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Thread: All Things Middle Grade

  1. #2001
    practical experience, FTW sissybaby's Avatar
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    Thanks, Smish, for being so understanding.

  2. #2002
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amarie View Post


    If you added in stomping around and door slamming, you might be able to get some words back. Physical reactions instead of lots of words are pretty typical of some boys, plus you know there is internal dialogue/thoughts happening.
    Yep, it's going to take some rewriting. Some sentences of dialogue just make me die. I can totally hear any of my daughters saying those words. My son? No way. It just makes me laugh trying to imagine those words in his voice. My son gives attitude in a totally different way. There's going to be more action, less dialogue in this rewrite, for sure. And less words. The way I'm going, 60,000 will soon be 10,000.

  3. #2003
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    Hey, Britwriter, I didn't mean to sabotage your post. Actually, I really like the boy version. It says so much, and is yet so concise.

  4. #2004
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    Yeah, I could write this book in about 50 words.

    Epic
    Bummer
    Cool
    Awesome
    Dude
    Man
    Jeez
    Rad
    and so on.
    Job done.

  5. #2005
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    My novel development plan has hit a snag! I realized I have NO PLOT! I read ahead in the development plan thinking there would be a day when I came up with one, or something that would spark one and there isn't!!

    Arg!! This makes two MG fails in a month! One has a plot and no characters! The other characters and no plot!

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  6. #2006
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    Just keep writing CheG. You can fix those issues when you start revising.
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  7. #2007
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    Maybe you could combine them, Che...?
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  8. #2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by CheG View Post
    My novel development plan has hit a snag! I realized I have NO PLOT! I read ahead in the development plan thinking there would be a day when I came up with one, or something that would spark one and there isn't!!

    Arg!! This makes two MG fails in a month! One has a plot and no characters! The other characters and no plot!
    Can they become one story?

  9. #2009
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    I do know that feeling. Actually, I'm in sort of the same place with one book--the agents loved the characters, world and voice. So now all I need is to come up with a new plot... Easier said than done!

    But don't give up too quickly on it. Sometimes you just have to write some scenes and see where they lead you. Planning ahead is all well and good, but most of the really good stuff happens when you let go of the control and let the subconscious simmer for a while.

    Play with the parts you do know, and maybe something will happen.
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  10. #2010
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    I am surprised at what I hear here. I thought Middle Grade was 20,000-25,000 words.

    I know MY middle grade kid does not like long books.
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  11. #2011
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    Quote Originally Posted by JKRowley View Post
    I am surprised at what I hear here. I thought Middle Grade was 20,000-25,000 words.

    I know MY middle grade kid does not like long books.
    Middle grade covers a wide range. My current MG is at 60,000 words (girl version) but will be more like 50,000 (boy version.) But it is upper MG.

    I"m sure someone will post some links to lengths for MG, but I always go by the principle of using how many words it takes to tell my story.

    An 11 yo girl middle grader (generalizing here, btw) is not likely to be interested in a book of 20,000 words, unless it has something pretty unique that adds depth and interest to the story. An 8 yo boy, on the other hand, may be turned off by a book of 50,000 words with no illustrations or breaking up of text. Generalizing, but it is a wide range of kids, kwim?

  12. #2012
    practical experience, FTW MsJudy's Avatar
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    Actually, 20-25K is harder to get published than 30K+. The trend since Harry Potter has been towards longer books, and more of a clear separation between middle grade novels and chapter books, which are usually under 10K. Part of the reason is that chapter books and early/shorter MG books are a phase kids grow out of. One year, two, maybe three at the most, and then they're ready for longer, more meaty books. So from a money-making standpoint, there's more profit to be had from the books for older readers, when you have a longer window of time to catch them and keep them coming back for more.

    Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. And contemporary/literary tends to be much shorter than fantasy. As Britwriter says, all you need is the number of words necessary to tell your story, and not one more.
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  13. #2013
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    Quote Originally Posted by MsJudy View Post
    Actually, 20-25K is harder to get published than 30K+. The trend since Harry Potter has been towards longer books, and more of a clear separation between middle grade novels and chapter books, which are usually under 10K. Part of the reason is that chapter books and early/shorter MG books are a phase kids grow out of. One year, two, maybe three at the most, and then they're ready for longer, more meaty books. So from a money-making standpoint, there's more profit to be had from the books for older readers, when you have a longer window of time to catch them and keep them coming back for more.

    Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. And contemporary/literary tends to be much shorter than fantasy. As Britwriter says, all you need is the number of words necessary to tell your story, and not one more.
    That makes sense.
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    I'm wondering if anyone has any interesting systems or methods for tracking their plot and character development for longer MG books.

    I'm almost done with the rewrite of my MG. With the original, as I edited, I kept a huge chart on which I wrote plot chapter by chapter, color coding characters and key facts, so that I could keep track. I used colors and symbols to show where each character was mentioned and how relationships and misunderstandings developed.

    Now that I'm about to start proofreading and doing final edits on the rewrite, I'm wondering if there are other ways people use to do this sort of tracking. I've moved text around, changed some characters, made some girls into boys, and boys into girls, etc. I need some sort of spreadsheet to track the plot and make sure it hasn't developed holes that I'm not noticing.

    I can get out the magic markers and poster paper again, but was curious to know if anyone here had other systems that work for them? Or do you manage to hold it all in your head without a checking system?

  15. #2015
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    I haven't used any system, but I also haven't yet gotten my plots to hold together. So... maybe I should...?

    This time when I revise, I'm going to try making a storyboard, following Blake Snyder's Save the Cat/beat sheet method. It's the first outlining method that has made sense to me, because it tracks the story according to certain high and low points in the emotional arc.

    I recommend the book highly. Though we shall see if it works for me, or not.
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  16. #2016
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    Oh, I've had Save the Cat on my amazon wishlist for a while. I will move it into my basket now.

    Visual works for me, so I'm not sure that there is a better method for me than my big paper, colored markers, all over the living room floor system. But in these times of computers, maybe there is something better out there....

    Two more chapters to rewrite, then unless I find an alternative, out come the marker pens.

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    What's the basic idea of the beat sheet, Judy? I'm not sure I get what that is.

    Plotting is definitely my weakest area, too. I'm treating myself to a writing retreat this month and I've been thinking about the novel I'm going to work on. The characters are there. The setting is there. The plot? Not so much...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Britwriter View Post
    I'm wondering if anyone has any interesting systems or methods for tracking their plot and character development for longer MG books.
    I was thinking about having a go with some kind of mind-mapping software (I'm sure there are some free downloads). I half-heartedly used Excel last time, but I don't think it helped the creative juices flow.
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  19. #2019
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    Quote Originally Posted by Smish View Post
    What's the basic idea of the beat sheet, Judy? I'm not sure I get what that is.

    Plotting is definitely my weakest area, too. I'm treating myself to a writing retreat this month and I've been thinking about the novel I'm going to work on. The characters are there. The setting is there. The plot? Not so much...
    I'm glad Judy mentioned this book. The author has passed away, but he has a website that explains it a bit. The book really goes into more detail, but here's an example of someone dissecting the Hunger Games into his "beats" (the numbers in parenthesis correspond to the page number in the script where the important event happens) - http://www.blakesnyder.com/2012/04/2...et-comparison/
    something

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  20. #2020
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    Well, I probably can't do it justice, but I'll try...

    The "beats" are the places in your story where certain kinds of emotional things need to be happening. They're divided up so you know about how much time/words/pages to spend developing each section.

    He has clever names for the sections, like All is Lost and the Bad Guys Close In. Now I find myself labeling parts of books and movies as I'm reading/watching. It's helping me a lot to understand why certain stories work, why they feel satisfying when you get to the end.
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  21. #2021
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    Quote Originally Posted by SheilaJG View Post
    I'm glad Judy mentioned this book. The author has passed away, but he has a website that explains it a bit. The book really goes into more detail, but here's an example of someone dissecting the Hunger Games into his "beats" (the numbers in parenthesis correspond to the page number in the script where the important event happens) - http://www.blakesnyder.com/2012/04/2...et-comparison/
    Thanks, Sheila! I'll check that out. I'll eventually read the book, too.

    Quote Originally Posted by MsJudy View Post
    Well, I probably can't do it justice, but I'll try...

    The "beats" are the places in your story where certain kinds of emotional things need to be happening. They're divided up so you know about how much time/words/pages to spend developing each section.

    He has clever names for the sections, like All is Lost and the Bad Guys Close In. Now I find myself labeling parts of books and movies as I'm reading/watching. It's helping me a lot to understand why certain stories work, why they feel satisfying when you get to the end.
    Ah. That does sound helpful. Thanks for explaining.
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  22. #2022
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    Having just finished reading Nancy Lamb's "Crafting Stories for Children," I am finally ready to get started on the long road of rewriting my MG novel. Different MC, different world, different plot AND different villain than the last version, and I'm so ready for this!

    So... hi all!

  23. #2023
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    So, I've read Save the Cat, and am here reporting back.

    First off, wow, it helped. But it also threw up even more questions that right now I can't answer.

    I had several 'aha' moments as I read, and made some simple changes that make a huge difference with my MG rewrite. For example, because I'm changing the MC to a boy, I realized that the 'All is Lost' part was not lost enough. The skateboard needed to be trashed. Literally. For a girl, the potential of a trashed skateboard and a hurt sibling was easily enough. But for a boy MC, the board had to be top-of-the line, and it had to be trashed, until the wheels span around and fell off.

    However, I'm now looking at my board wondering if the exactness of the Save a Cat beat sheet is necessary for a novel. Blake Snyder is very clear, when, for a screenplay, something has to happen on page 25, for example, it can't be page 23 or 27, it has to be exactly on page 25. So, when my 'fun and games' section goes on, proportionally, longer than he recommends, do I cut some out, I wonder, or is it only important to be so exact with a screenplay, which is going to last a specific number of minutes?

    It is interesting looking at where my plot fits the beat sheet, and where it doesn't. I can make some simple tweaks to make it fit in some places, and I've already made some simple additions and alterations that I think improve it, but then toward the end I can't see a correlation for a while, until the final chapter.

    So, now I'm brain-dead. Part of me wants to start afresh and storyboard my plot into his beat sheet and see if I can re-create the story that way, and part of me wants to shut Save the Cat and forget it, at least for a while, as I work on the manuscript.

    I am sold, however. For future projects, I am going to work out plot using the beat sheet before I ever start writing.

    But for this project, I just don't know right now. I really do recommend checking the book out though. I will watch movies in future and be checking off against the sheet. I will also read MG with this in mind now, to see if the same principles really do apply to older MG. It will be interesting to see.

  24. #2024
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    I've noticed that a lot of recent longer mg, fantasy especially, has dreadful pacing. Like, the problem is set up on page ten, 100 pages of tootling around, get a sidekick, 100 pages lost in the woods like a damn hobbit, gain magical doodad, 100 pages of being afraid of the bad guy, ten page epic battle, then everybody go home for hot cocoa. Authors don't always keep the action rolling, and it's enough for me to put down the book. I could point to some otherwise intriguing books that didn't sell very well, and I think this is a main reason why!

  25. #2025
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    Good question, Brit. I think some stories need to be paced more carefully than others. Like, if the "fun and games" are fun enough, who cares if they last a little longer?

    I saw The Exotic Marigold Hotel this weekend. Interesting to work out how the beats happen for an ensemble cast... But they did happen. Every story line had its All is Lost moment at about the same time, with events threatening the community they'd built together at the hotel. But two characters exit early, and their departures act as catalysts for everyone else's Dark Night of the Soul.

    So I would say that of course there's some flexibility, depending on what the story needs. But for me, having been rejected once too often for not having a strong enough plot, I'm not going to stray too far from it until I've got a better handle on things.
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