued by clever agents / editors / publishers as something else. Many agents I’ve researched have admitted this (in interviews and blogs, etc.), so it’s no secret.
    That’s a shame for at least a couple of reasons: (A) ‘chick-lit’ — coined by reviewers (as I understand it) — was an unfortunate term to begin with. At worst, it’s dismissive or condescending. At best, it lumps a LOT of different voices into one basket which the publishing world can wrap its small brain around. (B) readers looking for a general ‘type’ of material that they grew to love during the publishing boom … now are being deceived by the people or entities who control access to books.
    My five completed novel manuscripts — all featuring a courageous, resourceful, dynamic (but human) female lead — seem to defy easy categorization. To me, the most recent two of these novels are ‘screwball’ romantic comedies. What genre is that? Comedy? Romance? Uh … Chick-Lit? Who knows … since it depends on the gatekeepers.
    Until somebody tells me otherwise, I assert these two of my ms. fall under the broadly defined umbrella of Chick-Lit. But if an agent / editor / publisher says “In order for us to publish this, we’ll have to call it a Detective novel.” And then I’ll probably say, “That’s exactly what I had in mind …”

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