Middle Grade Novel Writing
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.
This page was created by Linda Jo Martin.
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.
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!
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:
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!
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.
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.
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.
My Journey of Writing Middle Grade Novels - ...a few of my writing articles.
- Writing A Novel
True story of my process in learning to write novels.
- Themes In Children’s Fiction
This article shows how to use themes to write fiction for children.
- Twelve Tips For Writing Better Articles
If your articles seem dull, try these tips for making them spicy and exciting as well as informative. You can capture your readers' attention and make them anxious to read more.
- The Unfinshed Manuscript
Advice on how to finish a stalled novel manuscript.
- Let The Words Flow
How to get into the flow of writing and editing to formulate, revise, and complete a manuscript of any type.
- Blogging and Creative Writing
Why and when I started blogging, how it helps with creative writing, a list of my blogs, and a few recommended blogs.
- Blogging Tips: Help For Writers Who Blog
Blogging Tips by Lorelle Van Fossen is an excellent guide for new bloggers, with tips that will even help those of us who have been blogging for years.
- Ten Tips For New Writers
Ten tips for new writers as they set out on their writing journeys.
- Making Time for Writing
Despite a busy schedule, you can make time for writing. No matter how little time you have, writing the first sentence is key to getting something done.
- Three Things A Writer Should Have
A writer needs confidence and perseverance to succeed at writing. Writers also need a good writer's notebook!
- Practice Writing Daily for Creative Development
How to practice writing daily using a prompt as inspiration.
- From the White Light
Flash fiction story by Linda Jo Martin - about a girl who experiences a vision from the white light.
- Feeling FREE With Language
A writer's first draft is a place for word play and freedom of creative thought.
- Rejection: It’s Not Personal
Don't take it personally if your manuscript gets rejected - as usually it has nothing to do with you.
- Writerly Success
Success is a word that goads writers into doing things they never thought possible.
- Questions to Ask Yourself About Creative Endeavors
These questions will give writers and creatives some insights into their creative process.
- If You Don’t Like It, Change It!
We must each take responsibility to change the things we don't like.
- Plotting a Novel Through Character Development
Novel plotting starts with knowing the character who will take the journey through the pages of your novel; this leads to an understanding of the situations that character will experience.
- Place Children's Story Characters in Unusual Settings and Situations | Literature For Kids
Place characters for children's stories in unusual settings and situations to create an unexpected, unique story that children and editors will love.
- How to Generate Children's Story Ideas | Literature For Kids
A quick way to generate children's story ideas.
- Go Outside And Write | Literature For Kids
Writing in nature brings experiences and details to our writing that cannot be duplicated later when we're home in an office looking at a computer screen.
- Practice Writing Children's Literature | Literature For Kids
Writing improves when we practice the skills involved in writing an story, article, or poem. Daily practice writing works for whoever does it.
- How to Make Money as a Writer of Children's Literature During Hard Times | Literature For Kids
Ten ideas for making money as a writer of literature for children during a recession or depression.
Are you a writer? Tell us about yourself, or just leave a comment. I'd love to hear from you!