Thursday, November 19, 2015

To worry or not to worry, that is the question

There are many things to worry about as an author. A few of them are actually important, while many are probably irrelevant. For example, my two Bernie & Tish novels (almost ready for queries) are aimed at the 7-11 age bracket, generally termed "middle grade" although definitions of that vary. 

For those ages, there are a few guidelines I've gleaned about what to avoid:
  1. No sex (overt romanticism and crushes are okay, but keep off the bases)
  2. No profanity (even if 11 year olds you know swear, teachers might read this aloud)
  3. Violence should generally be off screen (opinions vary)
Then there are guidelines about what to include:
  1. Make it exciting
  2. Friendship is very key to this age
  3. Themes of growing up and independence (different than YA independence, which is more about leaving home and going out on your own)
  4. Learning your power and how to use/not abuse it (not superpowers just regular powers)
But then there are more random worries, and I have no idea of their actual importance:
  1. Novel length - I am aiming for 30,00 words for my novels, which may be the right length and may not be. Is that really important to kids? Is it important to agents/publishers? Not sure.
  2. Chapter length - I aim for 1000-1300 words in a chapter. That feels right to me, and it seems like whether a teacher were reading aloud or a kid were allowed one chapter to read before bed, consistency and predictability would help. Is that really important? Is it even the right length? I am not sure.
  3. Innocence - My stories are relatively innocent and straightforward. Some modern middle grade books seem to fall into either far more complex or far more violent/scary/disturbing than I like. Is that what kids want today? Is it what publishers want? Am I underestimating my audience? I am clueless, but write stories the way I enjoyed them as a kid.
  4. Language - I write by instinct and experience. Do I use too many big words? Too few? Out of date terms? I don't really know. I have read a lot of books for this age, so I think I am okay. The MS Word review says the Flesch-Kincaid reading level is 4.4, and while I don't put a lot of stock in that as it mostly has to do with words per sentence, etc, it is right about where it should be.

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