Books Magazine

How Not to Write Middle Grade Fiction

Posted on the 13 January 2016 by Cheekymeeky

Here's a guest post from author Jackie Minniti whose new book Jacqueline is out.

About the Book

How not to Write Middle Grade Fiction
When ten-year-old Jacqueline Falna hears her mother's scream, she is unaware that the axis of her world is about to tilt. Her father's plane has been shot down by German fighters.

In the midst of poverty, food shortages, air raids, and the grinding hardship of daily life under Nazi rule, she forms an unlikely alliance with David Bergier, a twelve-year-old Jewish neighbor who poses as her cousin after his family is "relocated" by the Nazis. When Rennes is liberated, Jacqueline meets an American soldier and becomes convinced that he has been sent to reunite her with her father.

Based on a true story, "Jacqueline" is a tale of family, faith, unusual friendships, and the resiliency of the human spirit set against the backdrop of occupied Rennes in 1944. With the drama of fiction and the authenticity of personal history, "Jacqueline" is both a story about family and a family's story.

The book sounded really interesting and when I was tapped for a guest post, it was great to get some don'ts from her on how not to write, and though the focus is on middle-grade fiction, I think it could work for most genres.

Hope you like it!

Middle-grade fiction - Some don'ts

One thing I learned from my years of teaching reading in middle school was that middle graders have very definite opinions about books. We had some very lively discussions about what they liked (and hated) in the books they read. This came in handy when I decided to write Jacqueline, my middle grade historical novel. I wanted Jacqueline to appeal to even the most reluctant readers, so I decided to make a list of what to avoid when writing for 8 to 12 year-olds.

  • DON'T overdo the introspection

    Middle graders don't do a lot of navel-gazing, so your main character shouldn't spend a lot of time on self-examination. Keep focused on the action, and reveal your character's thoughts and feelings through what he or she says and does.

  • DON'T talk down or preach

    Few things irritate middle school kids as much a someone talking down to them, so don't write down to them either. Use challenging language, but include context clues to help young readers figure out unfamiliar words. Your theme should be presented in a subtle, non-"preachy" way. And don't be afraid to tackle difficult subjects. Jacqueline deals with death, war, and the Holocaust - pretty heavy subjects, but handled in an age-appropriate manner

  • DON'T forget humor

    Middle graders love "funny stuff," and that goes for the books they enjoy. Be sure to include humor in your story - the more, the better. Jacqueline is definitely not a humorous story, but I tried to include enough amusing incidents to provide some comic relief.

  • Don't leave them hanging

    One of the biggest complaints from my students when they didn't like a book was that the ending wasn't satisfying. They hate open endings. I've actually seen kids throw a book across the room because the ending wasn't definitive. That's one of the reasons I decided to end Jacqueline with an epilogue that told what happened to the characters as grown-ups. Try to end on a positive note, and be sure to tie up any loose ends.

While writing for middle grade readers presents some unique challenges, your book can have a profound influence on them. That's what makes the process worthwhile - and so much fun!

Jackie MinnitiJacqueline

About The Author

How not to Write Middle Grade Fiction

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