Middle Grade NaNoWriMo

Current NaNo Word Count:  15,072
Today’s Goal: 1,800 words

Actual Words Written: 2,031
Total Actual Words: 17,103

lol. I’m double dutying it today because I want to post about both NaNo and Middle Grade Lit.

I’ve seen several NaNo writers puzzling over whether their novel is middle grade or YA. I blogged about some of those differences in a post called Middle Grade Lit, What is it?

I also blogged about the difference between upper and lower middle grade HERE. Middle Grade has a lot of grey area because at that time in a young reader’s life, their reading, social, mental, and other skills are changing and growing so quickly.

I’ve been reading a range of middle grade and YA books geared towards different ages lately and here’s a sampling of how I’d categorize them, presented in ascending age level:

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz: younger middle grade – good and bad are more black and white, simple story and simple character arc, no sophisticated problem solving. I’d say for 7-9 year olds. Maybe some precocious 6 year olds, but the spider scene might be a bit scary.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznik: middle, middle grade. lol. 8-12 year olds. More challenging than Night Fairy because of more mature themes. More complex story. Requires being able to visualize more.

Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck: slightly above the middle, middle grade. 9 – 12 year olds. There’s more subtlety here. A reader would have to be sophisticated enough to read between the lines an understand a more challenging POV, one of someone from the early 20th century.

Found by Margaret Peterson Haddix: upper middle grade (11-14) – School Library Journal says grades 4-8 but I disagree. The time travel elements are probably too much for younger kids to wrap their heads around and some of the ideas are pretty sophisticated. There’s a lot more to puzzle out. (side note: this book classification actually confused me because it felt like it should have been a YA novel – I’ll review this later in the month)

~  ~  ~

One thing people tend to fall back on is the age of the protagonist. Kids tend to read about characters who are slightly older than they are.

But this is not always the case. I am currently reading John Connolly’s Book of Lost Things (marvelous and disturbing). The protagonist is a 12-year-old boy and it’s definitely not a kids book. The writing is luxurious, sophisticated, and part fairy tale, part psychological study.

As far as NaNo goes, if you don’t know yet what age your target market is, just write the story and see what you have. You can decide then, or ask for help from fellow writers, and make any necessary changes in the rewrite.

Have a great week NaNoBots!


Filed under Middle Grade Mondays, NaNoWriMo, on my bookshelf

10 responses to “Middle Grade NaNoWriMo

  1. Glad to meet another middle grade monday buddy who is doing nano.
    I’m a bit ashamed to say I have yet to read any of the books used as samples here. However they are going on my tbr list.
    I like this topic too because last year when I did Nano it was fast and fun because I was working on a high end YA.
    This year I’m slugging along for many reasons, one of them being I’m not sure if my characters sound like their age or too mature. I know I shouldn’t let that bother me yet but I can’t help it.
    Happy writing and thanks for these features. 🙂

  2. I find a couple of content issues define middle grade and if mark the difference between upper and lower middle grade. Mainly this has to do with sex – in lower middle grade there is rarely even a crush. Any talk of boyfriends and girl friends is teasing and kids are more likely to be worried about cooties than crushes. In upper middle grade, crushes are fairly common, although books are almost never ABOUT crushes. Characters have very little physical contact. There may be a bit of hand holding, or even a little kiss. Once you get to YA of course, all bets are off and pretty much anything goes. It’s very rare to see a graphic sex scene, although Ellen Hopkins has done it. And of course MANY YA books are about crushes or have a crush as their strong subplot. Violence is slightly different in MG and YA with YA writers tending to be more graphic. It’s rare to have a character die on the page in MG, although this seems to be changing. Characters die on the page all the time in YA now.
    Now, fellow NaNoWriMoers – get writing!

  3. Good points addressed here! When I read HEART OF A SAMURAI (which was a Newbery Honor last year–maybe 2010), I was almost surprised it’s considered MG at all. Even libraries shelve it in different places, some have it in MG, some in YA. At times, that it’s a hard call. And so is figuring out your own category.

  4. Haven’t read NIGHT FAIRY, but I’ve read all the others. MG can be a nebulous thing to classify. Sometimes people review MG books for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday that I think are actually YA! And sometimes they feature books that I consider second/third grade chapter books!

    And if we depended completely on the age of the protagonist, THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS would be for 6 to 9 year olds! The MC, Bruno, is only 9. But we shelve it in YA because of the subject matter (and rightly so).

    I attended an SCBWI conference a few years back when one of the agents said (I’m paraphrasing here): Don’t worry about the age level. Let us figure that out!

  5. @akkoset: I’m actually working on a YA Sci Fi novel for NaNo, but my series Faerie Tales from the White Forest is a MG fantasy. There are SO many great MG novels out right now it’s impossible to keep up. Every week on the Middle Grade Moneay blogs there are several books I’ve never read and some I haven’t even heard of.

    I’d say just write your nano! If the characters sound to old you can always a) rewrite the dialogue, etc later or b) make them older. 🙂 Ask middle grade fiction fans for recommendations of characters who sound and act their age. How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found (by Sara Nickerson) has a great authentic middle grade voice.

  6. @gsprendergast – yes, absolutely! I mentioned in an earlier post that an editor from a large publishing company said that you cannot shelve anything with “content” in a middle grade section of a bookstore. And by “content” they mean anything sexual. Violence is much more tolerated.

    There was a pretty descriptive sex scene in Graceling that I thought Kristin Cashore handled really well, especially since the female protag was a virgin. YA authors tend to skip over the details, but she got right in there. Uh, sorry for the pun.

    but, yeah, in younger middle grade, boyfriends and girlfriends are icky!

  7. @Barbara – I’ll have to look that one up and see. I mean, I think Harry Potter should have ended up in the YA section (put books 1-3 in MG and the rest in YA – lol). By the time they get to the end there’s snogging and violence galore.

    With Found I thought the MC’s acted a few years older than they should have. The 6th year old sister, in particular, was way too mature.

  8. @Joanne – Good Advice, Joanne, from the agent. I think that’s something to keep in mind. Just write and don’t sweat it.

    I haven’t read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, so I’m going to have to check it out.

  9. It’s so subjective. In terms of the reader there are several issues to consider. 1. Reading level, fluency and comprehension.
    2. Emotional maturity.
    3. Parental influence.
    4. Education
    To name a few. None of these have anything to do with age. I say write and don’t worry about where your book fits until you get it completed. Have fun!

  10. Good points, Pamela, thanks!

    And as far as marketing it for the right demographic, unless you’re publishing it yourself, leave that to the agents and editors.

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