Tag Archives | writing middle grade

More answers on writing great middle grade!

The masses continue to speak.

Dawn Simon

I think both genres are a challenge because we have to nail everything in only so many pages while competing with all the distractions teens and tweens have these days.


I think YA draws a lot on romantic elements (if not romance outright) and coming of age, which done well, is poignant and heart-breaking. Upper Middle grade seems to be smarter sometimes, to me, because the protags aren’t distracted by hormones.

Susan Kaye Quinn

Part of the challenge of writing MG, IMHO, is that it is pure storytelling – no sex and violence and internal endless monologue and angst to drive the story along.

So having a compelling story, and getting that wide-eyed innocence right in the MC and the tone just right … I think there’s a reason there aren’t a lot of great MG books. They really are difficult to write.

Kerrie Flanagan

I agree with Susan, a good MG book has to focus on the story. And like Andrea said, we can’t let our adult life experiences muddle up the writing. I guess the key is to channel our inner tween and go for it!

And agent Jill Corcoran speaks her mind about middle grade on her blog. Read the comments to see other writers’ favorite middle grade. (And no, we didn’t coordinate posts.)

The book that always pops up in my mind when thinking of original middle grade with great storytelling is Holes by Louis Sachar. Yes, I love all the oldies too . Well, okay, truth time – I’ve never read The Giver. I can’t get past the creepy old guy on the cover.  Or the title. I think I opened and read the first page and still put it back on the shelf. That’s three strikes. But since so many people love it, I’ll eventually read it. Maybe.

So, I’ve been chilling from my first draft and soaking in middle grade. Literally. Not just reading, but reading to learn. And I’m studying great mg mysteries (hard to find), because I got a hankerin’ to write one. So, I have a pretty big to-be-read pile. It’s enormous. Teetering on my dining room table. (Okay, not exactly.)

Oh, and I’m also squeezing in some great YA. (Like The Dust of a Hundred Dogs by A. S. King – which is totally awesome. I love it. In fact, I’m rushing through this post so I can floss my kids’ teeth and finish it tonight. Thanks Ansha for the “word of mouth” recommendation!)

So, I’ll end on a mini-quote from one of my readers. “Channel your inner tween and go for it!”

What’s in your TBR pile?  What books have you read for pleasure that you ended up learning from too?

Comments { 12 }

And we have some winners! (And some answers about writing middle grade)

And the winner of package one: The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner AND To Find a Wonder by Jennifer Carson goes to……..

# 9    Joyce Lansky

And the winner of Sugar and Ice by Kate Messner and To Find a Wonder by Jennifer Carson goes to……

#26 Kristin Gray

Congrats winners! Please email me with your address!

These truly are terrific books! Enjoy!

And some answers from my readers to the question: Why is middle grade so hard to get right?

Alliterive Allomorph

I don’t write MG or YA, but I assume it might be because, you being an adult, the material doesn’t seem original enough. But for a kid, someone who hasn’t had the life experience you’ve had, I think it would interest them becasue they haven’t read about it, seen it in the movies, or lived any such thing yet.

The books that obviously grab you, are things you’ve never read before, or perhaps conjured emotions you’ve never felt when reading before. But remember, there’s a first time for everything, and kids are going to expereince a lot more firsts than you are.


An interesting question. I find that MG varies a lot in terms of how young the voice seems. It think it’s hard to capture a MG perspective when you’re an adult because your life experience gets in the way.


We’ve been enjoying Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Desperaux–and what I think she does well is layer elements that appeal to kids with ones that appeal to adults. Some of the humor is over the head of my 7.5-yo, but hubby and I have been riveted by it. My daughter is captivated by the underdog storyline.

Maybe that’s the answer? I think MG books are more likely to be read-alouds to early readers, so the best books have dual appeal to the kids and the parents reading them aloud. Look at the Hobbit and Harry Potter–they also have that layering. I’ve heard the same about the Percy Jackson books.

Andrea Vlahakis

I think one reason may be that there’s such a spectrum of MG readers, from early books like Mr. Putter and Tabby, to HP, and everything in between.


MG can’t be too babyish and it can’t be too YA-ish. I think it needs voice and plot balanced. The ones that are “all voice” and no plot thread bug me to pieces, and I just got done throwing one against… er, I mean, taking it back to the library. Of course, the other extreme doesn’t work either

I knew had smart readers! Thanks everyone!


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Why is middle grade so hard to get right?

I keep reading all over the web that editors and agents want great middle grade. But they also say, it is really hard to find middle grade with an authentic voice. A story they fall in love with that has the perfect combination of character, plot, and voice.

I wonder why.

I read a lot of middle grade. And YA. 

  • Some books I stop reading after a few chapters because the story doesn’t interest me at all. But kids might love it.
  • Some books I skim through big sections of the middle and read the end. And usually, I don’t feel like I missed a thing. But kids might love it.
  • Sometimes, I read the entire book but I put it down realizing kids would love this but something was missing for me. Usually it has to do with a slow pace or lack of originality. (And there’s the whole I’m a writer and so it has to be really good for me to love it.) (And there’s the whole reader subjectivity thing too.)
  • And sometimes I know from the first chapter, sometimes the first page, that I’m going to love this book. And I can’t put it down. And I recommend it to all my friends for their kids to read. And I tell my writer friends about it. I can’t help it. I still think about the story a couple years later and I reread it.

Why do you think middle grade is so hard to perfect? Or if you write YA – what is the last book that you absolutely loved and wish you wrote?

And talking about perfecting middle grade voice. Today is the last day to enter my middle grade book give away! Click here and enter!

Comments { 17 }