Toolbox 26: Some Advice on Writing for the Middle Grade Audience

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.

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The Basics

  • Overall Readership : 8 – 13 years old
  • Approximate Word Count 30,000 – 55,000 words
  • Main Character suggested ages : 9 – 14 years

The audience is broken into two.

Lower Middle Grade

Are aimed the younger readers ranging from 8 to 10 years old.

Upper Middle Grade

The older MG readers aged from 10 to 13 years old.

General Tips

Point of view: first person is the most popular right now.

Like books for all ages, there must be an outstanding first sentence and a hook. Humour is encouraged throughout the work to relieve the inevitable tension. Keep the story moving. Not all of it has to action, action, action. But if there is a quiet scene, best to be in the hero/heroine’s head working out emotions or planning their next move. Stakes are also important and must be made clear and age appropriate.

For example, if the hero sneaks out they will be grounded not shot.

Genres

All genres are welcome.

Mysteries:

They are the same as young adult, however, when writing a mystery there are specific guidelines to consider:

  • No romance—puppy love and crushes on teacher—are fine
  • Crimes are kid’s size. For example: finding something that’s lost: doll, bike, pet, homework, treasure, parents, catching someone that is tagging and leaving graffiti, damaging property, following someone—a kid—that is sneaking around. Detective snoops around out of pure curiosity, etc.
  • With most children’s books the less the tech the better—it makes the story timeless and it can be discovered by children over and over again.

Things to avoid:

  • Not using a middle grade voice. Wondering what it is? Hang with some 10-13 year old kids.
  • Preaching, teaching or being uppity. Meaning the reader is young and reading for entertainment. Not to be talked down to or taught something.
  • No adults allowed. Meaning they can parent and make dinner, but mostly the kids are living the adventure without parental help.

Gleaned from:

51 responses to “Toolbox 26: Some Advice on Writing for the Middle Grade Audience

  1. I love the no adults allowed being something to avoid. I often wonder in kid shows (when my were little) why parents seemed to be a no-no. There was one, Max and Ruby and I just didn’t get why those bunnies were parentless. LOL

  2. They can be a sub-plot but not the focus of the main plot. I tend to think of their stories as the secret lives of middle graders. 😉

  3. thanks for sharing. i always enjoy your posts
    sherry @ fundinmental

  4. The middle grade books DLP has published follow those guidelines. First person is really popular and kids relate to it better.

    In watching the #IWSGPit feed today, I saw a MG mystery-horror pitched that sounded way too intense for MG kids – mummies and death and few other things.

  5. Great post Anna. My son is just now entering this phase and I do love listening to what’s important in their worlds and what they are reading.

  6. I do love Middle Grade but I’ve never been tempted to write it myself. Brian Jacques, Eva Ibbotson, Tamora Pierce, Neil Gaiman, and Diana Wynne Jones are all favorites 🙂 Although I wonder if Wynne Jones is considered more MG or YA? She kind of defies categorizing, anyway.

  7. Those are great tips. And they’re all so true.

  8. AuthorSarahKrewis

    What great tips! I give mad props to those who write Middle Grade or Children’s books, I don’t think its something I could do. But it’s interesting to see what the genre entails. Great post!

  9. Really good post! I’ve considered dabbling in MG before, and this is really insightful information. Thank you for sharing this!

  10. I’m interested by your comment about first person. That would have been my thought as well, but I’ve just finished reading a book on characterisation that recommended third person. However, the book was published in 2005, so I guess that’s another sign of changing trends in publishing.

  11. Wonderful breakdown and analysis of the Middle Grade world…I’ll know what to expect if I ever wander there 🙂

  12. Great tips. I remember when I was growing up 3rd person was more popular, and I loved the The Magic Faraway Tree and Alex Rider series. I’d love to try writing Middle Grade some day 🙂

  13. Good tips, Anna. This genre isn’t one that comes naturally to me.

  14. Great tips for MG.

  15. Hey, thanks for breaking this down for us. Good information.

  16. Victoria Marie Lees

    This is great, Anna. Thanks so much for sharing this with your Writers Toolbox followers. All best to you!

  17. Perfect little guide about the Middle Grade audience and how to write for them, Anna. I – honestly – knew nothing about it until I read your post. And, no, I don’t remember much of what I read when I was that age myself. Plus, it was in Dutch. 🙂

  18. I’m not super familiar with writing for younger audiences, so this was a really interesting post to read! I learned a lot 😊

  19. It’s not my métier but I still found this interesting reading and I think there are some points that can be adapted to other readerships. Thank you

  20. This is a solid overview. Much of this info is out there, but more piecemeal than the way you’ve put it all together, or at least from what I remember. Thanks!

  21. Great tips! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  22. Ronel Janse van Vuuren

    Great tips to keep in mind!

  23. Thanks for sharing this. For now, I write adult and young/new adult. If ever I become interested in a middle grade story idea, I’ll refer to your tips and the links you shared.

  24. Sound like helpful tips! I don’t think I could pull off a middle grade voice. I find myself pausing to explain words to my daughter (age 9) that come up naturally in my vocabulary. I’d really have to think on whether or not my daughter would know what the word I’m using means.

  25. Oh, the Make Believe cover is clever indeed! I love it!!!

    ♥.•*¨Elizabeth Mueller, Author¨*•.♥

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