Oct 18

Chapter Book Guidelines

I like writing chapter books. They allow the writer more freedom than picture books or early readers, but they’re not as involved as middle grade or young adult.

The chapter book is just right—at least to me.

At the moment, I’m working in three different genres: picture book, chapter book, and two young adult. And, there’s also my own middle grade story which I’ve had to put on the back burner for the time being.

Working in multiple genres I know what’s involved in each and as I mentioned in the first sentence, I like chapter books best. Picture books are a close second, though.

Chapter Books vs. Picture Books

The reason I prefer chapter books over picture books is you have more words to work with. A good length for the chapter book is 10,000 words, but it can be from 5,000 to 15,000 words.

That amount of words gives the writer freedom to provide details, description, and so on that you just can’t do in a picture book as the picture book should be 800 words or under.

You need to write tight with picture books in order to get a full story arc.

Chapter Book vs. Early Reader

Compared to the early reader, chapter books allow for a lot more freedom. While you do have to take into account the age of the reader for plot, sentence structure, paragraphs, and so on with the chapter book, it’s not as stringent as the early reader.

The early reader is geared toward the emergent reader. The words, sentences, and paragraphs have to be in accordance with educational tools like the Lexile Framework for Reading.

Chapter Books vs. Middle Grade and Young Adult

The other great thing about chapter books is they’re not as involved as the middle grade or young adult.

A middle grade book is usually anywhere from 20,000 (for a simple middle grade) to 55,000 (for upper middle grade).

The young adult books are usually 55,000 up to 80,000 words. This kind of word count calls for a lot of organization, and a lot of notes. And, a good memory helps too.

While a larger word count allows for a much more in-depth story with lots and lots of details, including subplots, and even more than one point-of-view, there’s a lot to keep track of.

To add to this, if you’re working with a client, you may encounter pauses in the writing momentum due to the client taking a long time to review what you send. This is a big deal when you’ve got a good momentum going and you have to put it on pause.

So, What Exactly Are the Guidelines of the Chapter Book?

According to editor Mary Kole, the chapter book’s key element is for the reader to have “easy wins.” (1) This means the new reader will get a sense of accomplishment for each chapter he reads. This is a huge win for a child just learning to read.

  • The age bracket varies, but the usual is seven to nine.
  • Because the child is new to reading on his own, the chapters should be 500-700 words. Short and sweet. This helps with the ‘easy wins.’
  • Considering the word count per chapter, having 10-15 chapters is a good amount.
  • The book should have a full character arc as well as a full story (narrative) arc.
  • There should be one point-of-view, that of the protagonist.
  • The word count can be 5,000 to 15,000, but the sweet spot is around 10,000.
  • It can have 64-128 pages.
  • It should have illustrations here and there. The beginning of each chapter is a good place, and where you want to ‘show’ the reader what’s going on. Most chapter books have black and white illustrations rather than full color like picture books.

This is the basics of a chapter book. If you’re a children’s writer and haven’t written one yet, give it a try!

References:

(1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngDXXlVrL1U&feature=youtu.be

https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-are-the-elements-of-a-narrative-arc-and-how-do-you-create-one-in-writing#quiz-0

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Jun 28

A Middle Grade Book Versus a Young Adult Book

I’m finding lately that a number of clients don’t understand the difference between a middle grade (MG) book and a young adult (YA) book.

So, let’s go over a few of the basic differences.

Also, keep in mind that there are simple MG and upper MG as well as simple YA and upper YA.

The Reader Age Group for Each Genre

Middle grade books focus on readers in the 9-12 age range. According to editor Mary Kole, “That’s really the sweet spot.” (1)

Along with this, there is an upper middle grade group that caters to the 12-13-year-old reader. They’re not quite ready for YAs, but they’re more advanced than a 9 or 10-year-old.

There is also a lower middle grade group that caters to the 8-10 range.

Another factor to consider is the age of the protagonist.

Generally, the protagonist is between 11 and 12 years old as kids want to read up. They want the protagonist to be as old or older than they are.

If it’s an upper MG, the protagonist is usually 12-13.

It is important that the protagonist isn’t in high school, thus the 13-year-old limit for upper middle grade.

Young adult books focus on readers in the 13-18 age range.

This genre is also divided into lower (younger) YA and upper (older) YA.

For the younger YA readers, the protagonist is usually aged 14-15.

For older readers, the protagonist is usually 16-18 years old, but he shouldn’t be in college.

I’m currently ghosting a YA where it starts with the protagonist at 14 and will go with him through high school to 18-years-old.

What Can and Can’t be in the Story

With middle grade, especially younger middle grade, the story should still be simple and it’d be a good idea to keep it to a single point-of-view.

For upper MG, you can use two points-of -view, but my preference is still only one.

While the subject matter can be more mature than chapter books, it should be age appropriate. Keep in mind that the MG age group is still young. They’re not experienced or mature enough to handle complex or mature topics.

Things like fitting in, simple crushes, and all the other things that go into the middle school years are fine.

If you’re writing for upper middle grade, things can get a bit more advanced. Kids are experiencing the world. They know what they’re seeing on TV and other media. You still though want to avoid dark or explicit subject matter. And, profanity should be avoided.

With young adult, kids are becoming savvy. They’re experiencing everything from terrorism, violence, pandemics, and so on.

YA stories can go into the darker and grimier side of life.

While you still want to tone it down a bit for the younger YA group, for the older group you can pretty much go into everything. Although, explicit sexual content should still be limited. This is not the place for adult content.

You can though, add two or more points-of-view.

The Word Count

MG

The word count for middle grade is 15,000 to 65,000. Although, my fantasy adventure, Walking Through Walls, is about 12,000 and is great for the reluctant MG reader.

The general parameters are:

  • Young MG is usually 15,000 to 25,000
  • MG is usually 25,000 to 45,000
  • Upper MG is usually 45,000 to 65,000

There is also the fantasy or sci-fi MG which can have a higher word count. But, it’s not advisable not to go beyond 85,000 words.

YA

The word count for young adult is 50,000 to 75,000.

For the younger YA, keep it on the lower end of the word count.

While these are just the basics of the differences between MG and YA, it gives you a general idea of where your story should fit.

According to an article at Writers Digest, “a book that doesn’t fit within the parameters of either age category is a book you won’t be able to sell.” (2)

An example of this:

With the story I mentioned earlier that I’m ghosting, it started as a MG. But, as the client wanted older content and wanted the protagonist to go through high school, I had to change it to a YA.

The client actually wanted the protagonist to go through college also, but I had to pull in the reins.

You need to stay within the genre limits.

References:

(1) https://marykole.com/how-to-write-middle-grade-fiction
(2) https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/the-key-differences-between-middle-grade-vs-young-adult

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Let me take a look at your notes, outline, or draft. I’m a working children’s ghostwriter and rewriter. I can turn your story into a book that you’ll be proud to be author of.

Shoot me an email at: kcioffiventrice@gmail.com (please put Children’s Ghostwriter in the Subject line). Or, you can give me a call at 834—347—6700

Let’s get your story in publishable shape today!

Or, if you’d rather give it a shot and do-it-yourself, check out my book, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S FICTION BOOK.

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