Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Writer Wednesday: The Line Between MG and YA


Today's topic comes from Sheena-Kay, who asked how to keep the line between your MG and YA works separate, especially when it comes to knowing to what extent you can go with MG vs. YA.

Okay, so we all know the age difference for MG vs. YA. YA is targeted at teens and the characters tend to be fifteen to eighteen. MG is targeted at the nine to twelve age group with the characters typically around the age of eleven to fourteen. (Keep in mind there are exceptions to every rule, but this is a good rule of thumb to go by.) Voice and content are the other two big distinctions.

One of the biggest differences I see is that middle grade is typically more hopeful with happy endings while young adult tends to have a lot of angst. While it's true that many middle grade readers might be cursing and doing things we ourselves didn't do at that age, you don't typically see that in MG books. The stories focus more on the adventures and the character's immediate surroundings—their relationships with family and friends. YA is more about finding your place in the world. There's a lot more self-reflection by the characters, and profanity and even sex can have a place in the story.

I like to think of middle grade as more innocent. A time when you believe the world consists of you, your friends, and your family. YA, on the other hand, is more realistic. You know there's this big world out there and you are struggling to fit into it.

Sheena-Kay, I hope that answers your question. If anyone has any tips for distinguishing between MG and YA, please feel free to leave them in the comments.  


*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

22 comments:

  1. During the years my kids were into reading the most was MG. I recall mounds and mounds of books everywhere, Goosebumps. I read a few, and they were never scary to me, just endings turned out to be not a big deal, sort of like Scooby Doo. Mystery solved at the end.

    I've never read YA, though. Unless, Harlequins back in the 80s count. :) And those were always YA protagonists and much older men! haha

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  2. I read tons of MG and YA books to keep up with my granddaughters, but also to make sure my writing stays in the MG category. You've clarified the difference perfectly. I've also found each touches on the problems families have, but MG always has some sort of thoughtful or happy ending where everything comes together. YA doesn't.

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    1. Very true. YA doesn't have to have a happy ending at all.

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  3. Hey, I blogged about this topic once! It does boil down to tone, the level of imagination involved, and most especially, theme. MG usually focuses on the MC finding their place in the world. YA typically focuses on the MC figuring out how they stand out in the world.

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    1. Yes, and in MG "the world" is viewed as a much smaller place usually. ;) Kids that age really don't see much past their family and friends yet.

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  4. Sounds like very accurate and good advice to me. :)
    ~Jess

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  5. Reading you excellent points here, I think my two latest are in between, or "upper MG," if that makes sense.

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  6. I tone down when writing MG, because working with MG kids I notice many act borderline YA.

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  7. These are great guidelines to follow, as well as keeping in mind that one group has not yet given up on magic carpets while the other requires the tangible feel of solid oak. It's true, sometimes they overlap. Perhaps that's why we don't hear as much about 'age groups' as we used to. My biggest problem is word count and how much it pertains to content.

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    1. Word count can be tricky because there are always exceptions. I think MG in the 40K range is pretty safe. Lower MG can be more like 20-30K.

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  8. What you say sounds just right, Kelly. I enjoy writing for both.

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  9. That's why I love MG so much I think. It's still full of hope. Great clarification. Thanks.

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  10. I like that MGs are adventurous and still full of hope, too.

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