Making the Shift to Middle Grade

Hey, all! 🙂 In case you were unawares, my next two upcoming books are Middle Grade instead of Young Adult, and today, I wanted to talk a little about the different experiences I’ve had writing for these two age groups.

Of course, I don’t have nearly as much experience with the Middle Grade side of things, yet—my first one doesn’t release until Summer 2017. But with one book through copyedits and the other quickly shaping up into a first draft, there are a number of things I’ve already noticed.

First of all, it was just plain harder at first to get into the mindset of a younger age group. I had things especially easy when writing the Hybrid Chronicles because I started those books when I was 17, and the protagonists were 15. Sure, I still had to project myself into someone else’s skin, but I never really had to think: “Okay, what would a teenager think/do/say” because I was a teenager. And even as I aged into my twenties, it just seemed less of a hurdle to stay in the mind of a teenager.

But trying to go all the way back, mentally, to my pre-teen days was another matter. What I remembered being like at twelve (the way I acted, the thoughts I had, the way I interacted with my peers and with adults) didn’t always seem to match up with the way I saw kids nowadays acting. And reading my journals from the time was actually less helpful than I imagined.

In the end, it was a combination of things that helped me get into the right zone. First off is probably a pretty obvious one—I read more recently published Middle Grade. I’ve always had a soft spot for MG, so I’d read MG here and there while I was writing YA, but now I really tried to read it with an ear for the different kinds of voices used, and what kinds of effects that had, and which I liked best. There are too many to list, of course, but a few I really enjoyed were The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano, and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

I also went back and re-read the books that I’d loved when I was a pre-teen—the ones where I really related to the characters, and thought to myself, This author gets it. This is what being a kid is like. For me, personally, this was The Golden Compass and Ender’s Game. Reading the books that had really spoken to me at age twelve actually seemed to connect me better to my past self than reading my actual diaries from back then.

It all meant that by the time I sat down to start drafting my first MG, I was feeling a lot better about attempting to write from the point of view of a younger protagonist 🙂

What do you guys think? Have any of you tried to make the shift from writing YA to MG? Or maybe even from writing Adult fiction to YA or MG?

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