Monday, July 29, 2013

Writing Middle Grade: A few random MG tips

Let's talk a few random writing middle grade tips.

Photo Credit

(But first, a random gif that has nothing at all to do with what I'm writing, just because dang. This cat’s impressive.)

So here goes! Random writing middle grade tips:
  • Sacrifice almost anything for clarity.
Try to be dynamic and clear at the same time. You should never confuse.
  • Dialogue attributions should come as soon as possible. 
This is especially important in middle grade, because of how often they are read aloud. Here’s a few examples of the same dialogue, based off one of the first pages of Sky Jumpers:
“Nah. I was just enjoying how fresh the air smelled when I wasn’t standing right next to you,” Hope said. 

When you are reading aloud, even if you don’t do different voices for each character, you still kind of do. If you have to wait this long for a dialogue attribution, you might be getting the wrong “voice.” Let's look at another way of doing it.

“Nah,” Hope said. “I was just enjoying how fresh the air smelled when I wasn’t standing right next to you.” 

That’s an example where we introduce the attribution asap. If your sentence contains more than one clause, you can break it between clauses.

Or you can start with a beat that let’s us know who’s speaking before they even start:

Hope looked up at the ledge she’d stood on moments before that now seemed so teeny. “Nah. I was just enjoying how fresh the air smelled when I wasn’t standing right next to you.” 

Both of these last two ways work.
  • In late, out early is extra important in MG. 
Take a look at each of your scenes. See if you can start it later or end it earlier, and see if the scene still makes sense. Don't ease into the scene-- jump in the middle. Keep it interesting.
  • Awesome names are a huge plus. 
If they're fun to say, have meaning, interesting, outlandish. You can play around a lot while still staying within the tone of the book.
  • Your viewpoint protagonist is generally 2 years older than your intended audience.
But not always. If your intended audience is 10-12, for example, don't make your protag 13. Kids change a LOT between the ages of 12 and 13. Thirteen is an age where characters act outside of MG issues, but aren't quite old enough for most YA issues. If your book is a solid MG book (which generally means ages 8-12, or grades 3-7), then keep the top age at twelve.

And lastly:
  • Kids don’t want to see the forest, they want to meet the bear.
photo credit: Dave Toussaint ( via photopin cc
So take them to meet it.

Miss any previous Writing Middle Grade posts? They can all be found here: MG Needs.


Andrea Mack said...

Thanks for these great tips! Your comment about the bear made me laugh, because I have a "suspected bear" in my MG work-in-progress!

ELAdams said...

Great advice! It's definitely important to keep the reader engaged and not confuse them. It's surprisingly hard to find blog focused on MG-related writing tips and your posts are always really useful! :)

Lauren said...

MG blog:


Crystal Collier said...

It's so true! When writing for middle grade you have to engage and keep the excitement coming. It's such a fun genre to write--and truly the best one for complete creativity.

Great examples!

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I especially agree with the point you made about 13-year-olds. I remember how excited I was to turn thirteen and finally become a teenager; I thought it was more grownup than twelve.

Jessie Humphries said...

Haha, I love that about the forest and the bear. As adults we love a bit of the forest, or at least I do. So that's really interesting that kids just want to meet the bear. And yes, that cat is quite impressive. :)

Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks for all the great tips. I've really enjoyed this series.

Susan Kane said...

I'd say you nailed it. Bringing the bear to class would be awesome.

Angela Brown said...

These are wonderful tips to help make the MG read a more enjoyable read for our intended audience. Thanks so much for sharing.

Leigh Covington said...

First - can I just say ... that cat is awesome! Yeah - that can never get old.
And I like the thought about the bear. That puts it into perspective. I would love to write an MG book one day. Love your tips Peggy.

JeffO said...

"Meet the bear"--I like that!

writing and living by Richard P Hughes said...

Does the cat in the background have the right idea?

Carrie Butler said...

Very interesting! I can't wait to buy Sky Jumpers for my nephew. :D

Caryn Caldwell said...

Hey, that's exactly how I do my dialogue, too! I figure if you can wait until the end of a paragraph to attribute the dialogue, then you probably don't have to do it at all. Otherwise, get it up front.

By the way, I'm loving your MG series. Even though I write YA instead, many of your tips are still applicable.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

Great advice! And the bear is at my house if anyone wants to meet him (a black bear though, not a grizzly :))

Nicole said...

Another great set of tips for me to bookmark! The last one about the bear really nails it. Love your phrasing on that advice.