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Thread: All Things Middle Grade

  1. #1901
    Reads more than she writes. AW Moderator Smish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kitty Pryde View Post
    If you're ever thinking to "dumb it down" when writing for kids, I would suggest politely that you're doing it wrong. Kids aren't dumb. You do need to know your audience and write to your audience, of course, but you aren't writing for unintelligent readers.
    QFT.

    There's not much of a vocabulary/reading level difference between MG and YA. The differences are more in how the character thinks and feels, the things that are important to him, his voice.

    And brainy MCs can work very well. I'd suggest you add Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and Millicent Min, Girl Genius to your reading list.

    Good luck! And welcome to the kidlit gang.
    Revision is where you earn your money - and if you haven't made any money yet, revision is where you pay your dues. Sara Zarr

  2. #1902
    Let's proceed with the plan cara's Avatar
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    I was wondering about my MC and wording too.
    I have a 12 year old MC, but she seems very capable, is that all right? she basically figures things out quite fast, is quite in control of herself and such (she does overlook things and make mistakes, but I was wondering if the MC needed to seem younger and frightened by things, or if a more 'adult' MC was okay).
    Thanks
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  3. #1903
    A demonic talking skull. laurie17's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cara View Post
    I was wondering about my MC and wording too.
    I have a 12 year old MC, but she seems very capable, is that all right? she basically figures things out quite fast, is quite in control of herself and such (she does overlook things and make mistakes, but I was wondering if the MC needed to seem younger and frightened by things, or if a more 'adult' MC was okay).
    Thanks
    As long as you explain that she's had some kind of upbringing that means she's more inclined to be able to look after herself, it should be fine
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  4. #1904
    Reads more than she writes. AW Moderator Smish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cara View Post
    I was wondering about my MC and wording too.
    I have a 12 year old MC, but she seems very capable, is that all right? she basically figures things out quite fast, is quite in control of herself and such (she does overlook things and make mistakes, but I was wondering if the MC needed to seem younger and frightened by things, or if a more 'adult' MC was okay).
    Thanks
    Kids come in all shapes and sizes. Some scare easily; others don't.

    The best advice I can give anyone about writing for kids to read read read read read. Dozens of books. Hundreds of books. Thousands of books. Well, okay, you get the point.
    Revision is where you earn your money - and if you haven't made any money yet, revision is where you pay your dues. Sara Zarr

  5. #1905
    Guinea pig in the laboratory of God timp67's Avatar
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    The Mysterious Benedict Society can teach anyone a thing or two about how smart a twelve-year-old can be.
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  6. #1906
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    Thanks everyone! I don't want to "dumb down" but some of my beta readers (i.e. friends and relatives) have wondered if some of the vocabulary is too advanced. I like the idea of having challenging words so I think I'll keep them!

    I enjoyed the Mysterious Benedict Society (although I couldn't get into the second book for some reason) and I'll check out Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and Millicent Min, Girl Genius. Thanks again!
    Last edited by seedling; 02-15-2012 at 03:12 AM.

  7. #1907
    Guinea pig in the laboratory of God timp67's Avatar
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    And let's not forget Mr. Penderwick is forever spouting UNTRANSLATED LATIN PHRASES at his daughters and MG readers have no problem with that, judging by the sales of the series.
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  8. #1908
    King of the Kitties Quentin Nokov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cara View Post
    I was wondering about my MC and wording too.
    I have a 12 year old MC, but she seems very capable, is that all right? she basically figures things out quite fast, is quite in control of herself and such (she does overlook things and make mistakes, but I was wondering if the MC needed to seem younger and frightened by things, or if a more 'adult' MC was okay).
    Thanks
    You could always go to a seventh grade classroom and interview some kids and see how mature/immature they are. Lol. As for the vocabulary can you remember some of the words you've used?
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  9. #1909
    Reads more than she writes. AW Moderator Smish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Quentin Nokov View Post
    You could always go to a seventh grade classroom and interview some kids and see how mature/immature they are. Lol. As for the vocabulary can you remember some of the words you've used?
    I honestly don't think it matters what individual words she's used. It's all about voice and context. If the voice is there, the character will come to life for the reader. And if the character comes to life for the reader, they'll keep reading, even if there's a word or two they don't know. And, sometimes, they'll even look up the definition.

    For example, the first paragraph of Millicent Min, Girl Genius:

    I have been accused of being anal retentive, an over-achiever, and a compulsive perfectionist, like those are bad things. My disposition probably has a lot to do with the fact that I am technically a genius. Unfortunately, this label seems to precede me where I go.
    Revision is where you earn your money - and if you haven't made any money yet, revision is where you pay your dues. Sara Zarr

  10. #1910
    Let's proceed with the plan cara's Avatar
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    Thanks very much everyone My main concern was with the actions, as dialogue seems to be going well. However, I've added a few bits and pieces to show she makes mistakes and does get scared, but is a fighter not a runner. I can't really remember myself well at age 12, but nowadays kids seem even more capable than back then!
    W1/S1 2012
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  11. #1911
    Reads more than she writes. AW Moderator Smish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cara View Post
    Thanks very much everyone My main concern was with the actions, as dialogue seems to be going well. However, I've added a few bits and pieces to show she makes mistakes and does get scared, but is a fighter not a runner. I can't really remember myself well at age 12, but nowadays kids seem even more capable than back then!
    Also remember your audience, cara. Adults (especially parents) often like to think of kids as weak and scared and silly. Adults want to feel needed.

    But you're writing for kids. And kids don't think of themselves that way.

    So, keep plugging along. Get those words on paper.
    Revision is where you earn your money - and if you haven't made any money yet, revision is where you pay your dues. Sara Zarr

  12. #1912
    Let's proceed with the plan cara's Avatar
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    Thanks very much It's a kid's novel so I think the character will work! Great advice and I will keep at it!
    W1/S1 2012
    Goal: Sub a short story each month.

    WIP
    The Old World - MG Science Fantasy - 20k

  13. #1913
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    I don't think there is a great deal of difference in vocabulary between some MG and some YA. I am writing MG, but read both. After I'm done reading, I give some books to my MG daughters to read, but some I don't. It never has anything to do with vocabulary. It is content and themes that matter.

  14. #1914
    practical experience, FTW MsJudy's Avatar
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    At a certain point, vocabulary stops being related to age. If you read a lot of adult genre books--romance, thrillers, cozy mysteries--books that are meant to be read for pleasure, not for challenge--the vocabulary isn't much more advanced than you might find in upper MG. Most of a person's intense vocabulary acquisition happens while they're young.

    Where it matters is that if you're using a lot of challenging vocabulary without a reason (like Millicent Min, who is a certified child prodigy/genius-type kid), then you're just making the book hard to read. Most kids don't go looking for books that are hard to read, so...

    But they also don't like being talked down to. So if a big word suits the situation/character/voice/style, you're better off using it.
    represented by Jenny Bent of the Bent Agency. Most happy.

  15. #1915
    Kidlit gang, Junior member. MJWare's Avatar
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    I know I'm a little late here. But I thought I'd add in my two cents on vocabulary. In SZJMB one of the characters is a pint-sized genius and he talks like it. I didn't worry about it too much, because you weren't really suppose to understand what he said and the other character softa translate for him when needed.
    Turns out he's the most popular character by far.

    Also, I have my MC use big words now and then (he's a smart kids who pretends not to be). I figured it wouldn't be an issue, because the reader can usually gather the meaning from the context.

    Even though SZJMB was it suppose to be a reluctant reader, I haven't had any complaints about the vocabulary. In fact, I've had more younger readers than I expected (8+). So honestly, as long as the words fit the MC, I doubt I'll ever worry about vocab. again.

    Now, it might be diffident if you write in the third person, or if you tend to have an advanced vocabulary. But, in the first person, if you can imagine your MC saying it, then it's probably fine.

  16. #1916
    Pardon my French canette's Avatar
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    Thumbs up

    Quote Originally Posted by Smish View Post
    Also remember your audience, cara. Adults (especially parents) often like to think of kids as weak and scared and silly. Adults want to feel needed.

    But you're writing for kids. And kids don't think of themselves that way.

    So, keep plugging along. Get those words on paper.
    This is my first post, I think, after having skulked around here for months. Yay!
    I wanted to pop in and say that I, too, thought my MG manuscript was YA. My MC was 16 years old, but I realized that I could make her 13 and keep virtually everything else exactly the same, and it would speak better to 11-13 year- olds.

    And (big news! confetti!) I was offered representation by Jill Corcoran of Herman Agency this past weekend, who confirmed that low end YA and high end MG are VERY similar. She even suggested that I add a steamier kiss scene in mine. Woo-hoo!

    So, thanks, everyone at the Water Cooler. I've had many questions in the past whose answers I found right here!

    Good Luck, guys!

  17. #1917
    practical experience, FTW JoyMC's Avatar
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    Welcome, Canette! And congratulations! Jill Corcoran seems wonderful (on twitter, anyway). I hope you'll jump into our conversations here. Good luck as you get ready to go out on submission!

  18. #1918
    practical experience, FTW heza's Avatar
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    Congratulations canette! Welcome to the kidlit gang.
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  19. #1919
    practical experience, FTW sissybaby's Avatar
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    Wonderful news, Canette. Congratulations! Hope you skulk around some more and add to the forums. We have a lot of fun around here.

  20. #1920
    practical experience, FTW MsJudy's Avatar
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    Ooh, canette, that's wonderful news! Congratulations. I'm so glad you found helpful info here. Good luck on the submission process!
    represented by Jenny Bent of the Bent Agency. Most happy.

  21. #1921
    Reads more than she writes. AW Moderator Smish's Avatar
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    Congrats, canette!

    Hope to see you around AW. It's a great place to spend time.
    Revision is where you earn your money - and if you haven't made any money yet, revision is where you pay your dues. Sara Zarr

  22. #1922
    careful...you'll end up in my novel RuthD's Avatar
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    That's wonderful, Canette. She is terrific, from everything I hear and read!
    My blog: Readatouille

  23. #1923
    Guinea pig in the laboratory of God timp67's Avatar
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    Congrats, canette! Welcome!
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  24. #1924
    Calculating the odds b_radom's Avatar
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    Hi everyone, this is a great thread! I have an MG science fiction novel for boys thatís 38k and caters to short attention spans by containing 17 different time periods, roughly spending a chapter in each for most of them, with a new conflict between the good characters and the villains in each.

    On a related topic, what does everyone think of an MG book with a kid-friendly adult as the MC?
    I couldnít possibly turn it into a novel for adults, which is what I used to write. The content and tone are pure middle grade. Itís about adults whose jobs are what a lot of kids would want to do when they grow up -- they work at a company that makes action figures -- and when I tried to make the MC a kid, I lost a lot of the humor. The title character wasnít funny anymore, he was just boring and bad with kids.
    Aside from Superman and Batman and other comic book heroes, does anyone know of any books for young people that have adult MCs? Would it even be MG, or is there another genre for it that I donít know about?
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  25. #1925
    practical experience, FTW JoyMC's Avatar
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    It seems like it's been a while since we had a round of What's Everyone Working On? (Right? Or did I miss it?)

    I always find this interesting.

    I'm working on revisions of a middle grade novel that's mostly adventure, with a touch of history & mystery and a smidge of magic. (That's a genre, right?) I'm hoping to be query-ready around the beginning of April, but we'll see.

    I'm also working on my goofy ghostwriting gig, pounding out 1000 words/day of totally wacky, talking-animal middle grade fiction. I'm having fun, even if it's something I'd never write on my own. Maybe because it's something I'd never write on my own.

    So ... what are you working on?

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