May 10

Outlines and Character Details – Tips on Writing a Middle Grade Story

Outlines and character details

The majority of my clients ask for picture books, but currently, I have two middle grade clients.

While a middle grade book isn’t as long as a novel, it still has a significant word count, around 20-50,000. Quite a difference from the under 1000-word picture book.

Based on this, writing a middle grade story is similar to writing a novel, so the same practices should be used.

When I write a picture book story, I use the seat-f-the-pants method of writing. With around 600-800 words, I find it works well. Not so much with a middle-grade story. Because of this, I use an outline.

Creating an Outline

The thing with an outline is you can make it as detailed as you like.

Being impatient, I used to write as bare an outline as I could. I’ve found though that writing a more detailed outline is a huge help when getting down to writing the story.

This became particularly apparent to me when a client from five years ago recently gave me a call.

I had written one middle-grade for him and started a second one. For some reason or other, the client stopped the project after a month into it.

He now wants to resume the project … after five years.

Fortunately, I keep good records and files. I make sure I have them backed up. In fact, I use Dropbox and Carbonite. I also have an external drive that I back my files up to.


Maybe, but I’ve had the experience of losing a client’s project – the entire story – due to a computer mishap, so I take extra precautions.

Because I save everything, I have the information from the first book and what I had done on the second book.

Going over my notes, I was THRILLED to see that I had written a detailed outline of Book2.

Granted this is an unusual situation as I’ve never had a client stop a project, and especially stop one for such a very, very long time, but it helps emphasize the importance of an outline.

Having that detailed outline is going to save me time and effort.

Creating Characters

Along with creating an outline, it’s important to create character details.

Writing coach and children’s author, Suzanne Lieurance, says that if you know your characters before writing your story, you’ll write a better novel.

The reason for this that if you take the time to create your characters, especially the main characters, you can open up other details or subplots within the story that you might not have thought of before.

This also helps you to create unique characters. Characters with their own personalities and quirks that make them easily distinguishable from the other characters.

You’ll know that Jeff has a temper and Russell is timid, and they’re best friends despite their differences.

You’ll know that Marisa has a crush of Matteo who has a crush on Abby who likes Jeff.

All this is going on behind the scenes in subplots as the main character struggles to reach his goal.

Knowing all this will allow you to know how a character will react in certain situations. It’ll also help you write particular scenes with ease.

I hope these tips help you write an outstanding middle grade story.

Children's ghostwriter

Whether you need ghostwriting or rewriting, let me take a look at your children’s story. Just send me an email at: Please put “Children’s Writing” in the Subject box. Or, give me a call at 347—834—6700

Let’s get your idea off the launch pad or your outline into a publishable story 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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