Middle grade books – books for children between the ages of 8 and 12 – are experiencing a surge in popularity. And children this age love them because these novels often explore themes, experiences and issues that are relevant to what middle grade readers are going through at their stage of development. These kids are exploring what it’s like to form friendships, discover their identity, navigate family relationships and make independent decisions.
You also don’t have to turn very far to find movies and TV shows adapted from middle grade books. Like How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, which has spawned movies and a TV series. Or Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, which became a movie. And The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, which resulted in the movie starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig.
All this is great news for authors who love writing for this age group. Middle grade books are aimed at an age group where children are just beginning to develop their own tastes in reading. And it’s where they start choosing books they’re truly interested in.
If you want to write middle grade novels, it’s vital to consider the following:
1. Find the right tone for your audience
Middle grade books need to be written in a way that appeals to young readers without being simplistic or condescending. That means you need the right balance between humour, adventure, emotional depth and age-appropriate references.
First, let's talk about humour. Yup, fart jokes. Gazillion-storey treehouses. You get the idea. Kids love books that make them laugh. This is a great way to engage readers. But humour by itself isn’t enough. You still need a great story that keeps your readers turning the pages of your book.
2. Address sensitive topics
Middle grade books often tackle important and sensitive topics, such as death, divorce, and bullying. And you’re reaching kids as the most formative age they will ever be. So, just remember, with great power comes great responsibility. It’s very likely that you’ll be approaching these topics with good intentions and that you want to treat your readers with care and sensitivity. But just remember to also avoid clichéd approaches and didactic writing. You want your reader to draw their own conclusions after reading your story. They don’t want to feel like they’ve been preached to!
3. Create relatable characters
Middle grade is such a magical time in a kid’s life. Children are still discovering who they are and they often like reading about characters who are facing similar kinds of challenges they are going through. So it’s important to create characters who are relatable and authentic. Avoid stereotypes and do ensure that your story reflects the diversity of the world today.
4. Are you really writing for a middle grade audience?
It goes without saying that you should be writing about age-appropriate themes and events. However, if you find that you’re not doing this, do you stop and adapt your story to one that is more age-appropriate? Or do you ask yourself whether you’re actually writing for a younger or older audience. If your soul is telling you that you want to write this story then maybe you listen to it – but perhaps your audience is a different demographic than the one you initially had in mind. Be open to the possibilities.
Are you interested in writing for this age group?
Writing for a middle grade audience is incredibly rewarding. Typically, you’re engaging with readers when they are falling in love with reading. This is magical!
Many Australian Writers' Centre graduates have carved out successful careers as middle grade authors.
Nat Amoore is the author of wonderful stories like We Run Tomorrow, Secrets of an Undercover Activist and Secrets of a Schoolyard Millionaire. She's so popular that she is constantly visiting schools and speaking at events for young people.
Reece Carter has released the wonderful middle grade novels A Girls Called Corpse and The Lonely Lighthouse of Elston-Fright.
Chenee Marrapodi’s middle grade novel is One Wrong Turn, the story of two young ballerinas who go head-to-head for the lead role in Cinderella.
Fiona Lloyd’s rollicking story Being Jimmy Baxter is also a wonderful middle grade novel that’s set to capture the imaginations of children across the country.
If you’d like to become a published middle grade author, discover how with the course Writing Children's Novels.