In my last WU post, I wrote about the building blocks of great YA fiction, and in the post before that, I wrote about writing picture books for the youngest readers. This time, I’m looking at an in-between age range: what’s known as ‘middle-grade’.
First of all, a definition: what exactly is meant by ‘middle-grade’? At its most basic, it means books for readers aged 8-12, or 9-13. These are the books you read after you become a fluent reader, and before you start to tackle YA fiction. It’s what you might call the golden age of reading, where you find the most readers—I would say the most readers of any age, including adults. But what works for an 8 or 9 year old might not work so well for a 12 or 13 year old—and vice versa–so within that broad category of middle grade, there are sub-categories of lower and upper middle-grade (sometimes the upper end is also referred to as ‘tweens’).
The age of the readership however is only a guide. There are other things involved in knowing whether your manuscript is ‘middle grade’ or should shift upwards into ‘YA.’ I’ve written a lot of middle grade fiction as well as YA—and in all kinds of genres, from fantasy to historical to mystery to contemporary to humor—and can personally testify to the fact that it’s certainly not genre that separates middle-grade books from books aimed at young adult readers. It’s an alchemy of elements that in any genre of middle grade makes you know that a story is for readers of that age, rather than their older siblings–or indeed their younger ones—what’s known, at least in my home country of Australia, as ‘junior fiction’, is for kids aged 5-8, new readers who are ready to venture into short ‘chapter books’.
So how can you tell if your manuscript is for middle grade? [Read more…]