Back to Basics

As most of you know, I’m writing a middle grade novel for kids. I’m in the midst of deep revisions, looking to be sure the story I’ve written is as strong as I can make it. I’m fleshing out my characters, determined to make them jump off the page. I’m fixing a few minor problems with the plot and checking to be sure the details of the world I’ve created are consistent throughout the story. I’m also working on voice-that tricky thing that makes your characters and story unique…the skill that’s so hard to perfect.

Revising a manuscript is hard work. It’s strap yourself into your chair and just do it kind of hard. In a future post, I’ll talk about the revision process. There are many great books to help get your manuscript polished and ready to be seen by agents or sent to editors for self publishing that I will recommend. I also have some helpful tips that I’ve learned along the way. First though, it’s important to understand the basic parts of a story. With so many young writers and beginning adult writers who visit the blog, I thought writing a post about that might be useful. Besides, even those of us who have been writing for a very long time, could use the reminder!

So here it is…

Every good story needs:

A Great First Page that hooks the reader into it. It needs to feel different and exciting enough that the reader will want to turn the page.

A Memorable Main Character that makes your reader experience emotion (any type- anger, sympathy, worry, love, etc.)…one that makes your reader want to visit them again and again.

An Original World that your readers will want to visit. You can write about a common setting, but in order to make it amazing , you’ll need to add your own unique spin on it.

Conflict and Stakes for the main character. There needs to be a problem that your character faces. That problem , if not solved should lead to consequences that would be bad for the character. By creating a serious conflict with a serious consequence, you’re creating high stakes. The higher the stakes the better.

Action that keeps the reader interested and moves your story forward. If a scene doesn’t do this, then cut it out. Keep the scenes that keep your reader reading- even after their bedtime!

Strong Voice. Use word choices that are age appropriate for the story. The language should reveal the tone (sad, scary, romantic, adventurous, etc) and also the uniqueness of your main character.

A Surprise in the plot. If the reader can guess everything that’s going to happen, they will put down your story and never pick it back up. So create a twist they don’t see coming!

An Appropriate Ending. Every ending doesn’t have to be Happily Ever After, but it does need to tie up any loose ends and ensure that your reader closes the book feeling satisfied.

These are some of the basic points that I refer back to when I write all my stories. They’re great reminders for me. They keep me on track. They work for picture book stories, short stories and even novel length stories. I bet they can work for you too. 🙂

No matter what type of story you’re writing, whether it’s realistic, mystery, romance, fantasy, science fiction or adventure, be sure you go back to basics once in awhile. You’ll be surprised how amazing your story can be!

So go ahead, give it a try. Write down the basics somewhere you can refer back to them. Then take advantage of the springtime weather while writing this week. Sit on the back patio, or on your front porch. Find a empty bench in the park or spread a blanket out in your yard. All it takes is a laptop or tablet, or even a paper notebook. Oh and maybe some lemonade too!

2 thoughts on “Back to Basics”

  1. Hi Katie. My upper middle grade manuscript is about 60,000 words right now. I’m revising though and I’m sure it will change a bit. As a rule, middle grade novels (8-12 yr. olds) have a word count of 30-45K. Upper middle grade novels (10-14 yr. olds) have a word count of 40-60K. I hope that helps! Good luck with yours:)

  2. I’m considering writing a middle grade novel as my next project, but I’m still getting a feel for them. May I ask how long yours is? (aproximately 🙂

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