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Thread: All Things Middle Grade

  1. #1576
    practical experience, FTW AnthonyPearson's Avatar
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    Great info, Ruth! This weekend I'm going to share my book concept and first chapter (hopefully).

    Now I just need to get one of those word counter-things to put in my signature line.
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  2. #1577
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Slightly OT, and you may know this already, but if any of you are really interested in what the word count is in published MG books, take a look here at Renaissance Learning.

    You can pull up plenty of books and it will let you know the word count for each. You'll probably find that there really is a huge spread between different MG books.

    For example, Diary of a Wimpy kid is 19,784 words, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is 30,906 words, and Here Be Monsters is 71, 548 words. All are MG books.

    So, I suggest that you write THE BEST BOOK that you can and not worry about the word count so much. Clearly you can't rely on word count.

  3. #1578
    Guinea pig in the laboratory of God timp67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by elissacruz View Post
    I suggest that you write THE BEST BOOK that you can and not worry about the word count so much. Clearly you can't rely on word count.
    Awesome advice! THE BOY WHO HOWLED clocked in at 60K. I know third through sixth graders have read and enjoyed it, at least one high school senior, and a few dozen adults.
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  4. #1579
    always abroad fringle's Avatar
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    Yeah, and I'm reading (and loving) The Mysterious Benedict Society. RL clocks it in at a whopping 118,460 words!
    Fringle is a woman who still thinks of herself as a girl. She's a mom. She travels a lot. She writes. She shops. She's shy.

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  5. #1580
    always abroad fringle's Avatar
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    Would you look at that? I've finally hit 600 posts. It took only 6 years or so! ))
    Fringle is a woman who still thinks of herself as a girl. She's a mom. She travels a lot. She writes. She shops. She's shy.

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  6. #1581
    practical experience, FTW sissybaby's Avatar
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    Timp - I never realized The Boy Who Howled was that long. I just ate it up, and it was over before I realized.

    Sage - I can't wait to read that book. Four Collie Birds? To me, that's hilarious!

  7. #1582
    practical experience, FTW sissybaby's Avatar
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    Oh, sorry, forgot Fringle.

    CONGRATS on 600 posts!

  8. #1583
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kitty Pryde View Post
    BSC is middle grade. For reals. Read one recently? They're like 13, and Mallory and Jessi (junior members, as I'm sure you know! ) are 11. I think you are round about my age--there was loads of MG around then!--Louis Sachar, William Sleator, Jerry Spinelli, Beverly Cleary, some Judy Blume, Avi, some Daniel Pinkwater, Bruce Coville--just off the top of my head from mid-eighties to early nineties, but there was tons more.
    I couldn't remember their ages, and I knew the that rereleases were being marketed as MG, but back in the 90s, at least in my neck of the woods, they were being sold as teen books.

    Quote Originally Posted by RuthD View Post
    Oh, wait a minute ... MG has been around for ages!

    The Middle Moffat was a Newbery Honor Book in in 1943--which, for the record, was before I was born.
    Henry Huggins--1950.
    Half Magic--1954.
    Caddie Woodlawn--1936.
    Mr. Popper's Penguins--1939.
    Various Laura Ingalls Wilder novels--late 30s - early 40s.
    CS Lewis finished The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 1949.

    YA is a newer concept--The Outsiders (1967) was one of the first to be targeted specifically toward teens, and it was in the 70s that libraries and bookstores jumped on the YA bandwagon--but MG is pretty well established.
    That's cool I never heard of MG until long after I knew what YA was. I think it doesn't help that the bookstores don't label it as Middle Grade

    Quote Originally Posted by sissybaby View Post
    Sage - I can't wait to read that book. Four Collie Birds? To me, that's hilarious!
    I had a lot of fun writing it. And I'm still having fun editing it, which is nice, but by my third pass, I'll probably be sick of it.

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  9. #1584
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    Smish pointed out a post I missed.
    Quote Originally Posted by Smish View Post
    Sage, could you have parts? And chapters within each part?

    Day 1, chapters 1-5.
    Day 2, chapters 1-3.
    Etc.?
    Hmm, I'm thinking about it.

    It would have to be like:

    Part 1 - Two Turtle/doves, chapters 1-2
    Part 2 - Four Calling Birds, chapters 1-2
    Part 3 - A Partridge..., chapter 1

    And some parts then wouldn't have more than 1 chapter (based on where my scene breaks are and that some of the chapters are like 3 pages long). I don't know if 13-14 "parts" with 1-4 chapters in each one would be okay or not.

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  10. #1585
    practical experience, FTW MsJudy's Avatar
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    re: no MG back then... Sage is actually right, in a way. Yes, what we call MG books have been around for close to a hundred years (I'd count Little Women as one of the earliest). But... were they called MG? No. They were called children's books. And if you go to a bookstore now, odds are they won't be labeled "Middle Grade." More like "Young Readers" or some such. So Sage, as a kid, would not have heard the phrase "Middle Grade."
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  11. #1586
    Mushroom Polenth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MsJudy View Post
    re: no MG back then... Sage is actually right, in a way. Yes, what we call MG books have been around for close to a hundred years (I'd count Little Women as one of the earliest). But... were they called MG? No. They were called children's books. And if you go to a bookstore now, odds are they won't be labeled "Middle Grade." More like "Young Readers" or some such. So Sage, as a kid, would not have heard the phrase "Middle Grade."
    Also, Middle Grade is a US term, so it's not going to be known everywhere. Bookish people in the UK are likely to have heard the term, but it's not something you'd expect a child to know. Middle grade doesn't make sense as a category title in a country that doesn't use a grade system in schools.
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  12. #1587
    Surly Temple toldyouso's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polenth View Post
    Also, Middle Grade is a US term, so it's not going to be known everywhere. Bookish people in the UK are likely to have heard the term, but it's not something you'd expect a child to know. Middle grade doesn't make sense as a category title in a country that doesn't use a grade system in schools.
    That's true. In Australia it is often called 'Intermediate Fiction' or even just 'Children's 8-12'

  13. #1588
    "I've nearly started!" Keith Robinson's Avatar
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    Hello everyone! An "MG" thread is a great idea, except that I can't possibly read 64 pages in one go! Man, I have some catching up to do. But I thought I'd just pop in and say that MG is definitely for me.

    Getting the exact age group right is a head-scratcher, though. I have four self-published books and, while they were aimed at MG, it seems they're for adults, too. I write 9+ on the back, and that works for many 9+ kids, but I know of a teacher who is reading the books in class and he reports that maybe a quarter of them may be a little immature for the books, while others could read YA books without a problem.

    One problem I struggle with, though, is being a self-published MG writer. For those who haven't tried this, a warning: I'm finding it hard. Middle graders typically buy books in stores rather than electronically; they may or may not have a Kindle or Nook, or a mobile phone with Kindle or Nook on it, but even if they have, they might not have a way to buy books. They only about 9, after all! I do have books in stores but not nationwide.

    So I've seriously been considering changing my target audience to YA, at least officially. I don't think I need to change my writing style at all, as it's definitely "upper-MG" -- but then there's the question of the main character being 12-years-old. I remember when I was a wee kid and read "up," so when I was 9 and 10 I enjoyed reading about 12-year-olds. When I got to YA age, the last thing I wanted was to read "down" to 12-year-olds. So I wonder: should I change the age of the main character(s)? I could possibly make them 14 without really changing anything else.

    Sorry for the long note. :-)
    Last edited by Keith Robinson; 09-17-2011 at 06:46 PM.

  14. #1589
    Penny.. swachski's Avatar
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    Welcome Keith! Always good to see new faces.

    I've heard the same thing about self-publishing e-books. Sometimes I think it would be so much easier to take that step and avoid the agent/publisher rejection, but then I hear warnings like yours. I appreciate your honesty. Good luck with sales, though!

    In regards to your question about YA — from what I've heard, you are correct that teens would not be interested in a main character who is younger than them. I don't think it's necessarily the age, but the topic that is the issue. YA books focus more on relationships and sexual themes than MG. They can also have more swearing, and more graphic violence. Basically, it's the voice that carries a YA novel. The characters are dealing with adult conflicts, but they have to sound and act like teens. So, it may not be as simple as changing their ages. You'd have to revised their mannerisms as well.

    Hope this helps. See you around!
    Last edited by swachski; 09-17-2011 at 08:29 PM. Reason: typo
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  15. #1590
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    Hi, Keith.

    swachski is right that your MG book is probably not going to appeal to a YA audience unless you change the protag age, and likely the voice and themes too. There is an excellent sticky in the YA forum about MG vs. YA vs. adult.

    One of my early books was an adult book. I couldn't get a bite on it from agents as an adult book. My betas said it would work as a YA. In the "New Adult" (20-something protags) contest, it was rejected for sounding YA. But it wasn't YA. So I changed the ages of the characters and details around that. One of my favorite agents requested the full, read it, and pegged it as an adult book with teen characters. It wasn't the age or voice, it was some of the themes. The same would be true going from MG to YA.

    ETA: I don't know that teens are much more likely to buy self-published books, though. I basically live in the YA forum, and I rarely hear about self-published books.

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  16. #1591
    "I've nearly started!" Keith Robinson's Avatar
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    Thanks, swachski and Sage. Okay, that's kind of what I thought. I'll stick with MG, then. It's what I "do" and I shouldn't try to push a square peg into a round hole.

    It's an interesting lesson, though. I hear that writing horror or thrillers is a much easier way for writers to sell ebooks... but I'm not interested in writing horror or thrillers. So I think the answer, for me, is to put more effort into pitching my MG books to agents and publishers and try to go the traditional route.

    I've enjoyed self-pubbing and will continue to self-pub my ongoing ISLAND OF FOG series, but I have another MG book just about finished and I'm not going to self-pub that one. At least not until I've got a stack of rejections.

    (Sage, you wrote a novel in 3 days? It can't have been more than 30K, can it?? Are these perhaps "evolutionary days" in the biblical sense? Or was this a novel about a boy whose life repeats over and over and you just copy-pasted it all several times...? LOL)

  17. #1592
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    It was 41K at the time (first round of editing added 1K), and yep, it was 72 hours. My friend and I got a cabin and just wrote for 3 days. It was amazing

    I could probably have gotten to 45-46K if I hadn't completed the story, actually. I was aiming for 50K (I've been trained by NaNoWriMo), but that's where the story ended, and apparently it's a good MG length

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  18. #1593
    "I've nearly started!" Keith Robinson's Avatar
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    Wow! And I thought writing 65K during last year's NaNo month was good. Getting a cabin..... yes, that would be great! If only life didn't get in the way. *sigh*

    Congrats with that! :-)

  19. #1594
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    Hiya, MG folks. I'm just popping in after a few, um, years (ouch) of mostly lurking to join in! Sage caught my attention with the worry about word count.

    I think what Sage was concerned about wasn't word count per novel, but within chapters. (I may have missed a bit - this is a long thread and I didn't read back 60 pages!)
    Sage, my two cents worth? I think you might consider shortening chapters - but only if it makes sense. And the ends of MG chapters have to be thought-out, to keep our readers from quitting on us, so that's no small thing.
    Are all the chapters approximately the same length? Or are some shorter and some longer? It may not be a huge problem if they vary.
    (Oh, hi, Elissa! Fancy seeing you here.)

  20. #1595
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    The chapters are variable lengths. There are scene breaks within them, but not all of those scene breaks make good chapter breaks.

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  21. #1596
    "I've nearly started!" Keith Robinson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AnthonyPearson View Post
    I've started working on my outline and the framework might be 10 chapters at 2,500 to 3,000 words a chapter. Too long for a single chapter? Before I really get going I want to make sure I start off on the correct foot.
    Speaking as someone who wrote what turned out to be a series of 100K MG novels (self-pubbed), I can tell you that I've only ever had one "complaint" about 22 chapters that average as much as 4500 words! -- but I would still strongly suggest keeping them below 3000 tops, if not shorter. You said 2500-3000 words, and that sounds good, but you said 10 chapters which doesn't sound like many, so maybe go shorter still and have maybe 15 chapters?

    I don't know if MG readers have a shorter or longer attention span that older readers, but regardless of that, even I prefer chapters that are short and punchy. I often think, "Hmm, have I got time to read a bit? Let's see, how long is this next chapter...? Oh crap, no, way too long."

    But with short chapters you can easily read 2-3 if you have time, or just one if you're in a hurry.

    Also, my experience with writing my current MG novel (62K total) is that shorter chapters make me far less likely to "waffle" -- ie, I feel more restricted so I write more concisely, and that's a good thing. With the longer chapters, I felt comfortable spreading out knowing that I still have several pages to go before I need to wrap up... and while I'm proud of my 100K books, I even more proud of my punchier shorter book!

  22. #1597
    Guinea pig in the laboratory of God timp67's Avatar
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    It's time to break out the welcome mat for the new folks!
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  23. #1598
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nikki View Post
    (Oh, hi, Elissa! Fancy seeing you here.)
    Yes, well, apparently I have way too much time on my hands. That or I am perfecting this procrastinating-on-the-writing thing. But, HI YOU! It's been awhile since we virtually hung out together. So it's good to see you come out of lurkdom here. I just did the same thing, like last month. Though I'm still mostly lurking...

  24. #1599
    practical experience, FTW starbeam's Avatar
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    Welcome, lurkers!
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  25. #1600
    Hero, villain, angel, demon AW Moderator Sage's Avatar
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    So this new editing method I'm trying is really helping me tighten this book. I know that for all books, but especially as your target audience gets younger, you need to have something going on all the time. I tend to slow down the story at times with introspection...too much at times.

    I saw this blog post: http://cristinterrill.com/2010/11/07/revising-by-color/ that suggested going through and coloring your text according to whether it's action, dialogue, description, or introspection. (Haha, I just reread, and that's not exactly the categories that are suggested in that blog post, but those are what I did)

    I printed out the 2nd draft and highlighted because my netbook's touch pad would have made doing it on the computer a nightmare. The only problem is that I won't be able to see the end result, color-coding-wise, unless I do it all over again from scratch later. But I think it does make it easier to do actual edits.

    Anyway, I'm finding big chunks of world- and character-building introspection that probably doesn't actually need to be there, and cutting out everything from a few words to half a (long) paragraph here and there. I even killed some darlings. I know. For some reason, tightening a novel makes me feel so productive, even though I've gotten more lax about it over the years.

    Anyway, I thought I shared, since pacing is so important for MG.

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