So You Want to Write Middle Grade Fiction?

5 Things I learned and want to share…

  1. Odds are that you are not going to be J.K. Rowling, even if you’re a great writer. Most writers toil for years and make very little money. It takes a lot of writing, rejection, revising, and frequently many books to even get published, much less, produce a blockbuster novel. If you have a thin skin, no patience, or want to make a quick buck, you should strongly consider whether you want to proceed.

    Writers Earnings Cultural Myth

  2. Still here? Great! *Hugs* Writer’s virtual-hug a lot, you’ll get used to it.

    You need to know some basics about Middle Grade writing. MG stands for Middle Grade. That’s kids roughly 8 to 12 with some fuzzyness on either end. The two closest categories to MG are Picture Books (PB) for younger children and Young Adult (YA) books for teens. If you are writing an MG novel, your protagonist(s), hero, main character or whatever you want to call him/her/it, should be in the 8-13yo range. A rule of thumb is that kids read up; they don’t read down. That means, if your protagonist is 11, the book is going to be percieved as targeting kids 11 and under. Just something to keep in mind.

    *A quick note: Don’t go to your local bookstore or library and look for the Middle Grade section. You probably won’t find it. MG is an industry term. When I say industry, I mean book publishers, agents, editors and authors.

    As a rule, MG books are shorter than YA books—typically between 35,000 and 50,000 words depending on the genre, with fantasy going as high as 65,000. Yes, I know Harry Potter was way more words than that. I’m just telling you what agents, publishers and other authors have told me about getting published.

    Chapters also tend to be a little shorter than YA or adult books, 500-1500 words.

    Science Fiction and Fantasy Writes of American Interviews with Agents on MG vs YA

    Word Count Dracula, Literaticat on book length

    Rules of the Road on Chapter Length from Writers Road Trip

    Author Claire Legrand on MG vs YA.

  3. If you haven’t clicked back to Google yet, I’ll assume you are moving ahead with your MG novel. I need to let you in on a few writing tips and terms that have been shared with me.
    • Show it don’t tell it. This is a mantra you’ll hear over and over again. There are a bunch of words you should avoid: (listen, look, watch, just, realized) Here are few links that explain Show v Tell in greater detail:
    • Keep you narrator and character voices MG-appropriate. I can’t offer much guidance here other than to tell you to read a lot of MG and note the verbs, sentence structure and pacing. It is different than YA or adult books.
    • Adverbs should be used sparingly (note: ironic use of adverb) as they considered a form of telling.
    • Understand point-of-view (POV) before you start writing. Whose story are you telling? The novel should be from that character’s POV. Writing in adult POV in MG should be avoided. There are many different types of narration: First person, third person, omniscient, but all of them should avoid what’s called “Head Hopping” which is when you jump in out of multiple characters POV within a scene. Here’s a great resources that talks about POV:
    • Books and Such Blog on Editing and Cutting

      Writers Digest on POV

    • Writing is the most social of all the solitary disciplines. To get better, you need feedback. A few things on which you should focus before you finish your 65,000 word Uber-Steampunk MG Historical Fantasy:

      • Find Critique Partners. There are other writers/editors who have some understanding of how to write MG and can offer you feedback on your work as you go along. Some tips on finding critique partners:
      • Cultivate Beta readers. These are individuals who will read your book and will give you an honest assessment of what they like and didn’t like.
      • Enter writing contests. You can meet other writers, get feedback on your work, see what others are working on and network.
      • Use Social Media. The more you network, the more likely you are to find the resources you need to be successful as a writer and it build a promotional platform that you can use when you publish your masterpiece.
      • Conferences – If you can attend local writing classes, conferences, meet-ups whatever, these are a great place to meet other writers.
    • Finally, read a lot of MG novels. This is for two reasons. First, especially if you live your days in an adult world, you need to make sure the words and the voice you use are age appropriate. Second, if you want to get published (or if you indie-publish, if you want to get noticed), you need to differentate your work from everything that’s out there. Imagine the poor sap that went to Penguin or S&S a year after Harry Potter hit the shelves with a great story about a boy wizard going to a school. Don’t be that sap.

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Announcing Middle Grade Writers is a new blog to collect and provide resources for individuals who want to write for MG audiences.

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Tips and Tools for Teachers

Compiled by teachers for teachers:

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Resources for MG Writers

Educational Opportunities and Classes for Writers

  • Savvy Author  – Savvy Authors strives to provide the best tools, classes, and networking opportunities for authors in all stages of their writing careers, from aspiring novelists to multi-published authors.

Resources for discussing writing for children

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