Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 7, 2019

The Main Differences BetweenWriting Chapter Books and Middle Grade Novels:

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The Main Differences Between Writing Chapter Books and Middle Grade Novels by Mira Reisberg:

Chapter Book (CB) readers are generally aged 7-10 years old, but younger and older readers will also read them if they look juicy enough or accessible enough for younger readers or still relevant or super fun for older readers. CBs usually have illustrations, larger fonts and shorter chapters. Manuscripts range from 1500 words to 20,000 words depending on whether it’s highly image driven like a Scholastic/Branches chapter book or if it has fewer illustrations. Themes need to be age appropriate with fewer subplots and characters making it easier to follow for younger readers.

Middle Grade (MG) novel readers can be anywhere between the ages of 8-12, (with exceptions sometimes even spanning generations) and may or may not have illustrations. Upper MG can cross over into Young Adult and lower MG into chapter book readers. MG novels, which can run from 20,000 – 50,000 words give or take some words, will have deeper delving into characters, and more complex plots and subplots, often with longer chapters, regular size fonts, and more mature themes. Read on for more.

And Now For The How:

A lot of people are intimidated by the idea of writing a chapter book or middle grade novel but the thing is if you have a map that shows you what can go where and when, it’s like going on a road trip from San Francisco to Portland, Oregon or anywhere you want with a GPS or a great map. And while MGs in particular do take more time and patience then writing a CB or picture book, they are so much more rewarding and so much less competitive in terms of getting published.

Like any kind of creative writing, you need patience, curiosity, and a compelling main character or pair of characters who get their own main plots to move you through the story. But with a MG novel, your secondary and tertiary characters can also have their own subplots weaving through the story as your main character or characters go about solving the problem or gaining the goals that you established as the main through-line or initiating act in the beginning of the book.

Are You a Plotter or A Pantser?

Now some people are what’s known as pantsers, short for seat of their pants, who make it up as they go along and then go back and make sure it all fits together. Other people, like myself, are plotters or planners. We like to map out in general ahead of time, so we know what we want to do and follow that.

I like to create a rough outline with creative chapter headings that, in the case of a book that I’m working on, follow the arc of my main character as he shows why he considers himself the world’s greatest failure and the reality of why he really isn’t. Failure is really important in any plot driven book, especially in a contemporary biography, because it creates that all important element of suspense of whether our beloved main character will eventually solve the problem or achieve their goal. With each chapter you want to end with a cliffhanger and these can be really fun to do. In fact, from now on, when you watch any kind of TV, Netflix or Hulu series, watch how they create a cliffhanger at the end of each episode that makes you desperate to find out what happens next. And that’s the kind of suspense you want to create to make your reader want to read on. Finally, another thing you can do, that’s also really fun, is set up red herrings – where the reader thinks one thing is going to happen for sure, like finding the solution to a problem, and then it either doesn’t happen in an anti-climactic way or something really different happens.

Free or Inexpensive Speech to Text Dictation

And now for one last tip, which I’ll be demonstrating in our course, and that’s how to dictate your novel. You’ll need a mobile device like an iPad or iPhone, though I imagine it works on Android systems too, and a Gmail account or Scrivener for your iPad.

I absolutely love this, and in fact dictated this newsletter. Unfortunately, because of my hybrid accent it does make some typos, but it makes the writing go really fast and fluid like you’re telling your story to a friend. In fact you could write your whole novel by dictating it in Scrivener on the iPad, keeping separate chapters, reference material, and all sorts of stuff that you might need in one place that you then export to your main computer as either a Word document, which I recommend, a PDF, or whatever format you want. It’s pretty fabulous.

Here are the basics. If you use Gmail on your iPad or iPhone, or other mobile device, just look towards the bottom left for the microphone symbol, click that, and as they say in Australia, Bob’s your uncle, meaning there it is or you’re ready to go. When you want to pause, or stop, just press the microphone icon again. Easy Peezy and Bob you’re uncle. This microphone icon also shows up in the mobile version of Scrivener but needs a wee video to show how to access it. I’ve shown this nifty trick to many people who are blown away by how wonderful it is. Of course there will always be revisions needed, especially if you have a weird accent, but it makes for a less lonely experience somehow dictating it to your imaginary friend inside your mobile device.

Mira says, “I hope you found this helpful and thank you for being part of our community.”

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. Great info, thanks! I’ve always wondered about dictation, since typing doesn’t always help me get the words out. I generally hand write everything, then go back and type, editing as I go. But I’m anxious to give dictation a try!

    Liked by 1 person


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