Monday, October 22, 2012

A Wild Middle-Grade Writer Appears... GET HIM!

Citizens of Yatopia, put down your pitchforks!

I am but a lowly middle-grade writer. I’m not some depraved, fart-and-puke-obsessed creature. I have thoughts—I have feelings! My writing has meaning just like yours.

Look at yourselves. Your envy is as green as the grass which surrounds this page. It doesn’t have to be this way! Please listen!

This, my first post as a newly-landed Yatopian, is a call to all children's writers--middle grade and young adult alike—to climb to the tallest building and declare…

We—quite simply—are just much cooler than you.

Now, before you poke out my eyes with your quills, please have a moment of pause. You too can be as cool as me. You too can write the wonders of middle-grade. It’s as easy as wiping your booger on a wall (something your characters most certainly will do). Let me show you!

Make Robots, Not Love

You can keep your cheesy romance. Middle-grade authors get to write about cool things like robots, pirates, and evil washing machines. All that touchy, feely, flirty nonsense you YA writers like has no place in middle-grade. Sure, a girl may like a boy (or even a girl!), but it’s kept strictly elementary. The girl might tease the boy. The boy might torment the girl. But other than that, romance is icky to most middle-graders. Cooties most certainly exist in these worlds. Now friendships—friendships are slathered all over middle-grade stories. Middle-grade characters value their friends. But they don’t secretly desire them—No! They see them as partners in crime, or sidekicks, or fellow adventurers! 

Reader Discretion is Not Advised

Where you YA writers might have an advantage—where I’ll admit I’m a bit jealous—is your knack for writing such lovely violence and wonderfully bloody mayhem. Blood and guts must be kept far away from middle-grade eyes. It’s their parents—fickle people they are. They have some ridiculous notion that violence warps young minds. Pfft! I don’t see it, but that beside the point. If violence occurs in a middle-grade story, it usually happens to the baddie, and it’s usually stylized to the point of slapstick. No blood, people. Same goes for swearing. Do kids swear? Heck yeah! But we must keep those sensitive mommies and daddies satisfied, right?

No Time to Stop and Smell the Roses

Hey, you know how your character spends ten pages staring in the mirror just thinking? Middle-grade characters don’t do that! They don’t even stop to think about what pants they’re going to wear to school. They just grab something and go! Middle-grade authors don’t have to worry as much about the many muddled thoughts and feelings and worries of teenagers. Our characters have only one hormone running through them: adrenaline. It comes in handy when they do battle against ancient gods, duel with evil wizards, and when they’re being chased by terrible giants. The point is: middle-grade novels move fast. My readers don’t have the attention span for anything else. Action, action, action is all they want. Give it to them and then crank it up to 11.

I'll Never Grow Up! Not me!

Adults, leave your fragile sensibilities at the door when reading this next point. You are the enemy of middle-graders. In middle-grade novels, adults are the worst form of life. They are evil, blood-thirsty monsters who will stop at nothing to destroy the main character—or the world! The very concept of adulthood is foreign to middle-grade characters. They feel they’ll be young forever—going on grand adventures all day long. Unlike the many growing responsibilities and adult situations your young adult characters face, middle-grade characters deal with simple issues like why their teacher sleeps in a coffin during recess or why their grandmother has a pet anaconda. Middle-grade characters don’t spend time thinking about the future—they live in the here and now!  

Purple Monsters Hate Purple Prose

Finally, middle-grade readers are little monsters—purple ones—and they hate long, complicated sentences. Flowery adjectives and adverbs make them cranky. Too many and they’ll tear your book to shreds. They take a liking to concise, vivid descriptions and short, snappy sentences. They like small paragraphs too. Easier on their beady, little eyes. More sensible to their simple minds. It’s easy to make these purple monsters happy. But it’s even easier to make them mad. If you can’t handle it, stick to young adults!

If I have not convinced you that middle-grade writers are cooler, I don’t know what will. Perhaps you’ll say something like, “middle-grade writing isn’t always like this!” or “young adult writing can be fun too!” and you would be right. These points are meant more to be guidelines than hard and fast rules. But I guarantee it, if you give middle-grade writing the old college try, you’ll see what I mean when I say: middle-grade writers are cooler!

If you still don’t agree, at least let me stay for a while. It’s quite nice here. :)


  1. Love this post. I've had a story that I can't decide whether it should be YA or MG and if I go for the latter this post will help me immensely!

  2. Now I really want to go and write some middle grade stories!!

  3. Great post! This will be very helpful.