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Is it Middle Grade or Young Adult? Thirteen Considerations to Clue a Reader In

Even though I’m a voracious reader and like to read everything from adult mysteries to picture book fantasies, I’m still learning the categories and genre classifications of fiction. Perhaps, like me, you’re a talented but struggling padawan in sorting your literature. I can help. Let’s start by looking at the differences between middle grade (MD) and young adult (YA) stories.

t13-03

 

  1. Typically, MG readers are between eight and twelve years old while YA readers are between thirteen and eighteen.
  2. MG books are between 30,000 and 50, 000 words although some might be as short as 20,000 words. YA novels can be between 50,000 and 75,000 or even 80,000 words; however, fantasy might be longer in either age group because of the world-building required.
  3. Generally MG tales don’t have profanity whereas YA novels might.
  4. The protagonist in a MG story is usually between ten and thirteen. YA tales can feature a hero who is fourteen to eighteen.
  5. Commonly MG adventures are written in third person. YA stories are often told from the first person perspective.
  6. MG novels often end on a hopeful happily-ever-after note, which is not necessarily so in a YA book.
  7. MG heroes focus on the external—what is happening to them, which often means more action and adventure while YA protagonists are more internal, more introspective and in their own heads.
  8. Sexual Attraction is sweet, a first kiss or a crush in MG tales, but it might be more involved and developed. A dating relationship can be explored in a YA story.
  9. MG protagonists think about their friends and family, their own personal bubble while the main characters in YA stories are trying to figure out how they fit in the world outside their family and friends.
  10. MG protagonists often focus on their personal struggles and all the story events are seen in light of how they affect the protagonist whereas YA heroes frequently focus on the struggles of others whether or not those struggles affect them.
  11. Although not always true, a general rule of thumb is a MG novel won’t have graphic violence. A YA novel might.
  12. Often MG readers have to go through a gatekeeper, a librarian, teacher or parent to obtain a story selection. Typically YA readers have more freedom and possibly a driver’s license. This means MG writers might want to consider how an adult guardian might view the MG novel.
  13. It wouldn’t be fair to say that there are no similarities between YA and MG books. Here’s one thing they have in common. The “read-up” phenomenon. Both YA and MG readers want characters that are older than they are. They are eager for glimpses of what life could be a year or a few years from their present.

As I said before I’m still learning to sort my fiction into YA and MG categories. Can you think of any other distinctions that should be mentioned? Please leave a comment.

 

Works Cited

Backes, Laura. “The Difference Between Middle grade & Young Adult.” WriteForKids Writing Childrens Books. 12 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://writeforkids.org/2014/01/the-difference-between-middle-grade-young-adult/>.

Lamba, Marie. “The Key Differences Between Middle Grade vs Young Adult.”WritersDigestcom. Writers Digest, 7 Aug. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-key-differences-between-middle-grade-vs-young-adult>.

Lo, Malinda. “An Introduction to Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction, Part 1: Definitions – SFWA.” SFWA. 1 Feb. 2013. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://www.sfwa.org/2013/02/an-introduction-to-middle-grade-and-young-adult-fiction-part-1-definitions/>.

Rosen, Judith. “Middle Grade and YA: Where to Draw the Line?” PublishersWeekly.com. 18 July 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2015. <http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/63358-middle-grade-and-ya-where-to-draw-the-line.html>.

Open to Change

 

Jude Day CloseUp for web

 

Last summer I started shopping around SUCKER PUNCHING MAGIC, one of my favorite stories about a mild-mannered troll and a girl with a hot mess of magic. I thought I’d written a young adult (YA) tale, but nine out of ten agents, editors, judges and concerned readers told me, “Your manuscript sounds more like a middle grade (MG) yarn.”

I wondered–could they be right?

So I decided to research young adult and middle grade stories and test the validity of the feedback I’d received and you know what? I agreed with my well-meaning readers.

I’ve spent this fall rewriting SUCKER PUNCHING MAGIC to make it even more so a middle grade novel and I like it better.

Thank you friends for giving me the constructive criticism I needed to hear.

November Thanks-A Pages From The Heart Win

PFTH_First_MiaJo_Celeste_UPARA copy (1)

It’s my pleasure to announce that SUCKER PUNCHING MAGIC earned first place in the Paranormal/Futuristic/ Time Travel Category of the 2014 Pages from the Heart Contest.

Thank you. 🙂

SUCKER PUNCHING MAGIC finals in the 2014 Pages From The Heart Contest

In this world where teeth can always be a little whiter, weight can always be a little less and working woman can always try a little harder, it’s great to receive affirmation. Last week my e-mail contained an “Atta girl!” I’m excited to share.

My YA Urban Fantasy SUCKER PUNCHING MAGIC made it to the finals in the 2014 Pages From The Heart Contest http://fthrw.com/contests/2014-pages-from-the-heart-finalists

PagesFromTheHeart_FINALIST copy

The Judges made a lot of comments. (Thank you, Judges) Here are my favorites:

 

  • I literally couldn’t stop reading at the beginning.
  • Excellent. I would like to read the entire novel, and would recommend it to my friends who read YA. I absolutely loved Jude. He was so personable and complete.
  • I literally couldn’t stop reading at the beginning. I absolutely loved Jude. He was so personable and complete.
  • Loved this hero. He got my sympathy at once.
  • Poor Jude – I felt for him right away!  And Luz seems to be a very well drawn character with depth. I’m not sure these two will end out as a couple in this YA since they haven’t met yet by the end of the entry, but it’s obvious they’ll make a good team in trying to find Eric.
  • The dialogue moves the story forward, is appropriate to the characters, and is easy to follow. Nice job!
  • The opening was very well done – introducing the reader to the world building elements right away.
  • I love this story! I want to read the rest of it. I would buy this book in a heartbeat.
  • I felt the author did a great job with the entire story. The writing is smooth. There were no discernable errors in the manuscript that I could detect. The character development is smooth and interesting. I believe this will be enjoyable to both YA and adult readers. The behavior and emotions of the characters are very well suited to their described ages, the language is appropriate.
  • I can absolutely tell what drives the characters, and I can see the potential for change and for love
  • Excellent. I would like to read the entire novel, and would recommend it to my friends who read YA.
  • The world building is nicely interspersed with the rest of the story. I love the details like the mirrors and the romance novel.
  • I rarely give perfect scores, but when I do, it’s because I honestly believe the story deserves it. This YA novel is very well done and I love the concept of The Fairy Tale Effect – I can see several novels coming out of this concept.

 

Again, thank you, Judges and From the Heart Romance Writer sisters. And thanks, dear readers. I appreciate you letting me share these—it’s really nice to hear good things about something I’ve worked hard on. As always, I’m grateful to you for taking an interest and stopping by.

 

 

QueryKombat Fourth Round Update

QueryKombat

 

My entry made it to the fourth round of QueryKombat, an amazing feat in my estimation. It was one of eight still standing out of the two hundred and thirty starting combatants.

Why didn’t it move on? Well, the other entries were really, really good and I think I choked up when I was revising and lost a bit of the voice in the other versions.

I’m not going to share that rewrite with you. Rather I’d like to show what I came up with the next day.

 

Turns out, there really was something to the Y2K Scare.

Deep under Milwaukee, pipes burst, gauges cracked and ancient seals opened. Magic bubbled out of the sewers. A third of the population changed into creatures commonly found in Fairy Tales.

Fifteen years later, homeschooled Jude Kozlowski is one of the victims. Though his allergy to light causes him to shift into a troll, he wants the world to accept him as a decent guy, not the “who’s that tramping over my bridge” stereotype. But his huge frame and pistachio skin scare normal humans, and his shyness keeps him from meeting anyone else. Even his part-time paper-pushing job has him working alone. Fitting in seems hopeless.

That is, until Luz Bangor crashes into his cubicle at First Metro Finance, thugs on her heels. When the Fairy Mob kidnapped her brainiac brother, Eric, she and her unpredictable magic become his only hope for rescue. Convinced a ginormous Loser-L clings to her forehead, she begs Jude for help.

Smitten and glowing over the unexpected chance to be a hero, he agrees. Then the villains snatch Luz. Like a knight sans the shiny armor, Jude pursues. He braves neighborhood vigilantes, a spoiled poodle and a troll biker gang to track Luz to Underhill, the fairy fortress. There, the unlikely pair must square off with the Fairy Godmother or lose Eric—and each other—forever.  

SUCKER PUNCHING MAGIC is a YA urban fantasy of 73,000 words, which might also appeal to Middle Grade readers. The novel alternates between Jude’s and Luz’s point of view.

I’m hoping to use this one in my query letter, so if you have some tips or suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Feel free to leave them in the comments and thanks for letting me share with you.

 

QueryKombat—Third Round Update

QueryKombat

Quick Recap–QueryKombat is an online contested run by SCWrites, Michael Anthony and Michelle Hauck. One of its goals is to help unpublished authors hook up with agents. Fun, new friends, writing help and trending on Twitter are some of its accomplishments.

First there were 230 entries. Sixty-four were chosen to face off in pairs. Then there were thirty-two, which were looked at by agents. Agents made requests, but those requests will only be released when entries are eliminated.  The thirty-two went head to head again. Judges voted and then there were sixteen left standing.

BingBamBoomBBF, the nickname name of SUCKERPUNCHING MAGIC’s query and first 250 is one of those sixteen to make it to round three! Here’s the revision that is on http://www.scwrite.blogspot.com/

 

Query

Home-schooled Jude Kozlowski, whose allergy to light causes him to shift into a troll, wants the world to accept him as a decent guy, not the “who’s that tramping over my bridge” stereotype. But his huge frame and pistachio skin scare normal humans and his shyness keeps him from meeting anyone else. Even his part-time paper-pushing job has him working alone. Fitting in seems hopeless.

Until Luz Bangor crashes into his cubicle at First Metro Finance, thugs on her heels. The Fairy Syndicate kidnapped her brainiac brother, Eric. Attention deficit and out-of-control magic pasting a ginormous loser L on her forehead, Luz is his last choice for a rescuer. But she and her unpredictable magic are his only hope. Like a runaway wrecking ball, her miscast spell puts her and the kind troll-shifter she just met straight into the path of her brother’s powerful enemies.

Smitten and glowing over the unexpected chance to be a hero, Jude vows to help Luz rescue her brother. When the villains snatch Luz, Jude pursues. He braves neighborhood vigilantes, a spoiled poodle and a troll biker gang to track Luz to Underhill, the fairy fortress. There, the unlikely pair must square off with the Fairy Godmother or lose Eric—and each other—forever.

SUCKER PUNCHING MAGIC is a YA urban fantasy of 75,000 words told alternately in Jude’s and Luz’s point of view.

First 250 Words:

The Number Ten shot by, ruffling Jude Kozlowski’s hair. At the stop, nose deep in calculus homework, he jerked his head up. He could blame a lot of things on The Fairy Tale Effect, the mutations magic’s resurgence caused, but missing the bus wasn’t one of them.

At 4:35 in the afternoon, on a clear day in downtown Milwaukee, 6’2” Jude made a big target. Hard to believe the bus driver hadn’t spotted him. Yet the guy hadn’t even slowed.

Jude leaped to his feet. Book, paper and pencil in hand, he barreled down the sidewalk in pursuit.

He needed his job. The order and routine. The chance to be normal. If he waited for the next bus, he’d be late.

Heart racing, he dodged the parking meters and the guys who cradled cheap wine in paper bags outside the military surplus store.

Down the block, the bus’s brakes shrieked. Its axles groaned. The side doors disgorged a bearded dwarf in a trench coat.  Jude bounded over the dwarf and reached the curb as a woman wearing a Hamburger Heaven uniform hurried through the bus’s front doors.

Jude followed, but before his foot touched the step, the gnome at the wheel flinched. Eyes wide, he hastily cranked the Plexiglas doors closed. The reflection of Jude’s lumpy, pistachio green skin played over the window.

“I need a ride.” Going for friendly, Jude grinned. Wrong move. In the glass, his smile appeared strained—too full, a baring of teeth.

 

I don’t know how far BingBamBoomBBF will go.

One of the other writers in QueryKombat said, “We’re all winners and we’re all losers.”

A contest truth. BingBamBoomBBF has won and eventually it will lose. I’m okay with that. I’m grateful to participate, to meet new friends, to get helpful suggestions, and to learn a little more about writing.

I appreciate sharing my adventure with you. Thanks.

QueryKombat: A Progress Report

QueryKombat

Grin. I’m happy to announce Sucker Punching Magic’s query made it to the Agent Round. It’s on SC’s blog– http://scwrite.blogspot.com/

–Under the moniker BingBamBoomBFF.

I took many of the suggestions left by judges and fellow competitors. First, I tightened the beginning 250 words and then I reworked the query. Readers wanted to know more about Luz and they wanted understand what a troll shifter was. Hopefully, I’ve addressed those issues. I think the query is better, but you can decide. Here it is:

 

Query: 

The first time Luz Bangor inadvertently triggered her innate magic, it compelled her grandma to elope with a long-distance trucker, forcing Luz’s brilliant younger brother Eric to quit high school to support the family. The magical mishap, her floundering GPA and her attention deficit disorder slapped a ginormous loser L on Luz’s forehead, which she doesn’t expect to peel off anytime soon. Not when she keeps toying with magic she doesn’t know how to use.  And not when everyone compares her to Eric. Then he goes missing. Desperate to save him and redeem herself, Luz turns to her unpredictable magic. But her spell backfires, putting her straight into the path of her brother’s powerful enemies, the Fairy Syndicate.

Home-schooled Jude Kozlowski, whose allergy to light causes him to shift into a troll, wants the world to accept him as a decent guy, not the “who’s that tramping over my bridge” stereotype. But his huge frame and pistachio skin scare normal humans and his shyness keeps him from meeting anyone else. Even his part-time paper-pushing job has him working alone. Fitting in seems hopeless.

That is, until Luz crashes into his cubicle at First Metro Finance, thugs on her heels. Smitten and presented with the unexpected chance to be a hero, Jude vows to help Luz rescue her brother. When the villains snatch Luz, Jude pursues. He braves neighborhood vigilantes, a spoiled poodle and a troll biker gang to track Luz to Underhill, the fairy fortress. There, the unlikely pair must square off with the evil Fairy Godmother or lose Eric—and each other—forever.

First 250 Words:

Jude Kozlowski jerked his head up. He could blame a lot of things on The Fairy Tale Effect, but missing the bus wasn’t one of them. He’d been at the stop, nose deep in calculus homework when the Number Ten shot by, ruffling his hair.

At 4:35 in the afternoon, on a clear day in downtown Milwaukee, 6’2” Jude made a big target. Hard to believe the bus driver hadn’t spotted him. Yet the guy hadn’t even slowed.

Jude leaped to his feet. Book, paper and pencil in hand, he barreled down the sidewalk in pursuit.

He needed his job. The order and routine. The chance to be normal.

If he waited for the next bus, he’d be late. His heart racing the pounding of his feet, he dodged the parking meters and the guys who cradled cheap wine in paper bags outside the military surplus store.

Down the block, the bus’s brakes shrieked. Its axles groaned. The side doors disgorged a bearded dwarf in a trench coat.  Jude bounded over the dwarf and reached the curb as a woman wearing a Hamburger Heaven uniform hurried through the bus’s front doors.

Jude followed, but before his foot touched the step, the gnome at the wheel flinched. Eyes wide, he hastily cranked the Plexiglas doors closed. The reflection of Jude’s lumpy, pistachio green skin played over the window.

“I need a ride.” Going for friendly, Jude grinned. Wrong move. In the glass, his smile appeared strained—too full, a baring of teeth.

 

Thanks for reading my work and I’d love to hear from you. Consider leaving a comment or a suggestion.

Inspired by the 2014 Great Expectations Contest

Do you enter writing contests? There are a lot of them out there. Some give wonderful advice. Others not so much.

One of my favorite contests is the Great Expectations Contest. The North Texas Romance Writers run it and I know from taking part in their judges’ training and from receiving great feedback, they encourage judges to make constructive and positive comments.

A few months ago I entered my latest manuscript, SUCKER PUNCHING MAGIC in the 2014 Great Expectations Contest and I received the news that my entry had made it to the finals.  That in itself was exciting.
NTRWA_GreatExpectations_Finalist

Then recently, I received the final results. My manuscript didn’t wow the final judges–maybe because it’s more of an Urban Fantasy and less of a cookie cutter romance. Both leading character are misfits. The hero is a shy teenage troll, who finds the courage to be himself while the heroine is a screw up, who is a little ditsy, but, by the end of the story, she manages to do a number of things right.

I didn’t win a huge prize or get a request. That’s okay. I felt affirmed by the judges’ comments. Both final judges agreed that my piece was well written and unique. I consider that a victory.

NTRWA_GreatExpectations_2014_HonorableMention

And the feedback from the first round was the kind that inspires me to wake up each morning and churn out chapters.  I’d like to share thirteen of my favorites.

 

Thursday Thirteen Polyhedron courtesy of M.C.

Thursday Thirteen Polyhedron courtesy of M.C.

Thirteen Compliments

  1. I would LOVE TO KEEP READING THIS!!!!
  2. I think the author has done a good job of creating two interesting characters.
  3. Great Job. Thanks for the read. I wanted more.
  4.  I really enjoyed the uniqueness of the story. I also really enjoyed the way you introduce the fantasy.   
  5. I ABSOLUTELY think the pacing is amazing and that this story has such a fun voice. I applaud you also, for keeping the voice going even though the character perspective changes a bit.
  6. You as the writer have a vivid imagination and the story certainly has a unique twist.
  7. You have a very original story here. I liked the twist on things.
  8. The writing is excellent. The voice is fresh and unique. Characters are very relatable and inviting.
  9. Most everything was done right.
  10. The concept was unique and unusual – you kept the reader reading. The writing was tight and inviting, again, keeping the reader reading.
  11. I really like Jude’s point of view voice.
  12. Right into the story and that this isn’t our normal world. Smiling.
  13. The flow is very well handled. I got right into the story and understood what had happened and why the world was how it is without any info-dumps. Also, the characters are all very unique, their own persons, within a short amount of pages. Nicely done.

Have you ever entered a contest? What happened? What was your experience? Please share.

Sources
http://www.ntrwa.org/contest/contest.aspx