What is it? Well, that's hard to say. It depends on who you talk to. There didn't use to be an argument. Chick Lit used to be any book which centered around a twenty something woman who liked high fashion, had man problems, had/wanted a glamorous job, liked to shop, had a gay best friend, was the 'girl about town' that we all wanted to be, or any combination there of. But that was back when everyone loved it. There was a huge surge of Chick-Lit in the 90's after the first ever Chick Lit novel took off which was Bridget Jones' Diary, but that has since died off. Lately, you have undoubtedly heard that 'Chick-Lit is dead'. No one wants to by it, or sell, it or read it, and if you label your work as Chick Lit you are dead in the water.
But my question is: How can that be, when publishers, authors, and the media continue to change the definition of what Chick-Lit actually is? Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin, Jennifer Crusie, Jodie Picoult, Sarah Strohmeyer, Meg Cabot, and Candace Bushnell all have been considered Chick-Lit at one time or another. Yes, they all write stories about 20-30 something women, but that's pretty much where the similarities end, yet they have all been considered Chick Lit. Most of them have even been asked about the label and how they feel about it. (Sophie Kinsella loves it--as she should being one of the queens of the genre, Emily Giffin is fine with it, Jodie Picoult was confused by it (as am I, in her case), and Jennifer Crusie didn't necessarily agree but also had no problem with it.)
A few days ago, author Polly Courtney actually left her publisher, an imprint of HarperCollins, because she was tired of them branding her books as Chick Lit when she feels they are women's fiction.
Yeah... left her publisher. That's big doins', folks. Was it that serious? She says yes.
So where does that leave people like me, who are actually writing in this genre? I've always considered my stuff Quirky Women's Fiction, but isn't that really just another way to say Chick Lit? I've never been ashamed of it, look, there it is right there at the top of my blog under my name. I've never though tit was a horrible thing, after all, that's not only what I write, it's also what I read. Am I dead in the water?
Here's how I see it: Women's Fiction and Chick Lit are very much like Paranormal and Fantasy. These days, there's a lot of gray area. Yes, both paranormal and fantasy have specific definitions, but sometimes it's hard to tell. Some books are absolutely Paranormal, while others are absolutely Fantasy. But look at The Sookie Stackhouse books (True Blood)--they are set in our world with vampires and shape shifters (Paranormal), but we also have Fairies, magic, and alternate universes (Fantasy) So which is it? Does it matter? No.
The moral of my very long winded, slightly ranty story: Don't let your genre define you; define your genre. In the end, if you have a great story, labels don't matter. If someone handed you a book and said, "It's a middle grade fantasy.", are you super excited? Probably not. Did you read Harry Potter? Probably. While reading it, did you care that it was a middle grade fantasy? Probably not.