BLOGGER: TIM SHOEMAKER
Leading a bonus session Friday night, Preparing for the Appointment
WRITING FOR MIDDLE GRADE BOYS
If you’re writing for middle grade kids, you may be making a critical mistake. Writing for “kids” suggests you’re targeting both boys and girls. Do that and you’ll likely only get the girls.
A better technique? Write for boys. You’ll get the boys and the girls if you do it right. Girls will read great writing targeted for boys, but many boys won’t read something they sense is written for girls. Lets look at things your writing for boys needs, and things you need to avoid.
Three Things Writing for Boys Needs
White Space– If you have too much margin-to-margin text your book looks like work to read—instead of fun. Many boys will simply close the book. Break up the page with dialogue, interior thought, etc.
Short Chapters– Some boys count the pages for a chapter before they read it. If the chapter is too long, they may not even start. Sometimes a boy only has fifteen minutes to read. If they can’t finish the chapter they’ll be frustrated. Find a good place to end the chapter sooner. I often average five or six pages. And remember … more chapters mean more cliffhangers—which is exactly what you need for boys.
Strong Starts– You know you need this. Your story is like a car on the line at a drag strip. When the reader opens to Chapter One, that’s the green light. You can’t be adjusting your mirrors and showing the reader what the track looks like. On the first line of the book you pop the clutch and stand on the gas. From the very first line you want to intrigue your reader … hint at danger. And not just the first line of the book, but the first line of every chapter.
Three Things Writing for Boys Must Avoid
Romance– Middle grade is a tricky time. Some boys are interested in girls, some aren’t. Many writers want to put a little romance in their stories just to keep the girls interested. Don’t do it. You’ll lose too many boys, and it isn’t needed. Girls will read—and love—a well-written story that has no romance.
Preachy– A good, well-written story will teach subtle spiritual truth. Including portions of a sermon the junior high character just happens to remember comes off as hokey. And so do many conversion scenes. They won’t seem real to the boy reader. When the story doesn’t seem real you’ll lose much of the potential impact your book could have had.
Lengthy Descriptions– The detailed descriptions you think will bring life to your story will more likely kill it. Boys skim descriptions—unless you’re describing a weapon, a cool machine, etc. They don’t care what most rooms look like. Honest. Limit your description only to the details that matter to your POV character at the moment, and give it to the readers in very small doses.
You want to write for middle grade kids?
Excellent. Target the boys, and you’ll get them all.