If you do a search for “middle grade fiction” writing online, you’re bound to come up with a Goodreads list or two on the first few pages.
For your own sanity’s sake, don’t click on them. While Goodreads itself no doubt knows what middle grade fiction writing really is, too many of its readers apparently do not. As such, they list off books like Harry Potter and The Lightning Thief (i.e., Percy Jackson book #1) as viable examples of middle grade fiction writing.
That just isn’t true though. Those novels are young adult reads. Middle grade is a whole different category.
More than likely, kids who have successfully moved past the picture book stage aren’t yet ready for the younger-than-adult-fiction big leagues. Not just yet. There’s still a step to go before they hit the sometimes daunting length and complexity of the young adult genre.
Middle grade fiction writing provides them a way to ease into YA more naturally and painlessly. Meant for the general pre-teen (and pre-pre-teen) eight- to 12-year-old crowd, it gives them a taste for chapter books while still keeping the storylines childishly appropriate.
So what does qualify in this genre?
For a much more accurate list of what’s what in the middle grade fiction writing world, check out The New York Times Children’s Middle Grade Hardcover list. When you do, you’ll find such examples as:
Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Here’s how it’s described on Amazon:
“August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid – but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face.”
Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi. Here’s how that one’s described on Amazon. That is, here’s my ellipses-shortened version:
“… twelve-year-old Aru Shah… has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip…
“One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it… But lighting the lamp has dire consequences…”
As already indicated, the actual description is a whole lot longer than I have space for her in this blog post, but you probably get the gist with just the description above. Monster gets released. Chaos ensues. Aru has to save the day.
Clearly then, like the rest of the younger-than-adult-fiction reading categories out there, middle grade fiction writing isn’t rigidly limited when it comes to plot possibilities. It can take on very serious subject matter or enter into fantastical realms.
The key is that, whatever the plot and whoever the characters, they’re kept at age-appropriate language levels and length. For more about what that means, keep reading on with this week’s middle grade fiction writing posts.