Saturday 12 July 2014

Emma Walton Hamilton's Just Write for Middle Grade course

picture from the Just Write for Middle Grade site
I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to take Emma Walton Hamilton's Just Write for Middle Grade course. Just Write for Middle Grade is a 14-week home-study course in writing Chapter Books and Middle Grade novels for ‘tween and pre-teen readers.

About the course (from the website):
"The Just Write courses are fun, focused and comprehensive. No fluff, no busywork – just extraordinary instruction and insight from a professional author, editor and coach who is totally plugged in to the contemporary children’s book scene and dedicated to the craft of writing for young people.
Of course, there are a lot of writing courses out there… some of them very worthy. But many are prohibitively expensive, others are outdated or feature less-than-impressive content, and some are way too complicated.
Emma’s Just Write Children’s Books courses are simple, authoritative and affordable.
Enroll in any one of the courses and you will learn the fundamental aspects of writing for children, pre-teens or young adults, including:
  • Understanding the differences between chapter books, middle grade and young adult fiction
  • How and where to find ideas
  • Developing engaging and authentic characters
  • Mapping a plot and identifying themes
  • Writing evocative narrative, effective dialogue, and successful beginnings, middles and endings
  • Special issues such as anthropomorphism, verse vs. prose and word play
  • The keys to world-building
  • Crafting compelling scenes and chapters
  • Managing sub-plots and secondary characters
  • How to edit your manuscript and more!"
 Please understand that I came to this course as someone who has been studying and researching all about chapter book and middle grade book writing for years already, so I already had a lot of foreknowledge about the subject.

Even with all of my pre-knowledge, I still managed to learn from the course and I found that Emma's course helped me to focus more clearly on where I was going with my story. At every stage of my writing, there were topics in the course to help me and remind me of the things I needed to keep in mind while writing.

It also helped me to admit that my story needed more work because it was not really chapter book material but, rather, with its slightly more complex storyline and subtle sub-plots, it needed to be expanded into a middle grade book. (On some level, I already knew this, but I was feeling lazy about re-writing the story. Emma's course helped me to admit what I needed to do.)

Included in the course are some terrific worksheets to help you work out your plot structure, character development and more. I had a little difficulty with saving them after filling them in (as my computer was new at the time and didn't include the right programs for saving after adding to pdf files), which meant I was unable to e-mail them to Emma for the certificate. (I'm still working on that.) But I still found the worksheets helpful.

I confess that I am a reluctant editor. I love the creating part of writing a nestory, but I balk and procrastinate when it comes to editing and revising a story and shaping it into something worth publishing. The section on editing helped me keep several key parts of the editing process in mind as I went through my story which helped to make it stronger.

I highly recommend Emma's Just Write for Middle Grade course for anyone wanting to write for the 7 to 12 year old age group.


  1. Hi Becky,
    Great info and post here.
    May I please ask you a question. I write for 8-12 years, Is that chapter books OR middle grade. Can I call my books junior Novels?... Karen :)

    1. A book for 8 to 12 year olds would most likely be middle grade, but it also depends on the complexity of the story. Good luck with your story!