Tips For Writing That Middle Grade Novel

A Middle Grade novel are for elementary and middle school themed. They have less darkness and sweeter endings than YA. They are more open to curriculum tie-ins and educational content. The view of the story is through the eyes of the MG character. It starts with the character. Ask yourself these questions about your character before you write the story:

  • What are their hopes & dreams?
  • What do they want?
  • What obstacle is standing in their way?
  • What problem must they solve?
  • What specific action must they take to overcome obstacle?
  • What is their flaw?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What does the character need to learn & evolve over the course of the story?

The protagonist needs to be someone the reader cares about and wants to know better. They should be active in their own story. They should have believable motives and care deeply for things and people. The character should not be afraid to take risks and have strong opinions and believes about the world and themselves. Kids are real people with real problems, yet use humor whenever you can. It can be situational funny, instead of comedy. Don’t preach or talk down. Kids hear enough in real life. Balance actions and feelings. Read a lot of MG to get a handle on it. Sit at a mall or other places where kids hang out and just listen to their speech and the things they talk about.

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Leaving The Nest

A solid mass shoulders the world,

Broad and endearing,

A wide expanse of open arms, yet a blanket of comfort

That enfolds the toughest of mongrels under her charm.

Her children, stacked from shortest to tallest,

Pillars of glistening treasures,

Claw the sky and push away her skirts,

In their eagerness to stand on their own.

Remember your roots she pleads,

Releasing them an inch at a time,

Drawing them back for one last hug,

Before they’ve gone into the world and muddied their path.

group of children walking near body of water silhouette photography

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The Secret Recipe

Here is a fun poem I wrote about my husband, (when he was a kid) and his grandmother.

I was three-foot-five and she was five-foot-three.

I was five years old and she was eighty three,

That special day I helped her make her secret recipe.

I stood upon a chair so I could reach the bowl,

While Grandma lined the counter with the ingredients, row by row.

She put in a pinch of this and a tad bit of that

And when I asked her what it was, she said. “To make us fat.”

I gave her a puzzled look and she gave me a wink,

But when I tried to copy her, all I did was blink.

Grandma laughed with jellied glee and slapped her bony knees.

Then she tweaked my nose and said, “A little butter, if you please.”

I gave her a tiny smirk and handed her a stick,

But she pushed out her lower lip and said, “Give me two more sticks.”

I chopped that butter up with a big ole’ wooden spoon,

While she dumped in half a moon of thick molasses.

I beamed up at Grandma and dreamed of that taste,

And how the neighboring lasses would be begging me for a piece.

“Best clean that gleam from your eyes,” Grandma uttered.

Then she added in a pint of sugar and I stirred it in until it looked like cream.

I poured in the vanilla, while she cracked a dozen farm-fresh eggs,

But she held up her hand and said, “Hold up a peg.”

Then she added in the flour, a cup or two or three,

Plus some that splattered onto my navy-blue jeans.

Grandma dropped in a spoon pf baking powder,

Some raisins drowned in rum,

And added enough corn syrup to fill a small wooden drum.

I stirred it all together, but that batter was mighty thick

And I pondered for a minute if this was some kind of trick,

But Grandma greased an iron pan and scooped that batter in.

Which made me wonder how she ever lifted that heavy pan?

She turned the oven on to three-twenty-five and placed that pan way deep inside,

While I stared at the door as the minutes ticked by.

That heavenly scent of cinnamon and ginger went ’round the room with its spicy flavor,

Which made the cowpokes beg for Grandma’s favor.

But they’ll have to step in the back of the line,

For I get that first piece, oh yes, it’s mine.

We’ll all have to wait for an hour or two,

Until that sweet cake is completely through.

“Hold onto your hats, boys. For that cake’s got to cool.”

Grandma’s brows creased as I snatched a small piece by the skin of my teeth

And I ran from the room and her hand with the spoon.

Fairy Garden

Here is a fantasy poem to delight the soul:

Nestled deep in the forest glade,

Past the circle of the toadstool’s shade,

Follow the mossy carpet path,

And find the place where the fairies play.

Did you hear their trumpeting from the tiger lilies?

Perhaps you saw their pixie dust glittering off the Rhodies?

Did you see them flying by on moths and butterflies?

Perhaps you heard them singing their babies lullabies?

Did you see them riding on the slugs and on the snails?

Perhaps you heard them squealing upside down from a wildcat’s tail?

No? Well, oIMG_0166pen your eyes wide

And perhaps you’ll see where they hide,

Among the shadows and the dapple of light,

And draw the fairies out with a dance in the pale moonlight.

Goodnight My Darling

With all the tragedies out there, I decided to write a sad poem.

GOODNIGHT MY DARLING

By Theresa Gage

Her velvet paws caressed my back,

As my dog snuggled close to my side.

I welcomed her warmth,

For it attacked the coldness of my grief,

That I had tried to hide.

My tears rolled free

Like the waves of the tide,

As I clawed the edge of our boat,

In my attempt to save him.

My boy was lost to the sea.

But I will see him in my dreams,

For our souls are surely tied,

And remember all the good times we had.

Goodnight, my darling boy.IMG_0445

Children’s Books

When it comes to children’s stories, the word count varies, depending on the type of book you want to write. For picture books, a good goal is under 500 words, but the shorter the better. Emergent readers have only 32 words. In easy readers, the word count depends on the level you are writing. Level one is usually 200 words. A typical level three can range from 800 to 1200 words.  In chapter books, the range increases anywhere from 5000 to 25,000. A good minimum goal for middle grade novels is 30,000 words and the upper into the 60,000. The young adult or teen novels start from 40,000 and go up.

A good investment is to buy a Children’s Writer’s Word Book. It contains word lists grouped by grade. The internet and educational TV have had a great impact on children’s vocabulary. Children often comprehend more than they can articulate, but if we communicate below their level they become bored. This book helps ease the writer into their world that they can understand. Another good tool is to sit down at the mall or the playground and listen to children talk. Visit the library and see what books are popular with the level you wish to write.

In this fast-paced world, you must capture your audience right away. Always start out with a good hook. Let your reader see, feel, taste, smell your story through your main character. Children like to pretend they are the character. Make it worth their time.

Middle Grade Character

Middle childhood is distinguished as the ages from six to ten. Each age group has their own character traits and development. Their world expands from family to school and to peer groups. To write for this group, it’s best to understand the stages.

Interpersonal traits of the six year old:

  • begins building relationships
  • competitive
  • starts increased independence from parents
  • does the opposite from what is asked

Internal traits for the six year old:

  • difficulty making choices
  • feels insecure
  • loves praise and flattery
  • new fears
  • excited with learning new things

Internal traits of the seven year old:

  • absorbed
  • time of withdrawal
  • inner tensions and fears
  • aware of self
  • comprehends bad and good as abstract concepts
  • learns time, days, and months

Interpersonal traits of the seven year old:

  • interested in babies and pregnancy, yet not concerned about sex
  • wants complaints heard
  • listens to other’s needs

Internal traits of the eight year old:

  • hoards possessions
  • can think logically
  • evaluates own failures
  • curious
  • aware of appearance and other’s responses to him/ her
  • beginning to understand death
  • interested in life
  • friendly and less self-centered

Interpersonal traits of the eight year old:

  • nosy about others
  • jealous of siblings
  • talkative
  • shares secrets with friends
  • likes specific clothes
  • likes to play games
  • learns to love animals
  • expansive in learning
  • less afraid

Internal traits of the nine year old:

  • emotions deepen
  • lacks self-confidence
  • overly sensitive
  • difficulty making choices and decisions
  • anxious about health
  • likes standardized rules

Interpersonal traits of the nine year old:

  • resists adult supervision
  • critical of others
  • can’t tolerate teasing
  • prefers reading or talking with friends

Internal traits for the ten year old:

  • gains poise
  • fewer fears
  • girls aware of sex more than boys and asks questions

Interpersonal traits of the ten year old:

  • relationships with friends are important
  • plays in groups
  • competition through organized sports

Also imaginary friends appear between ages three and ten. According to researchers, about 31% of children enjoy an imaginary friend. It is a normal aspect of childhood and not indicative of a psychotic episode.

So have fun with your character.