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Writing Middle Grade Novels

Updated on September 28, 2017
Linda BookLady profile image

I'm the author of "River Girl" - a middle grade historical novel set in the Klamath River Valley, where I once lived.

The Story Book
The Story Book | Source

Would you like to write a middle grade novel?

Middle grade novels appeal to children ages 8 to 12. If you want to write for this age group, the best way to get started is to read recently published books similar to the one you want to write. In this way you gain an instinctive sense for the type of writing that is publishable.

You can find plenty of novels for the 8 to 12 age group in your public library. Ask the librarian for recommendations, or check out the list of Newbery Medal winners to know what other librarians thought were the best. Many of the novels on that list are for older children (young adult novels) so do some research to make sure the novel you want to read is for middle graders.

Years ago I developed a habit of reading novels from the Newbery Medal list to my two young children. I learned to love this genre, and wanted to write similar books of my own. I finished the first draft of my first middle grade novel in 2001, and I've written several others since then.

Start writing your novel and don't quit can do it!!!

The most important thing to remember when writing a novel is that you cannot quit. Even if you think the story is bad, don't quit. Even if you decide you're only a scribbler of worthless ideas, don't quit. Almost every author goes through a period of hating their novel while they're writing it.

Perseverance is the hardest part of creating a worthwhile story. Once you quit, you fail. And if you don't quit, you can always keep adding to and editing your novel, until it is something you can be proud of.

You should expect to write something new on your novel every day. If you skip a few days, don't despair - just pick up where you left off. If you're new to writing, you can try for 500 new words daily. If you're ambitious, 1500 words daily would be a great goal.

Whatever word count you choose, remember that the key word here is "daily". Do you realize that if you write just 500 words daily for two months and ten days, you'll have a viable 35,000-word middle grade novel manuscript? Then you'll have something in hand to edit and polish up, and be on your way to novel writing success.

A writing poll

What age group do you most frequently write for?

See results

Basic building blocks of a novel

...just stack them up!

Your manuscript will contain elements that are building blocks for the novel.

Some of these building blocks are:






When you set your goal to add a few building blocks each day, it is much easier than telling yourself you're about to write an entire novel.

When I wrote my first middle grade novel I made it my goal to write 2500 words daily - which would be the approximate length of each chapter. I decided that each time I sat down to write I'd have a list of five scenes to write. My scenes lasted for about 500 words apiece, more or less each time. And in that way I wrote the entire novel in only 17 days. (The first draft was about 50,000 words.)

Set your goals. They don't have to be as ambitious as mine were. But know what you're planning to do, and where you're headed. Then get started, and give yourself the time to get where you want to go. Stack up your blocks, one at a time, and soon you'll have a manuscript to be proud of.

Francoise in a Round-Backed Chair, Reading
Francoise in a Round-Backed Chair, Reading | Source

To plot or not to plot

...that is the question.

Novelists are all different. Some make elaborate written plotting notes before starting the actual writing. Others resist plotting, preferring to write organically, letting the story progress as they do the writing itself.

I've written novels both ways. I like and appreciate both approaches. So don't expect me to say that you have to have a plot, or that having one is limiting and bad. It really depends on what you want to do.

There are many different ways to write out a plot. My favorite way is to decide what the main character's journey is. The MC (main character) starts as one kind of person, then learns, grows, matures, and changes. When I figure out what the character will be like at the end of the novel, I can then decide what the different chapters will be.

I write a simple list of chapters - about 15 to 25 chapters depending on the complexity of the novel. For each chapter I write a brief summary of what I want to have happen, what scenes will take place, where, and with which characters. Then as I write the novel I have this list of ideas to draw on as I write chapter after chapter, easily and without too much guesswork.

Organic writing can be fun too. Try it sometime - you might like it! To do it, just decide who your MC is, put that person in a situation, and start writing. Let your imagination be your guide as you travel with your MC through whatever happens next. It is not difficult, and you may end up with incredibly fun and exciting manuscripts. I love the stories I wrote that way.

So to plot or not to plot - that is your decision, and whichever way you choose to write your novel, you're doing it the right way for you.

Creating a main character for your novel

...who is this strange person? ...why will children like him - or her?

The most important person in your novel is the main character (MC). When you're writing a middle grade novel, your MC should be a child.

Some writers believe that children prefer to read about MC's that are slightly older than they are. So since middle grade novels are for children ages 8 to 12, you can't go wrong with having a twelve-year-old protagonist. However if that age doesn't fit your novel idea, just go with whatever you feel is right. Children will want to know how old your MC is, and it would be good to find some creative way to tell them.

Give some thought to your MC's personality before starting your novel. Write it all down, so you don't forget the details while you're writing your novel. It is very helpful to have a character development sheet to refer to while you're writing. In one novel I wrote there were four children, and I constantly referred to my character development notes to remember things like which child was raising rabbits, which one had dark curly hair and which one was blond, what their cats were named, etc.

Give your child protagonist at least three strong positive characteristics, and one negative one. For example your child could be capable, charming, and talkative... and afraid of the dark. Characters with flaws are much more fun to read about than perfect characters. Children want fictional friends they can identify with and care about.

Interview your character. Ask your character what he (or she) wants the world to know about him. Let the answers bubble up from your subconscious and write it all down. Then ask what he wants you to hide, and why. Ask as many questions as possible, and get to know this person's personality well, as you'll be living with him for months to come.

Good advice from a young editor

Conflict in novels written for children

...every novel needs conflict.

A novel without conflict is boring. Every novel needs characters that disagree with one another, major problems that the characters need to solve, and near the end, a huge crisis.

Since your protagonist is a child, and your readers are children, your novel's climax and other lesser problems should be resolved by the child who is the main character, not by parents or teachers. Children want to read about other children that had problems and came up with great solutions for them.

So as you write, you're supposed to be thinking, "what can I do to make it worse for my characters?" Yes, that's not very nice, but who said novelists had to be nice - while writing, at least. Our job is to make our characters suffer, but to give them plenty of room to find solutions and redeem themselves.

Portrait of Jean and Genevieve Caillebotte (1895)
Portrait of Jean and Genevieve Caillebotte (1895) | Source

Parts of a novel

...make sure your novel is complete.

A novel has these basic components:

  • Prologue - This is optional. Most novels don't have them but you might decide after writing your novel that it would help to add one. Don't worry about it for now.
  • Beginning - The first page is the most important. This is where you will hook your potential reader, or lose him, so you need an exciting and intriguing start that will make people want to read the rest of your novel.
  • Middle - This is the main section of the novel, consisting of many chapters. You will move the MC from the beginning, through whatever character changes he experiences, to the end where he will be a new and better kind of person.
  • Sub-Plots - Novels are more complex when they add extra plots to distract the MC along the way. These take place in the middle of the novel. Leave the beginning and end for the main plot.
  • Climax - A few chapters from the end you should start building toward your main crisis. This should be the most exciting part of the novel, and it usually happens in the penultimate chapter.
  • Denouement - This is the last chapter. The crisis is over. The character has changed. Now you just have to wrap up loose ends and send your MC and other characters on to their new and better life.
  • Epilogue - I rarely see these in middle grade novels, but that doesn't mean you can't throw one in if it feels like the right thing to do.

A panel of middle grade novel authors at Comic Con

© 2007 Linda Jo Martin

Any comments about middle grade novels? - Your opinions are always welcome

Submit a Comment

  • Linda BookLady profile image

    Linda Jo Martin 6 months ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @ Barbara Radisavljevic - I tried picture books before writing novels. Writing a short story is another art form. I have some children's stories I'd like to put into a book one of these days.

  • BarbRad profile image

    Barbara Radisavljevic 6 months ago from Templeton, CA

    If I ever attempt fiction, I'll come back to read this again. For now, I seem to be stuck on nonfiction. I simply can't come up with plots and characters. The only fiction I can see myself trying is picture books.

  • Linda BookLady profile image

    Linda Jo Martin 6 months ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    Hi Linda Crampton - I enjoyed looking at your pages today! My characters always seem to have plenty to say, and it is fun to get to know them better, outside the pages of our novel.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 6 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

    I love your suggestions, Linda. My favourite one is the idea of interviewing my main character. I will definitely try this is the near future.

  • Linda BookLady profile image

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @julieannbrady: Thanks Julie! I got into middle grade novel writing when my children were young - and together we went through lots of middle grade novels, reading out loud. Great books!

  • profile image

    julieannbrady 5 years ago

    Linda, you have done a brilliant "job" of presenting helpful and informative information about middle grade novels. Hope you continue along your incredible journey.

  • Linda BookLady profile image

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @anonymous: Thanks, Tipi... are you writing a novel now? I hope so. Maybe about a little girl living in a tipi.... you have done the research already!

  • profile image

    anonymous 5 years ago

    Well, this is a lens I have missed. Linda, this is so helpful, and inspiring.

  • yayas profile image

    yayas 5 years ago

    I have always considered myself a writer, no matter what other ventures I was involved in. This is a very thorough explanation of how to get a novel written. Thank you for going into such detail in your explanations.

    I also appreciate your comment on 'Real Ghost Stories From My Grandmother' an' the observation. I think I must go back an' revise the page, however, because the story is true. It's apparent that I did not tell it clearly enough for you to know that the ghost was actually a person, hiding in the trees outside Gramma's second-story window. That was why the bullet was effective.

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I am on my way to revise an' repair. :)

  • profile image

    mouse1996 lm 5 years ago

    Love this lens. I have a novel I am writing for middle grade and I keep giving up because I feel I am just not good. But I am going to do Nanowrimo this year and I think I will try my middle grade novel again. You have really broke it down for me, great information.

  • Linda BookLady profile image

    Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @the-l-squid: I'm glad you found it helpful! Good luck writing your middle grade novel!

  • Gypzeerose profile image

    Rose Jones 6 years ago

    Back to pin this to my Writing board. Great lens.

  • the-l-squid profile image

    the-l-squid 5 years ago

    This is really an amazing lens... wow, great work. Bookmarked.

  • BunnyFabulous profile image

    BunnyFabulous 6 years ago from Central Florida

    Have wondered what it would be like to write a novel for kids. You give really great practical advice....especially 'Don't Quit!' Great lens.

  • danowrites lm profile image

    danowrites lm 6 years ago

    Thank you for this, it is very helpful indeed.

  • profile image

    Nick-The-Novelist 6 years ago

    Love the advice about making a main character. Interviewing them is an awesome technique. I find it works much better than a simple character sheet at getting to know them.

  • profile image

    bobby150 6 years ago

    "Don't Quit!" best advice overall. Many people quit very early in writing a novel or any difficult undertaking. As a writer it's important to get into the work and learn all you can about these new characters that you have created. When you know your characters, you can't just walk away from them and forget them because your tired of the work. If they are good strong characters that belong in your story they will be with you everyday and every step of the way.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    I have written my first middle grade manuscript, and I am looking for ways of making it stronger and publishable. Thank you for these grade tips.

  • Mishael A Witty profile image

    Mishael A Witty 6 years ago

    I am a writer, but I've never written a book for middle grade readers. You have some great tips here. Thanks for sharing!

  • Art-Aspirations profile image

    Art-Aspirations 6 years ago

    A well-crafted lens. My granddaughter is an avid reader at age 8 and I thoroughly enjoy reading what she is reading.

  • davidleetong lm profile image

    davidleetong lm 6 years ago

    Love the lens! So well written... Scary opening photo though :D

  • profile image

    baby-strollers 6 years ago

    My little one will be 8 before long - I would love to put some of your advice to work. I think I could do it.

  • darciefrench lm profile image

    darciefrench lm 6 years ago

    I was a ghostwriter for several middle grade children's novels. I really enjoyed it. The books are numbers 5-8 in the Why Some Cats Are Rascals series by Bozena Nowiki.

  • rich074 profile image

    rich074 6 years ago

    Expertly Done

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Thank you so much for this lens. It is very helpful and encouraging. I will, pick up the unfinished story I've written, everyday as you suggest.

  • Scarlettohairy profile image

    Peggy Hazelwood 6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

    This is a great information! I love how you've broken down the basics and made it seem oh-so-doable!

  • vanidiana24 profile image

    vanidiana24 6 years ago

    I am a kid story writer, and all that you have written in this lens really give me more inspirations how to write better. Thank you very much for sharing about the writing tips. I have written three middle grade novels, one fantasy story and two sci-fi stories. You are right about not stopping, sometimes I got too busy doing other things that I left my stories half finished.

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Something I have not yet tried. Thanks!

  • Julia Morais profile image

    Julia Morais 6 years ago

    I wonder if I'll have the discipline to sit and write a novel. I used to have lots of ideas, but was too lazy to get these ideas on paper. Maybe I could use this lens as a guide, and put my story telling skills to the test. Great lens!

  • MaryQuinlin profile image

    MaryQuinlin 6 years ago

    I very much enjoyed all you included--so many good tips!

  • BuddyBink profile image

    BuddyBink 6 years ago

    A very nice outline on how to write a novel. Thanks

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    I love this genre as well. I have not tried to write one, but you have given me the encouragement needed to start. During the time it took me to read this lens I have come up with a character and a situation for her. I am off and running with this. Thank you!

  • Angelgirl1976 profile image

    Angelgirl1976 6 years ago

    Thank you for this, it is very helpful indeed. I lost my job 2 weeks before christmas and I have always loved writing but just didn't have the tme to write but now I have the time. I have been thinking that I want to write for a living. When I was at school, my teachers always said I should take up a career in writing so now seems like a good time. This really helped me so thank you for the info :)

  • Gypzeerose profile image

    Rose Jones 6 years ago

    I bookmarked this but I would personally love to write for this age. I read a lot of children's books - I like seeing eyes through child's eyes.

  • profile image

    AshAffiches 6 years ago

    5 stars!

  • iijuan12 profile image

    iijuan12 6 years ago from Florida

    Very informative lens!

  • DuaneJ profile image

    DuaneJ 6 years ago

    Love the tips and advice!

  • SecondHandJoe LM profile image

    SecondHandJoe LM 6 years ago

    I just finished my first middle grade novel- next week I'll read another!

  • KhairuZiya profile image

    KhairuZiya 6 years ago

    great lens, very informative. thank you for sharing

  • profile image

    Ericastanciu 6 years ago

    Great lens! Really informative

  • MariaMontgomery profile image

    MariaMontgomery 6 years ago from Central Florida, USA

    Thank you for this very helpful and informative lens; and for the encouragement. I've thought about this genre many times, but have not investigated it. I may do so now.

  • MariaMontgomery profile image

    MariaMontgomery 6 years ago from Central Florida, USA

    Thank you for this very helpful and informative lens; and for the encouragement. I've thought about this genre many times, but have not investigated it. I may do so now.

  • delia-delia profile image

    Delia 6 years ago

    Very nice with great information...I will have to look into this a bit more...thanks for sharing!

  • profile image

    jeremykim2011 6 years ago

    Thanks for the wonderful writing tips! Great lens!

  • Linda Pogue profile image

    Linda Pogue 6 years ago from Missouri

    I hadn't considered weriting a middle grade novel, but I have started two young adult novels. Good points about writing on the novel everyday. Had I done that, they would both be finished now. Great lens! Blessings!

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    What a cool idea for lens - love it!

  • Linda BookLady profile image

    Linda Jo Martin 6 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    @anonymous: Thanks... I wrote that! - Linda Jo Martin ... glad you appreciate it!

  • profile image

    anonymous 6 years ago

    Who wrote this, I'm posting it on my wall and would like to credit the author: The most important thing to remember when writing a novel is that you cannot quit. Even if you think the story is bad, don't quit. Even if you decide you're the most talentless scribbler of worthless ideas, don't quit. Almost every author goes through a period of hating their novel while they're writing it.

    You see, sticking to the project is the hardest part of creating a worthwhile story. Once you quit, you fail. And if you don't quit, you can always keep adding to and editing your novel, until it is something you can be proud of.

    You should expect to write something new on your novel every day.

    remember that the key word here is "daily". Do you realize that if you write just 500 words daily for two months and ten days, you'll have a viable 35,000-word middle grade novel manuscript?

  • franstan lm profile image

    franstan lm 6 years ago

    Love this lens

  • profile image

    Donnette Davis 6 years ago from South Africa

    I love the layout of your page. thank you for sharing

  • wolley811 profile image

    wolley811 7 years ago

    Hey, this brings back my old passions of writing! :) thanks! this is really informative and inspiring!

  • cinstress profile image

    cinstress 7 years ago

    I love writing too!

    thanks for a great lens with many resources

  • profile image

    Gail47 7 years ago

    Great resource with beautiful posters, too! What a comprehensive lens, and I'm sure those who would like to write for that age group will appreciate your information.

  • profile image

    KaraLynnRussell 7 years ago

    Lots of helpful links here. Thanks for creating this lens.

  • pumpnut lm profile image

    pumpnut lm 7 years ago

    I would love to have a least one story out there in the world. It's on my list.

  • Linda Pogue profile image

    Linda Pogue 7 years ago from Missouri

    You have some wonderful ideas and writing resources. I have been writing for as long as I can remember, and love to do fictional writing for young adults and children, when I have time.

  • KarenTBTEN profile image

    KarenTBTEN 7 years ago

    Great writing resource. SquidAngel blessings.

  • jimmielanley profile image

    Jimmie Lanley 7 years ago from Memphis, TN, USA

    Your content is great. I've always wanted to write a YA book (young adult) about ... well, maybe I should'nt give away my plot idea. ;-)

    This lens is so visually appealing. I love the columnar look. It really keeps my eye going down, down, down the page.

  • jp1978 profile image

    jp1978 7 years ago

    Great! Everything is here, what's left for us is the writing...

  • caketech profile image

    caketech 7 years ago

    Great lens! I really enjoyed reading this.

  • EditPhotos profile image

    Edit Photos 7 years ago from Earth

    Great lens - you've been visited by a squidoo angel!

  • profile image

    anonymous 7 years ago

    What a perfect day to stumble across this great information and encouragement! Thank you so much for your insight and words of wisdom. I've been beating myself up all day about my writing, hating my manuscript(s), running into dead ends and convincing myself that my reader would be bored with my story if I labor over each and every word.

    Again, thank you, thank you.

  • profile image

    anonymous 7 years ago

    Thank u 4 such a useful writing 2write kids literature.

  • bbudoyono lm profile image

    bbudoyono lm 7 years ago

    Excellent lens. Thanks for writing this.

  • Ramkitten2000 profile image

    Deb Kingsbury 8 years ago from Flagstaff, Arizona

    I'd never actually heard the term "middle grade novel." I've written for adults and "young adults" but never have tried a "middle grade" story. Perhaps that will be in my future. You give excellent tips in a very eye-catching lens. Nicely done!

  • FlynntheCat1 profile image

    FlynntheCat1 8 years ago

    Great lens! Blessed!

  • profile image

    anonymous 8 years ago

    Superb lens, Linda - you make writing for young adults seem not only achievable, but extremely tempting!!

    Thanks hon xx

  • Lori Lee-Ray profile image

    Lori Lee-Ray 8 years ago

    Absolutely phenomenal lense, love the layout and the information! Great job! I'm lensrolling you to my author lense on James Bell Scott

  • Annie McMahon profile image

    Annie McMahon 8 years ago from New Jersey

    I'm "favoriting" your lens and will be back to read it more thoroughly. Great lens! I'm a wanna-be writer, in the process of submitting my first manuscript.

  • religions7 profile image

    religions7 9 years ago

    Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

  • TreasuresBrenda profile image

    Treasures By Brenda 9 years ago from Canada

    You almost make me want to write a novel...I think you've done a fantastic job here and I've blessed your lens.


  • JenOfChicago LM profile image

    JenOfChicago LM 9 years ago

    Great lens!

  • PattB LM profile image

    PattB LM 9 years ago

    I'm so excited about this lens. At one time I thought about writing novels for middle grades, and now I think you've revived that interest. I will bookmark this lens, and look forward to returning. thanks!

  • profile image

    anonymous 9 years ago

    Thanks for this information, I am actually writing a story and this is very helpful. I am only in 8th grade but I want my readers to grow to love my characters and want the story to be real, or at least that they are with the characters at the time of their delimma's. This really helped me with very imaginative ways of describing the characters and new plots. I didn't necessarily ask myself "How can I hurt my character?" because it all came together, but I did like that suggestion. Thankyou so much!! By the way your site, 5 stars!

  • profile image

    anonymous 9 years ago

    Hey great lens! and even better content lol!

    Thanks for the advice..

  • profile image

    anonymous 9 years ago

    I love your this site. I haven't written a novel, but a children's picture book. I am looking forward to reading your other sites. I give your 5 stars and would like to rate your site(if I can figure out how to do this). Keep going!

  • profile image

    qlcoach 9 years ago

    Excellent information here. Thank you for sharing it and thank you for participating in our club.

    Sincerely: Gary Eby, author and theapist

  • mjrinella profile image

    mjrinella 9 years ago

    Wow, great lens! 5 stars.

  • Lewister profile image

    Susan 10 years ago from Texas

    Hmmm. Well, I already know how to read books for the 9-12 year old set. They're among my favorites right now. But it's harder than it looks to write for them!!

  • JanetG LM profile image

    JanetG LM 10 years ago

    5 stars!! Enjoyed your info. I am writing a non fiction book for 9-12 year old girls. Your site gave me a shot in the arm. Found you thru the Muse Online Forum. Thanks.

  • Steve Albert profile image

    Steve Albert 10 years ago

    Great lens! 5 stars!! :)

  • ForeignFilmFana profile image

    ForeignFilmFana 10 years ago

    Great lens with lots of helpful information! I gave it 5*. Hope you'll visit my Foreign Films Frenzy lens too!

  • boredofeducatio1 profile image

    boredofeducatio1 10 years ago

    Great Lens!

    Welcome to the Squidoo Book Club.

  • profile image

    anonymous 10 years ago

    Great lens! I voted 5 stars - I invite you to check out mine too, and rate it for me! Live Streaming Video

  • EelKat13 profile image

    EelKat13 10 years ago

    What a great page you got here! I'm a writer, but most of my books are for adults, however the past few months I've been writing a couple of books for kids, which I hope to get published soon. Your info is very hlpful.

  • profile image

    Ms_Appleseed 10 years ago

    I love your blog! What great committment you have to the writing experience. I am working on focus and you have inspired me. Thanks!

  • Linda BookLady profile image

    Linda Jo Martin 10 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

    Thanks, sdtechteacher, I haven't submitted my novels for publication yet, though I've written several. I go over them and revise repeatedly. One of these days I'll be ready to submit.

  • sdtechteacher profile image

    sdtechteacher 10 years ago

    I really like your lens. You put a lot of encouraging advice in here plus links and other resources. 5 stars!

    Have you published an middle grade books? I'd love to see one.

  • profile image

    Marta_Stephens 10 years ago

    Linda, I really enjoyed reading your Lens. Great advice too. I think you are the only other person (besides me) that I know of who makes a list of the chapters with a brief summary of its content. It's a great way to make sure the scenes are sequential too.


  • profile image

    Gordonjohns 10 years ago

    Lots of good content. 5*. Though i agree with Elee, some pictures would help break up the text. Great first effort.

    Tikal Xunantunich