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Are you writing a Chapter Book or Middle Grade Novel?
by Manju B Howard
Recently, I accepted the role of Early Reader and Chapter Book Community Lead in another online writing community called Inked Voices. We hold book chats, discuss publishers and collectively answer member questions. One question that has popped up several times – What are some differences between writing chapter books and middle grades?
So, I compiled these lists to show how fictional chapter books defer from middle grades.
These are general guidelines, not unbreakable rules.
• Target readers 6 to 9 years old
• Main character (MC) is usually age 7, 8 or 9 (or an animal)
• Manuscripts range from 5,000 words to 20,000 words
• Younger themes with less characters and subplots
• Black and white illustrations
• Action is key, faster pace
• Chapters are 4-6 pages and end with a hook
• Shorter sentences and paragraphs
• Clear story problem in the first chapter
• Characters are less developed
• More dialogue than prose
• Story timeline is usually days or weeks
• Target readers 8 to 12 years old
• Young MC is usually age 9, 10 or 11
• Older MC is usually age 12 or 13
• Manuscripts range from 20,000 to 60,000 words
• More complex plots and subplots
• Few or no illustrations
• Action and description are important, pace varies
• More advanced themes with longer chapters
• Clear story problem by the end of the third chapter
• Character’s journey and development are key
• More prose than dialogue
• Story timeline could be up to a year or more
Another way to know whether your story should be a chapter book or a middle grade novel is the main character’s voice. By reading stacks of chapter books and middle grades, you’ll develop a sense of whether your main character acts and sounds a certain age.
At the moment, I’m writing a realistic middle grade novel. What are you writing?
Manju holds degrees in communications, theater and marketing. She has worked as a bookseller, merchandiser, scheduler and graphic artist. With motherhood came reading picture books, which led her down a path of creating stories for young readers. Now she leads writing communities within Inked Voices, SCBWI and Kidlit Creatives. Check out Manju’s blog for interviews with authors, agents, editors and publishers.
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