Young Adult or Middle Grade?

question
discussion
#1

Hello there! As I’m close to rounding off my first story (if I stopped procrastinating like I’m doing now), I’m starting to look at possible options ahead. Editing, beta readers, even querying. Now, I looked at MSWishlist this morning, and saw most people are asking for Middle Grade and not Young Adult. As I never really knew what MG is, I decided to google it, and this popped up:

I realised that my story matched MG more than YA. It will have barely over 30k words, no profanity or sexuality, the protagonist (if put in human terms) is just a child of around 13 years of age, and the mindset is focused on how the MC struggles with friends and family.

However, there are three instances of graphic violence (battles and such), and I’ve written the entire thing in third person. Should I edit the graphic violence out after finishing, and turn the whole thing into third person? Or should I let it be as it is (after I finish it, of course), and just call it MG anyway? Because if I see this, it definitely does not fit YA.

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#2

As you don’t like me stalking, I’m actually saying something. I don’t think I can answer your question, as in, I can’t. At all. Anyway, does your MC reflect a lot?
Also, why do you say, ‘the protagonist (if put in human terms)’? What term wouldn’t be human?

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#3

It’s not me not liking it, just me calling you out on it :stuck_out_tongue:

I guess she does reflect here and there, but not constantly. As for “if put in human terms”, it’s because she’s from a shifter race that usually gets around 5,000 years old. Age is wacky when that happens.

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#4

Well, you can give it a shot as MG. A lot has to do with the tone and the complexity of the sentences and the storytelling.

Find some 10 and 11 year olds and see if they like it. They should be your beta readers, and their criticisms should be taken seriously – especially if they’re confused anywhere.

You should also READ some similar MG and compare yours to it. Does it sound similar?

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#5

I tried to keep the complexity really basic, since the MC’s a child too. She won’t go around using words such as “frivolous”. Finding kids as beta readers is a really good idea, though, and I will definitely keep it in mind.

It turns out Percy Jackson is also MG, and it is somewhat similar in style. And that’s also in first person. Or at least, the Apollo books are, as far as I can remember…

#6

Hmm that’s an interesting one. I’d say it’s almost a cross between the two, however if I had to choose one I’d say Middle Grade :slightly_smiling_face:

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#7

Ah, fair enough. You’ve read it and you know. Thank you.

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#8

It’s only often 3rd person, so there’s no set rule against 1st person. If the voice is capturing, I wouldn’t change it to third. However, any type of graphic violence is out if you want this to appeal to such a young audience. There is no bending on that. It’s not the kids who have an issue but the parents, and those are the ones who will buy the books.

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#9

I figured as much. I definitely wouldn’t want my child to read graphic descriptions of blood and gore. The worst is going when editing.

#10

Giving this a little boop.

#11

Is your story on Wattpad? If so, I could look at it. I read a lot of MG and YA for work.

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#12

Yes, it is. Its current name is The Alpha’s Flame, although I fully intend it to give it a more appropriate and less clickbait-y name after completion. 21 out of the 28-30 chapters are currently published.

Any help would be really appreciated <3

Edit: In Chapter Eleven, actually, is a big, gory battle. Since I’d never written battles before, a friend helped me, and her strong point was horror and gore, so it may be a bit… much.

#13

Another little bump

#14

If you’re querying this is definitely upper MG. Horror is fine (kids love it), but I’d lose the gore unless it’s pivotal to the story (hint: it usually isn’t). In MG any violence is usually suggested (Roald Dahl’s child-eating giants will forever be seared into my brain) rather than described in detail.

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#15

There are some big and successful exceptions to ‘lose the gore’, though. Consider Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak series for children. It gets so explicitely gory it really puts some adults off, but the nine and ten year-old crowd slurp it up. Things like necks being snapped with grinding bones, vampires squeezing the hearts in corpses to get the blood flowing out so they can drink it, and wolf-men eating ripped open child victims while they’re still alive and squirming. Those scenes go on for pages. His books also average something like 30k words - half the length of the usual modern MG work.

Not recommending this, mind you. Just pointing out that there are few ‘rules’ when the story sells well. In general, publishers in the US and Britain are less touchy about violence and gore than they are about sexual content.

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#16

… I’m not that bad. That description alone puts me off. Though it’s good to know such thing is technically ‘allowed’.

#17

There will always be authors that will get away with breaking taboos. Take Michael Grant, for example, in his series Gone. Very gory with some sexual undertones – and since none of the characters it’s over 16, it violates some of the biggest societal norms.

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend something like this for a debut. Selling your book to an agent or publisher is already hard enough, so playing ball is the prudent approach. Kids are pretty tough. It’s the adults who judge your writing I’m worried about,.

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#18

I would say that the authors of some of the most impactful, most successful books do this. Because ultimately, novelty is key, and novelty often involves breaking taboos, whether cultural or those of the publishing business. The converse is not true, though: that breaking taboos automatically leads to a great book.

Just as you will probably not write a great book ‘to rule’, in the work-to-rule sense.

There are paradoxes here that all writers face - how to write what you think needs to be written, the story that your heart wants to tell, and follow the rules so that it passes gatekeeper filters and some people actually read it.

I’ve been mulling this a bit for the book I’m posting now, which I wrote for readers from 11 to 14 (transition from MG to YA) with crossover potential to older readers, and which initially had a 14 year-old MC. I know I have to give it a clear publishing category, and from the length, it has to be YA rather than MG. But according to the rules, the MC can’t be 14 in a YA or MG - she’d have to be 16 for YA (or at a stretch, 15). Yet, the story is about a tribal society in which people take on adult-like roles (marriage, raiding, etc.) earlier in life than is the norm in Western society. That meant content that some agents and publishers might consider too adult for YA. Does that mean it has to be called Adult? Still doesn’t seem right. I tweaked it so that now she’s 15.5, but it’s still a bit of an MG-YA hybrid. Still mulling it.

Anyway, I’m happy to notice more and more category-defying exceptions, though the point about debut authors needing to ‘play ball’ is well made.

My advice? Be aware of and respect the ‘rules’ and conventions, understand the business reasons for them (e.g. shelving categories), then write the story that your soul needs to write, without thinking of the rules. If you try to write to the rules, your story will be crap.

If you end up with something that could be great, but will find it hard to be accepted as a debut? No problem, put it aside and write another one, and keep doing that until either you write one that happens to fit a niche, or the market catches up with you :slight_smile: Probably, once you’ve written three or four, you’ll realize the first one wasn’t quite as great as you first thought, and you can improve it.

Footnote: Before I’m justly accused of romanticizing the business of writing, I’ll point out that

  1. there are also examples of ‘great’ stories that were quite conventional and derivative, but great because of great execution. The Harry Potter series comes to mind.
  2. there are plenty examples of stories that are successful despite being derivative and having mediocre writing. They happen to be well-timed, and catch a wave of interest.
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#19

Gone is an amazing series, and I loved it, although I will admit I had nightmares of the worms and the teleporting cat. Some bits were terrifying, but not as bad as the smut book I accidentally read when I was nine (it was an accident, I swear. I did not want graphic rape).

Thank you for the advice, though. It’s always the adults that make things harder. I’ll just have to turn it into something that they’ll accept.

#20

Does this hint at a certain hype book about a stalker vampire and a cardboard female MC, who also has hots for a shifter / werewolf?