Wednesday, July 20, 2011

MG v. YA

It has been suggested by some very smart people that my YA (young adult) novel should be rewritten for middle graders (MG). After the general sense of nausea and desire to burst into tears wore off, I had to agree they had a point.

So, I've been trolling the internet looking for the difference between MG and YA.

I stumbled across this incredibly helpful article.

Eric over at Pimp My Novel also has an interesting post. Including this sage advice:

MG protagonists are usually in the age range of 8 - 12. YA protagonists are usually 12 or older.
• The word count for MG is around 20,000 - 40,000, whereas it's 50,000 - 75,000 for YA (as
Jessica Faust notes here, these numbers are a little fuzzy, so take this with a grain of salt).
• MG plots tend to center on the protagonist's internal world, whereas YA plots are more complex and are more concerned with the protagonist's effect on his or her external world.
• MG is chiefly read by late elementary/middle school students; YA is chiefly read by high school students and up.

Basically, the MG/YA question boils down to Ramona Quimby vs. Bella Swan (shudder). Which is your protagonist?

My apologies to any Twilight fans out there - but really, he's right. I knew I was doing something right as a mother when my teenage daughter put down New Moon and told me she couldn't read a book where a girl gets that depressed over a boy (vampire). Booya!

I loved this post over at YA Highway for its valuable information and hint of snark.

And finally, this engaging post over at Upstart Crow Literary details a variety of differences...

  • Middle grade novels tend to be shorter. (Though not always—the huge and intimidating Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is middle grade, while Angela Johnson’s brief-as-a-vivid-dream The First Part Last is quite clearly teen.)
  • Middle grade novels tend to have main characters who are the age of—or slightly older than—the target reader. (Though this, too, isn’t hard and fast: The girls in The Witch Family are younger than the reader who can fully appreciate the story, and even characters such as Mr. Putter or Frog and Toad are for all intents middle-aged.)
  • Middle grade novels tend to be more outwardly focused: Their plot of events, of things happening to the character, is more important over the course of the book than what happens within the character. (Though that matters very much to the climax of the book, when the outward events trigger an inner change.)
  • Middle grade novels tend to have a simpler vocabulary and a simpler sentence structure.
  • Middle grade novels tend to have a single inciting element—the thing that sets the comfortable, given world a-kilter.
Right now, the difference between MG and YA is hours upon hours of revising. Wish me luck.


  1. Good tips here - not my genre, but could be very helpful to people I point this way. :-)

  2. Enjoying your blog. Thanks for sharing.