Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Difference Between Young Adult and Middle Grade Books

Have you, as an author, ever wondered what the difference is between a young adult book and a middle grade book? Well ask ten people and you will likely collect ten different answers based on a myriad of criteria to meet. Figuring where to classify your book is a lot easier than you think. At Pants On Fire Press, we distinguish genre by age. For instance, Middle Grade is 9 years old and up while young adult is either 11 or 14 years old and up.

Are you surprised I didn't mention word count right out the gate? Well don't be surprised and do yourself a favor and forget word count all together for now. In your novel think about your child protagonist and the situation they face. Is it an adult experience they have never faced –albeit negative or positive and do they lose their childhood spectacles in the process? If so, then you are writing a young adult novel. Think of your character crossing a threshold as they leave innocence, never to return. The Bridge to Terabithia is a perfect example of this. Now, if the child faces a situation but is unaffected and is therefore smarter and continues to see the world through a child's eyes, you are writing a middle grade book.

Now, let's talk work count. A Bridge to Terabithia is roughly 33,000 words. At Pants On Fire Press we like our middle grade books to be somewhere between 10,000-35,000 words while the young adult book can run somewhere between 40,000-80,000. These are really guidelines. That is not to say that we will not publish a young adult book in the 20,000 - 30,000 word count rage. In fact we have a contract out on a young adult book that is right at 20,000 words. It's a book about a girl who, after witnessing the death of her sister, journals her time spent in a psychiatric ward. The protagonist makes profound observations in her attempt to define insanity.

I hope my explanation helps to clear some of the mud.

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