by Karen Saari

Editing women’s fiction is not like editing other genres. It’s a different way of telling a story. In general, editing fiction follows a prescribed path:

  • There is an antagonist and a protagonist.
  • There is a definite plot arc—Achieve/accomplish this task. Overcome this obstacle. Obtain this goal. It’s the momentum that propels the story forward.
  • It should begin in the middle of an action scene to hook the reader, also known as the inciting incident.
  • The story should not meander among the garden, smelling the roses, but it must move fast to keep the reader entertained.

Women’s fiction is different—especially Christian women’s fiction. It should include five things:

  1. It tells the story of a woman (or women) living through their unique situations in an authentic way.
  2. It portrays real friendships with other women.
  3. Common scenes will be set in the kitchen, or the laundry room. The home setting is important—what it looks like, how she wants it to look, how she achieves it.
  4. Everyday events are material for chapters—going to her women’s meeting, trying to get the kids ready for school, figuring out what’s for dinner, or having a fight with her husband.
  5. Descriptions include what she’s wearing, what her best friend is wearing, and what she wishes she were wearing.

Now, if all that seems rather frivolous, there is another layer. That layer deals with our issues, our emotions, our relationships, and how all of it fits into our relationship with God.

One example is the opening scene. Instead of an action scene with cars whizzing down the highway or two children trapped in a car that’s hanging over a cliff, this opening scene could be the clothesline breaking, dropping, and dragging all the clean clothes through the mud, enabling the family dog to romp and play through all the fun new toys. How is that action? Well, if you’ve ever washed clothes and hung them on the line, there is plenty of action. (Up and down, up and down …) The layers are there—the discouragement, the exhaustion, the knowledge that the load used the last of the laundry soap, her husband’s reaction. The load included his dress shirts for work. The baby is waking up, the kids will be home from school in half an hour, and they must go to baseball practice, and now what in the world is she going to do? It’s all action of a different kind.

Christian women’s fiction should present authentic situations, emotions, and relationships in a way that women can identify with and in a way that encourages them, with real-life resolution by the end of the book. Real-life resolution doesn’t always find characters walking into the sunset holding hands. If the resolution is what we would consider negative such as a divorce, then it needs to show how the woman has turned it over to God and is living with Him as her sustenance.

Next time a story comes your way labeled “women’s fiction,” try it. It could open a whole new adventure in your editing world.

Karen Saari loves to play with words, whether it’s writing or editing. She is a Christian, wife, mother and grandmother. Karen is currently working on her BA in English and Creative Writing. She writes Contemporary Christian Women’s Fiction, and is working on a new book – The Neighbor’s Club.

She has many hobbies – an avid reader, she also sews and knits and is learning to draw and paint with watercolors. Yard sales and thrift stores are her favorite shopping places, besides craft stores. Check out Karen’s blog here.

Karen lives with her husband, Robert in the mountains of northern California. They enjoy traveling the Oregon coast and photography.