As this is my (Kate) first blog for YAtopia, I
wanted to centre it around me. That’s right, me me me me! And, although I read almost
anything, when it comes to writing I’m a middle grade monster. (However, I plan to challenge myself during NaNoWriMo with a YA novel, but more on this in November.)
For those unfamiliar, we’re talking 8-12 year olds. The bit
before YA and the bit after first chapter books. Yes, it’s a tricky group to define
but in my eyes these are kids who are getting ready to grow up, who are about
to experience a lot of first times. Yet still so preciously innocent, still
hand-holders. So writing for these guys is a big responsibility. It’s all about
Because of the huge divide in potential reading abilities,
there’s a definite split: lower MG (Spiderwick Chronicles) and upper MG (The first
Harry P’s, Percy Jackson). Word count and voice are the best ways to spot
the difference but something as simple as the cover art is a good indicator
too. My writing voice leans toward upper. However, what I’m seeing more and
more these days, is YA themes in MG books, and I’ve got to say, I don't like
I'm a lover of rules (probably an important fact to bear in
mind with me) so I have strict guidelines that I adhere to. And, as a grown-up
who buys for this age group, I think every MG author should make sure they’re
setting similar boundaries to avoid poisoning these pristine little minds.
it out. If it’s absolutely, 100%, unbelievably necessary then stick with B class words and the smallest smattering. These kids will learn the A class soon
Death: Yeah, it’s
life, I know, but kids should only have to deal with this subject as and when.
It depends on the genre of the book, of course, but personally I avoid it. If
you’ve got to put it in, touch on it delicately, no gory or intricate details.
not. A peck on the lips, the touch of an arm. That’s it though. All in good
Drugs and alcohol:
Definitely not the kids but, maybe in a contemporary novel, the main child character
could be viewing an addiction or user secondhand. Best not to spell out exactly what's going on.
Always. Pamper to this age group’s dreams, keep the mystery of the rainbow ending alive. Don’t destroy it.
Generally the dark, edgy, risque themes are not needed at
this age: they can come in YA books, when a child's mind is ready to deal with them. Life throws enough at youngsters, nasty
realities are abundant. I think, let them escape from all this in a book. Tell a fun,
happy, inspirational story that leaves them hopeful and with their youth
intact. I implore you to love these kids as I do, don’t make them grow up
before they’re ready.
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