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    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
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    July 2, 2013:
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    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...

     

    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...

     

    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories, read more...

     

    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...

     

    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...

     

    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…

     

    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...

     

    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...

     

    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...

     

    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...

     

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How Long is Middle Grade Fiction?

Book Lists, Trends, Writing MG Books

I’m often asked when I do school visits–how long are your manuscripts? Since I write middle grade books, the question becomes–how long does a middle grade novel need to be? Or should be. Another words, is there an ideal length for both reader and the writer?

The short answer is no.

Long answer. Well, it depends on what kind of book you are looking to read or what kind of book you want to write. There are certainly guidelines. Nancy Lamb in images-5The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children defines the average length of middle grade fiction this way: “Most middle-grade novels are 15,000 to 35,000 words long or 64 to 150 pages.”

Editors will often advise aspiring authors to write a book until they feel it needs to end. Also, sometimes different publishers and different imprints have guidelines, especially with original paperback fiction. For example, the manuscripts that are accepted in the Simon & Schuster MIX imprint for tween girls (where I have been publishing) run usually two hundred typed pages, while a similar imprint at another house may run shorter or longer.

dorkdiariesWith graphic novels, word counts go down, while page counts remain the same as conventional fiction. The Diary of a Wimpy Kid books come in at around the 200-page mark, but the word counts are at the lower end of the spectrum. Graphic and illustrated epistolary novels have their own norms and standards. It is a hugely growing field and includes not only boy books like the Diary of Wimpy Kid series but also the Dear Dumb Diary, Baby Mouse, the Dork Diary series for girls and speculative fiction like the Bone books.

Although word counts for illustrated books are naturally at the lower end, I would argue that in in recent years, conventional middle grade fiction has actually expanded in length. This is, no doubt, because of the popularity of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, which started as a middle grade series (although aged up). Both of the first books in that series are over 300 pages. And the first book in the Magyk series by Angie Sage comes in at 564 pages. Deborah Wiles’ Each Little Bird that Sings, a National Book Award Finalist, comes in at 247 printed pages, and it’s not considered particularly extra long. This is not to say that shorter books are unacceptable or not wanted. I’m sure there are many incredible novellas and short form fiction out there, but are they not yet receiving high visibility in big publishing. However, with the growing popularity of ebooks, I predict we will begin to see a new offering of short stories and novellas from major New York publishers.

Hillary Homzie‘s second tween novel for girls,The Hot List, was published last year. She has three boys so she must become a spy to write about tween girls and remember her own experiences, which is easy since Hillary claims that she’s still thirteen.

19 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Janet Smart  •  Jan 7, 2013 @4:09 pm

    Enjoyed the post. The two MG manuscripts that I have written hit in the middle. One is 21,500 words and the other is 24,000 words.

    Hillary Homzie Reply:

    @Janet Smart, that would mean you’re a middle middle grade writer then :)

  2. Michelle Schusterman  •  Jan 7, 2013 @5:44 pm

    Nice post! Both of mine have come in just under 40k.

    Hillary Homzie Reply:

    @Michelle Schusterman, my last two have been around the 47,000 word mark.

  3. Beth Stilborn  •  Jan 7, 2013 @6:06 pm

    You must be able to read minds. The MG I’m working on currently is growing in the revision stage (after a manuscript evaluation) and I was just wondering what the accepted length was. You’ve answered my question. Now on with the revisions…

    Hillary Homzie Reply:

    @Beth Stilborn, good luck with your revisions!

  4. Susan Lower  •  Jan 7, 2013 @7:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I always have a target word count of 50,000 when I write my first draft. I usually end up either 10,000 below or over that goal by the time I get done with revisions and edits.

    Hillary Homzie Reply:

    @Susan Lower, it’s funny how some manuscripts need more pruning while others need more shearing. It would be interesting to explore why.

  5. Brenda  •  Jan 8, 2013 @8:40 am

    I was a little surprised by the “average length,” but curious how much it influences the readers decision.

  6. Hillary Homzie  •  Jan 8, 2013 @11:54 am

    Now that’s a very good question. I think the answer is–it depends. My middle son is a reluctant reader and will look for shorter books, and especially illustrated books and graphic novels. However, if he’s had a positive experience with a longer book, then he won’t hesitate to test the waters with the sequel.

    On the other hand, readers who enjoy the challenge and perhaps even status of reading a longer book, might actively seek longer works while ignoring novellas.

    Personally, I find that I alternate. I guess I just like a varied diet.

  7. Tracy Abell  •  Jan 8, 2013 @12:20 pm

    “Editors will often advise aspiring authors to write a book until they feel it needs to end.” I try to take this approach rather than get caught up in my word counts. Not to say I don’t still pay attention to where I’m at… :)

    Hillary Homzie Reply:

    @Tracy Abell, yes, I think this is wise, unless you’re writing for a specific imprint with strict word count guidelines.

  8. Natalie Aguirre  •  Jan 9, 2013 @6:01 am

    So agree with you that the word count varies, especially based on genre and whether it’s upper MG or lower. Fantasy tends to be higher as your example shows.

    Hillary Homzie Reply:

    @Natalie Aguirre, yes, it does seem fantasy runs higher, unless it’s obviously hitting the younger end of middle grade (for example, a novel like Well-Wished).

  9. Gerri Lanier  •  Jan 9, 2013 @12:38 pm

    * Thanks for this post, Hilary! As I go on with my revisions I’ll keep your words in mind.

    Hillary Homzie Reply:

    @Gerri Lanier, Good luck with your revisions Gerri!

  10. tricia  •  Jan 9, 2013 @3:06 pm

    Both my FOX STREET books were about 39,000 words, though this genre can easily go to 70,000. I try never to use two words when one will do, no matter what I’m writing!

    Hillary Homzie Reply:

    @tricia, Great tip, Tricia! That definitely knocks out a lot of adverbs, she said knowingly :)

  11. JG Jan Godown Annino  •  Jan 27, 2013 @5:05 pm

    Liked what you shared, Hillary about the idea of the status of a longer MG for some readers.
    I’ve begun a fast-paced story by Elise Broach called MISSING ON SUPERSTITION MOUNTAIN. And paging to the back I see that rolls in at 260 pages.
    Always good to receive your tips/ resources.
    Thanks to you & From The Mixed-Up Files blog!