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Thread: All Things Middle Grade

  1. #2476
    Hello, I must be going jlmott's Avatar
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    I've been skimming through the MG thread, and don't know if this point has been touched on yet. I've written 3 MG novels so far (none published though I am exploring the waters for the third one), starting a fourth, and I find that none of them are really related to each other. That is, they could not be bundled up into a single genre. The first is an cute anthropomorphic story, the second an adventure set in 19 century Italy, the third a silly comic sci-fi, and the current one more a gothic horror. Now I write these because they happen to be the ideas that pop in my head. As someone who getting ready to seriously enter the choppy waters of publishing (unlike the awkward floundering I've been doing up till now) is there an expectation of a new writer that they be identified with a particular genre or type of story? This concerns me sometimes, because I hope, assuming I make any headway, to have some freedom to write what I want to write. It's possible I am getting way ahead on myself at this point, but I was curious.

  2. #2477
    figuring it all out Cariad's Avatar
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    Interesting article for new authors in the Guardian, if anyone's interested: Top writing tips for new children's authors from top editors

    Quote Originally Posted by jlmott View Post
    I've been skimming through the MG thread, and don't know if this point has been touched on yet. I've written 3 MG novels so far (none published though I am exploring the waters for the third one), starting a fourth, and I find that none of them are really related to each other. That is, they could not be bundled up into a single genre. The first is an cute anthropomorphic story, the second an adventure set in 19 century Italy, the third a silly comic sci-fi, and the current one more a gothic horror. Now I write these because they happen to be the ideas that pop in my head. As someone who getting ready to seriously enter the choppy waters of publishing (unlike the awkward floundering I've been doing up till now) is there an expectation of a new writer that they be identified with a particular genre or type of story? This concerns me sometimes, because I hope, assuming I make any headway, to have some freedom to write what I want to write. It's possible I am getting way ahead on myself at this point, but I was curious.
    Hi! Sounds like you're in a similar boat to me, so I can only offer you my opinion, but it seems like what you're describing is what happens when someone's learning any craft: you try everything, see what you're good at, and eventually narrow it down to a type or genre you're confident you can sell, much like painters or sculptors do. The only time I have heard of someone writing like that was when I was given some information way back when about a 'hot-housing' company that takes proven writers on to write individual books in a series about, say, fairies or dragons or vampires etc.

    Do you perhaps have a central character/world that runs through them all?
    Which one do you think is your strongest?
    * tempus fugit, semper amici *

  3. #2478
    Hello, I must be going jlmott's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cariad View Post
    Interesting article for new authors in the Guardian, if anyone's interested: Top writing tips for new children's authors from top editors



    Hi! Sounds like you're in a similar boat to me, so I can only offer you my opinion, but it seems like what you're describing is what happens when someone's learning any craft: you try everything, see what you're good at, and eventually narrow it down to a type or genre you're confident you can sell, much like painters or sculptors do. The only time I have heard of someone writing like that was when I was given some information way back when about a 'hot-housing' company that takes proven writers on to write individual books in a series about, say, fairies or dragons or vampires etc.

    Do you perhaps have a central character/world that runs through them all?
    Which one do you think is your strongest?
    There isn't a central character that runs through any of them, and the worlds described in each are unique to themselves and do not overlap. As for which is the strongest, I think the sci-fi comedy is the most commercially viable, and it is the one I plan to submit to agents as soon as I can get the query letter I've been working on just right (which may take as long as writing the novel!).

    Don't get me wrong. I love the book and hope to have the chance to write many more like it. I just don't want to be stuck writing only that. Now there are authors who can explore a single world and find endless variations within it. The Discworld novels are an exemplar example of that. But I'm no Terry Pratchett (now there's an understatement).

    Of course, fretting about being stuck publishing books in a similar vein is a little rich considering how very unpublished I am, but it's my nature to fret about things past, present and future.

  4. #2479
    practical experience, FTW heza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cariad View Post
    Interesting article for new authors in the Guardian, if anyone's interested: Top writing tips for new children's authors from top editors

    Thanks for the link. I found it interesting.

    But choose your editor carefully. We’re like a strange breed of midwife who come and live with you and are often there at the conception, the delivery and through a lot of the nurture. So you have to get on with your editor. You have to like them, respect them and trust them. And if you don’t then you need to look for another one.
    For people who've published (or just know), do you get to pick your editor? I had gotten the impression that once you sign with a publisher, you're assigned an editor and don't have much say in it.... or do they mean that you need to take into account who your editor will be when deciding whether to sign with a publisher?
    WIPs

    Untitled <-- Supernatural MG (drafting)
    Tobias Tinker <-- Clockpunk MG (on hold)
    Freak Town <-- Paranormal YA (on hold)
    Huntington House <-- Paranormal YA (on hold)




  5. #2480
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    Hello, I have recently written 2 MG novels and am working on YA novel right now. I am going to be looking through this thread to see what other MG writers have going on. I am very excited to be part of this forum.

  6. #2481
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    Quote Originally Posted by jenndoss View Post
    Hello, I have recently written 2 MG novels and am working on YA novel right now. I am going to be looking through this thread to see what other MG writers have going on. I am very excited to be part of this forum.
    Hi jenn - It's great to meet you! I think this is a great forum with great MG people. Welcome!
    Last edited by Supergirlofnc; 07-18-2015 at 07:26 AM.

  7. #2482
    practical experience, FTW Shandylous's Avatar
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    Hi, Jenn! Always nice to meet fellow MG writers.

  8. #2483
    practical experience, FTW SheilaJG's Avatar
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    Hi heza, In answer to your question about whether writers pick their editors, I can answer from my experience. For me, my agent submitted my book to the editors she thought would be interested in it. I got two offers, so in that respect, I got to decide which of those two publishers/editors I wanted to work with. My editor left her job after all the heavy work was done on my first book, and my publisher assigned me to another editor for book 2 in my series (and now, books 3 and 4).
    something

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  9. #2484
    practical experience, FTW heza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SheilaJG View Post
    Hi heza, In answer to your question about whether writers pick their editors, I can answer from my experience. For me, my agent submitted my book to the editors she thought would be interested in it. I got two offers, so in that respect, I got to decide which of those two publishers/editors I wanted to work with. My editor left her job after all the heavy work was done on my first book, and my publisher assigned me to another editor for book 2 in my series (and now, books 3 and 4).
    Thanks, Sheila! That's pretty much what I figured. Thanks for confirming it.

    (Gave my niece a copy of your book, btw. She loved, loved, loved it. My brother-in-law said they couldn't bother her while she was reading it because she was verysrs about it. She's telling friends about it, now.)
    WIPs

    Untitled <-- Supernatural MG (drafting)
    Tobias Tinker <-- Clockpunk MG (on hold)
    Freak Town <-- Paranormal YA (on hold)
    Huntington House <-- Paranormal YA (on hold)




  10. #2485
    practical experience, FTW SheilaJG's Avatar
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    Aww, thanks heza! That just made my day!
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  11. #2486
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thanks Cariad, that was a great article.

  12. #2487
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Hi All,

    Just jumping on the thread as I'm now identifying myself as a middle grade writer. I always thought I was a YA writer who was working on a MG book, but now that that book is revised and out on query, I've gotten feedback on all my other ideas that my voice is MG and that every YA idea I've been working on would be better suited if fitted to MG audience. So...that's kind of cool to realize! I have a voice! Haha. Any who, hi all.

  13. #2488
    practical experience, FTW heza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HannahKarena View Post
    Hi All,

    Just jumping on the thread as I'm now identifying myself as a middle grade writer. I always thought I was a YA writer who was working on a MG book, but now that that book is revised and out on query, I've gotten feedback on all my other ideas that my voice is MG and that every YA idea I've been working on would be better suited if fitted to MG audience. So...that's kind of cool to realize! I have a voice! Haha. Any who, hi all.
    Welcome aboard!
    WIPs

    Untitled <-- Supernatural MG (drafting)
    Tobias Tinker <-- Clockpunk MG (on hold)
    Freak Town <-- Paranormal YA (on hold)
    Huntington House <-- Paranormal YA (on hold)




  14. #2489
    practical experience, FTW SuperKate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HannahKarena View Post
    Hi All,

    Just jumping on the thread as I'm now identifying myself as a middle grade writer. I always thought I was a YA writer who was working on a MG book, but now that that book is revised and out on query, I've gotten feedback on all my other ideas that my voice is MG and that every YA idea I've been working on would be better suited if fitted to MG audience. So...that's kind of cool to realize! I have a voice! Haha. Any who, hi all.
    Hello and welcome! I've only ever written MG or PBs, but I think it'd be fun to try a YA sometime. Glad to have you here!
    Website: www.katharinemanning.com
    Book blog: www.kidbooklist.com
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  15. #2490
    New fish; Swimming with the current Supergirlofnc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HannahKarena View Post
    Hi All,

    Just jumping on the thread as I'm now identifying myself as a middle grade writer. I always thought I was a YA writer who was working on a MG book, but now that that book is revised and out on query, I've gotten feedback on all my other ideas that my voice is MG and that every YA idea I've been working on would be better suited if fitted to MG audience. So...that's kind of cool to realize! I have a voice! Haha. Any who, hi all.
    Nice to meet you, HannahKarena!

  16. #2491
    practical experience, FTW CheG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SuperKate View Post
    Hello and welcome! I've only ever written MG or PBs, but I think it'd be fun to try a YA sometime. Glad to have you here!
    LOL! I think I'm the opposite! Everything I've managed to get published has been either adult or YA and I can't seem to get a MG career off the ground! Though well over half my ideas are all for MG books! I call my a MG writer but I'm not sure that's true! But it's what I REALLY want to do!

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  17. #2492
    practical experience, FTW sissybaby's Avatar
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    Hey, SheilaJG, I missed the fact that you now have books out there! COngratulations! More to add to my to read list.

  18. #2493
    practical experience, FTW CheG's Avatar
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    I'm doing some research into lower Middle Grade novels. I've never considered writing any before, but since I LOVE the "Just Grace" series I thought I'd look into it some more. So far I've read a couple Geronimo Stilton, Galaxy Zack and one of the Fairy Bell sisters books. They are very different from the MG I usually read and I'm still pondering trying out a lower MG book. I guess time (and ideas) will tell. (Need ideas and plots and characters! LOL!)

    Anyone else out there write lower MG? Have any advice??
    Last edited by CheG; 09-15-2015 at 09:06 PM.

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    Carmine Rojas: Dog Fight is---'An explosive mix of gangsters, guns, monsters, magic and mayhem, with dark and gritty action that right-hooks you from page one. Wonderful!' --- Suzanne McLeod, author of the Spellcrackers urban fantasy series.

  19. #2494
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    I'm a librarian in a K-5 public school and I recently had the pleasure to cross paths with Lou Anders when he spoke at some writing panels at DragonCon. Lou is specifically writing for Middle Grade right now and he has been on a variety of podcasts like Adventures in Sci-fi Publishing and Speculate! talking about middle grade fiction, what it is and ought to be, and how it is distinguished from YA. Search for his name in the podcast feed and download a few if you are interested.

  20. #2495
    recovering pantser aus10phile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toothpaste View Post
    Actually I think chapter length does matter especially for MG, and shorter chapters tend be preferred. Also that's exactly how I do chapters, I do them once I"m done, not as I go. So don't think you are doing something wrong doing it that way. We all have what works for us. I do agree that you should look less at word count and more at the stuff CheG recommended. That being said, I would hesitate having chapters too much longer than 2K.
    Quote Originally Posted by Toothpaste View Post
    Number of chapters though is kind of irrelevant. It's about the general pacing of the book. Does it feel stop and start having that many chapters? Does it flow? Does it get tedious waiting for the end of the chapter? That's all. My first book that was 80K had 44 chapters in it. I have 26 chapters in my latest MG that tops out at 47K (btw, both sold )
    I know these are old posts, but thanks for these helpful comments about chapter lengths! I'm working on my first MG novel (unless you count the incredibly juvenile one I wrote when I was 13!), and this is something I've been wondering about.
    "You have the itch for writing born in you. It's quite incurable. What are you going to do with it?" - Lucy Maud Montgomery

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  21. #2496
    OUTCAST is out now!!!! Toothpaste's Avatar
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    Oh I'm glad they could be helpful!

    Something else to keep in mind (as I re-read my comments) is the idea of "reluctant readers". This term refers not to kids who have actual issues with reading, like dyslexia etc. This refers to kids who are reading at their age level (or sometimes even beyond) but just don't enjoy reading. They'd prefer to watch TV or play a video game or whatever. I was one such reader growing up (and still am to a point), so I relate a fair bit to these kids. And one thing that really helps kids like that enjoy a book is a sense of accomplishment. A sense as well of fast pacing. And shorter chapters provide that for them. I think sometimes people want to write down to reluctant readers, try to simplify language etc, try to write a quick easy story. But that's not the thing I've discovered. Since these kids are capable of reading at their age level, the issue isn't "make it easier" but make it more entertaining.

    And I believe pacing and chapter length has a great deal to do with achieving that end.

    Now you don't have to write for reluctant readers at all. Many don't and that's perfectly fine. But I do think it's something to keep in mind. And I gotta say, there's nothing quite so wonderful as being told by a mother, "This is the first book he's ever put his video games down for."

  22. #2497
    recovering pantser aus10phile's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toothpaste View Post
    Something else to keep in mind (as I re-read my comments) is the idea of "reluctant readers". This term refers not to kids who have actual issues with reading, like dyslexia etc. This refers to kids who are reading at their age level (or sometimes even beyond) but just don't enjoy reading. They'd prefer to watch TV or play a video game or whatever.
    This is my son! He's 7, but is reading a level or two above his grade level. But it still feels like work to him. He loves being read to and will listen to an audiobook for hours, though, so I've been reading a ton of MG books to him, which inspired me to write one. I'm hoping if my book doesn't please the agents, that at least it pleases him!

    And my instinct has been to write much shorter chapters than I typically would for an adult novel. I think I'll try going with that for awhile, unless it starts to feel choppy. It does force you to have frequent hooks to keep reading, which I think would be helpful with the entertainment factor.
    "You have the itch for writing born in you. It's quite incurable. What are you going to do with it?" - Lucy Maud Montgomery

    In Revision: THE HUNTED, sci-fi, down to 130k, taking more hits (or crits?) in QLH.
    Drafting: ANAX AND THE SKYDWELLER, MG fantasy.
    Recently un-trunked: 501 SHADOWROCK LANE, mystery, 89k.

    I tweet hardly ever about reading, writing, and life

  23. #2498
    OUTCAST is out now!!!! Toothpaste's Avatar
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    Absolutely! One of the suggestions my agent made before she was my agent (so for my revise and resubmit) was shorter chapters and cliffhangers. Though it was remarkably easy because all I had to do was chop my chapters down the middle and I achieved both .

  24. #2499
    practical experience, FTW CheG's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toothpaste View Post
    Absolutely! One of the suggestions my agent made before she was my agent (so for my revise and resubmit) was shorter chapters and cliffhangers. Though it was remarkably easy because all I had to do was chop my chapters down the middle and I achieved both .
    OMG! That's such a good idea! I never thought of it before! Is it something you do in editing? Or do you just stop writing a chapter in the middle and start another one?

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  25. #2500
    OUTCAST is out now!!!! Toothpaste's Avatar
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    After that experience I became less married to my chapters. So that means that when I write a book, yes I put in chapter breaks where I for sure know I want one, but often I don't. So then I go back and decide where to put them in. I try to keep Dan Brown in mind. As in, cliffhangers absolutely get people to turn the pages, but a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter is enough to drive your readers crazy (he is great at his cliffhangers, but seriously, dude, not every chapter please!).

    So that's what works for me but I don't really plot out every chapter and every moment as a writer. I think if you're the kind of person who likes to write by outline and really know what each chapter is about then you should write that way. And afterwards you can go through them and see if there are any you can cut down the middle. But generally yes, it's something I do in editing after the novel is complete.

    ETA: I should add that sometimes splitting a chapter down the middle results in a weird ending to a chapter, like it doesn't read as if it was meant to be one (for obvious reasons). You shouldn't feel like you aren't allowed to now augment the new end of the chapter so that it works better. I mean sometimes you're lucky. Sometimes you've written something like, "And you wouldn't believe what happened next" and boom, perfect cliffhanger. But sometimes the cut best works at something less satisfying for a cliffhanger. Something like, "I got up and crossed the room." Or something. I dunno. The point is, look for a moment that would make a good cliffhanger-y chapter break, not necessarily for the perfect sentence. You can always add a couple sentences to make it work.

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