Top Tips on How to Write a Junior Fiction/Middle Grade Book

July 30th, 2021


Have you got a great junior fiction/middle grade book idea but not sure how to perfect it? Read through these great tips below and sharpen your story! 
Scroll to the bottom to see how you can partner publish your story with us!

• Hit the target! 

It’s important to know what your target audience’s age range is so that you can speak directly to them. Middle Grade incorporates books for ages 8 to 12 years. 12 plus and you’ve moved into YA (Young Adult) fiction and before 8 years, we’re talking about early reader/ chapter books

For example,

Early Readers (ages 6-7)   Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon

Chapter Books (also called Junior Fiction) (ages 7 to 9) Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Middle Grade (ages 8 to 12) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

• Words count

Once you’ve finished your first draft, look at what you’ve got. Is everything working as hard as it could be to develop a character or progress the story? If not, cut it. For beginner readers (aged 5 to 7), word length should be between 5,000 to 10,000, whereas for confident readers (aged 7 to 9), word length should be 10,000 to 30,000. Middle Grade books (aged 8 to 12), should be between 20,000 to 45,000 words. This is a rough guide and different publishers have different guides but do stick to the recommended word count – unnecessary detail and repetition mean you are stepping away from the action and the main story arch.

• Diversity

Think about the cultural and racial diversity of your cast and characters. It’s so important to give a diverse representation of the kids who are reading your book.

• Read as many junior fiction/middle grade books as you can

Reading the book that you want to write will help you to understand your audience better. Know what’s being published at the moment. If a book is similar to your idea, learn from it and keep your story unique and original. Many of the most successful books tell familiar stories in new ways or from a different perspective. Ultimately, it’s important to know what’s out there but also you should write the story you want to, not the one you think you should. The stories you love can help you write stories of your own.

• Hooked! 

The reader needs to be hooked from the very beginning. Your readers might not make it to Chapter 5 if the exciting bits only start then! It’s fine to take a while to set up the story, but a strong opening scene needs to hook your readers in.

‘My story begins with me sitting on a bed, looking out of the window.

I know that doesn’t sound like much. But let me tell you where the bed is, and what I see from it. This bed is right in the corner of a room only just big enough for it, and the bed is only just big enough for a kid my age. 

(Twelve – just about to be thirteen – and skinny.)

The window is the size of the whole wall, made of special tinted glass that means the room stays the same temperature all the time. The room is locked shut and you need an electronic keycard to open the door. If you could open it, you would be in a long corridor with absolutely nothing in it apart from cameras in the ceiling and a fat man in a purple jacket and trousers sitting opposite on a plastic chair. Sleeping, most likely.’

The Last Wild by Piers Torday

‘Like a man-made magic wish, the aeroplane began to rise.

The boy sitting in the cockpit gripped his seat and held his breath as the plane climbed into the arms of the sky. Fred’s jaw was set with concentration, and his fingers twitched, following the movements of the pilot beside him: joystick, throttle.

The aeroplane vibrated as it flew faster into the setting sun, following the swerve of the Amazon River below them.’ 

The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

• Step into the shoes of the characters

If you’re writing about a 12 year old (a middle grade book), try and remember what it was like being 12. What were your main concerns, your hopes, your feelings, your interests? You are writing from a 12 year old’s perspective. It’s important to add that if you’re writing a book about a 12 year old, it’s likely that the core age of your reader is between 8 and 12. Children like to ‘read up’ and read about other children who are a little bit older than themselves. Bear in mind topic material here.

A bit more on character … Why a character behaves or acts in a certain way shouldn’t be because the author needs them to do so in order to solve a plot problem. Plot needs to come from characterisation rather than the other way round. 

• Perfect the plot 

Perfecting the plot of your story is vital. It must have a defined beginning, middle and end. No matter the size, one must be able to pinpoint the rise and fall of events like a rickety rollercoaster ride. The beginning is the ascent of the rollercoaster. It is here that the writer must catch the readerʼs attention and interest. The middle consists of the highest point on the ride or a series of loops. At this point, the story must reveal one or more climactic events as they take place. These can be as perilous as a runaway roller-coaster or as subtle as a shift in perspective, as long as the reader is left clinging to every word, like he would to a runaway rollercoaster cart. The end is the final descent of the ride whereby it comes to a neat and not-entirely perilous end. Here, the writer must resolve the main climactic events in a satisfying and conclusive way.

• Show, not tell

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass. – Anton Chekhov

You probably learnt this at school and now keep it at the front of your mind. Don’t always tell readers what’s happening or saying how a character feels, but create scenes that readers can feel and see and smell. Remember all the senses. 

If Monty is a magnificent magician, donʼt simply write Monty is a magnificent magician. This is telling. Instead, show the reader that Monty is a magnificent magician through description. Let the reader hear the cheer of the audience and feel Montyʼs confidence. Take us into his mind as he expertly produces a card out of thin air. Take us into the mind of the audience as they try to spot hidden doors in the floor. Show the reader. Donʼt tell.

• Avoid Cliché … Like the Plague 

Think about the words you write and try to avoid clichéd expressions and descriptions. It may take a little longer to formulate your sentences, but you will find using your own words beneficial as a writer, and a marked improvement in the quality of your written work.

• Do your research

A book involving a real period in history or a particular geographical area needs factual research. Kids are the first to point out if you make a mistake. 

• The End

Finally, to perfect your children’s book, share it with friends, family and children. Kids are usually pretty honest, so their feedback will be the most valuable you receive.

Have you got an idea for a children’s book, but don’t know what to do next? Submit your manuscript through our website today and we could make that dream a reality! It’s time to begin your writing journey.

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