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Middle Grade Novel Writing

Updated on September 21, 2013

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 lots of them. In this way you gain an instinctive sense of what they are like.

You can find plenty of middle grade novels 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.

You're welcome to visit my website, Literature For Kids, for more suggestions of middle grade novels to read.


Image above: The Story Book Art is by William Bougeureau (1825 - 1905) - You can buy a print at AllPosters.com

This page was created by Linda Jo Martin.

I'm also on Pinterest and Goodreads.

This page was updated in March, 2013.

Because I got into the habit of reading middle grade novels to my two young children, I learned to love this genre, and wanted to write some of my own.

I finished the first draft of my first middle grade novel in 2001, and I've written several others since then.

My first published novel is River Girl.

How to Make Money as a Writer of Children's Literature in Hard Times

Themes in Children's Fiction

How to Generate Children's Story Ideas


I use Scrivener to keep my writing wits about me. It is a fantastic writing software that organizes a novel, ebook, or screenplay efficiently while I write and revise.

Get started writing your middle grade novel and don't quit

...you 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 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. 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.

Story sparkers, for children's writers - Get some middle grade novel inspiration!

Story Sparkers : A Creativity Guide for Children's Writers
Story Sparkers : A Creativity Guide for Children's Writers

This book covers - brainstorming, webbing, freewriting, listing, questioning, researching, the five senses, overheard conversations, pictures, time lines, experiences, memories, things kids care about, and much more.

 

Basic building blocks of middle grade novels

...just stack them up!

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

Some of these building blocks are:

Words

Sentences

Paragraphs

Scenes

Chapters

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 middle grade novel manuscript to be proud of.

Middle grade novels - 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 middle grade 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.

Creating characters kids will love - Know your characters and.. your novel will be much easier to write!

Creating Characters Kids Will Love
Creating Characters Kids Will Love

This book covers - how to find believable story characters, creating a character journal, observing real children for inspiration, transforming fact into fiction, character growth, plot development, a character's internal problems, point of view, heroes, villains, secondary characters, animal characters, adult characters, and historical characters.

 

Conflict in middle grade novels

...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 MC, 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.

Parts of a middle grade 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.

Don't Procrastinate - Nail Your Novel Today! - Available in Kindle or paperback editions.

Nail Your Novel - Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence
Nail Your Novel - Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish With Confidence

If you have a novel "sitting in the drawer" or in a file on your computer, why not finish it? This book will tell you how. It is all about polishing, revising, and editing. And while you're at it come by my blog, Novel Editing 101 and I'll tell you more!

 

Learn the elements of writing fiction - ...then apply all that to writing for children.

Elements of Fiction Writing - Beginnings, Middles & Ends
Elements of Fiction Writing - Beginnings, Middles & Ends

This book covers the opening scene, the section scene, early revisions, staying on track throughout the middle of the novel, character development, getting unstuck, delivering on the promise, the last scene, the last paragraph, and the last sentence.

 

Are you a writer? Tell us about yourself, or just leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!

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

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    • profile image

      Gordonjohns 9 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

    • profile image

      Marta_Stephens 9 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.

      Marta!

    • sdtechteacher profile image

      sdtechteacher 9 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.

    • Linda BookLady profile image
      Author

      Linda Jo Martin 9 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.

    • profile image

      Ms_Appleseed 9 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!

    • EelKat13 profile image

      EelKat13 9 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.

    • boredofeducatio1 profile image

      boredofeducatio1 9 years ago

      Great Lens!

      Welcome to the Squidoo Book Club.

    • ForeignFilmFana profile image

      ForeignFilmFana 9 years ago

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

    • Steve Albert profile image

      Steve Albert 9 years ago

      Great lens! 5 stars!! :)

    • JanetG LM profile image

      JanetG LM 9 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.

    • Lewister profile image

      Susan 8 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!!

    • mjrinella profile image

      mjrinella 8 years ago

      Wow, great lens! 5 stars.

    • profile image

      qlcoach 8 years ago

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

      Sincerely: Gary Eby, author and theapist

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      Hey great lens! and even better content lol!

      Thanks for the advice..

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 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!

    • PattB LM profile image

      PattB LM 8 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!

    • JenOfChicago LM profile image

      JenOfChicago LM 8 years ago

      Great lens!

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 7 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.

      Brenda

    • religions7 profile image

      religions7 7 years ago

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

    • Annie McMahon profile image

      Annie McMahon 7 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.

    • Lori Lee-Ray profile image

      Lori Lee-Ray 7 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

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

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

      Thanks hon xx

    • FlynntheCat1 profile image

      FlynntheCat1 7 years ago

      Great lens! Blessed!

    • Ramkitten2000 profile image

      Deb Kingsbury 7 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!

    • bbudoyono lm profile image

      bbudoyono lm 6 years ago

      Excellent lens. Thanks for writing this.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 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.

    • EditPhotos profile image

      Edit Photos 6 years ago from Earth

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

    • caketech profile image

      caketech 6 years ago

      Great lens! I really enjoyed reading this.

    • jp1978 profile image

      jp1978 6 years ago

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

    • jimmielanley profile image

      Jimmie Lanley 6 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.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 6 years ago

      Great writing resource. SquidAngel blessings.

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 6 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.

    • pumpnut lm profile image

      pumpnut lm 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      KaraLynnRussell 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Gail47 6 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.

    • cinstress profile image

      cinstress 6 years ago

      I love writing too!

      thanks for a great lens with many resources

    • wolley811 profile image

      wolley811 6 years ago

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

    • profile image

      Donnette Davis 5 years ago from South Africa

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

    • franstan lm profile image

      franstan lm 5 years ago

      Love this lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 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?

    • Linda BookLady profile image
      Author

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

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

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      What a cool idea for lens - love it!

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 5 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

      jeremykim2011 5 years ago

      Thanks for the wonderful writing tips! Great lens!

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 5 years ago

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

    • MariaMontgomery profile image

      MariaMontgomery 5 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 5 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.

    • profile image

      Ericastanciu 5 years ago

      Great lens! Really informative

    • KhairuZiya profile image

      KhairuZiya 5 years ago

      great lens, very informative. thank you for sharing

    • SecondHandJoe LM profile image

      SecondHandJoe LM 5 years ago

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

    • DuaneJ profile image

      DuaneJ 5 years ago

      Love the tips and advice!

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

      Very informative lens!

    • profile image

      AshAffiches 5 years ago

      5 stars!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 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.

    • Angelgirl1976 profile image

      Angelgirl1976 5 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 :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 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!

    • BuddyBink profile image

      BuddyBink 5 years ago

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

    • MaryQuinlin profile image

      MaryQuinlin 5 years ago

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

    • Julia Morais profile image

      Julia Morais 5 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!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Something I have not yet tried. Thanks!

    • vanidiana24 profile image

      vanidiana24 5 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.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 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!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 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.

    • rich074 profile image

      rich074 5 years ago

      Expertly Done

    • darciefrench lm profile image

      darciefrench lm 5 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.

    • profile image

      baby-strollers 5 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.

    • davidleetong lm profile image

      davidleetong lm 5 years ago

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

    • Art-Aspirations profile image

      Art-Aspirations 5 years ago

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

    • Mishael A Witty profile image

      Mishael A Witty 5 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!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 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.

    • profile image

      bobby150 5 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

      Nick-The-Novelist 5 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.

    • danowrites lm profile image

      danowrites lm 5 years ago

      Thank you for this, it is very helpful indeed.

    • BunnyFabulous profile image

      BunnyFabulous 4 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.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 4 years ago

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

    • the-l-squid profile image

      the-l-squid 4 years ago

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

    • Linda BookLady profile image
      Author

      Linda Jo Martin 4 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

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

    • profile image

      mouse1996 lm 4 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.

    • yayas profile image

      yayas 4 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

      anonymous 4 years ago

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

    • Linda BookLady profile image
      Author

      Linda Jo Martin 4 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

      julieannbrady 4 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
      Author

      Linda Jo Martin 4 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!

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