Month: February 2020

How NOT to Write Middle Grade Fiction by Jackie Minniti

Jackie Minniti is the author of three novels, a former columnist for The Island Reporter in St. Petersburg, Florida, and media coordinator for the blog, Fabulous Florida Writers.

Her favorite things? Writing, reading, visiting her grandkids and getting the sun in her face and the sand in her toes. She sound exactly like someone I’d enjoy hanging out with! It’s my pleasure to share with you the fabulous, Jackie Minniti.

HOW NOT TO WRITE MIDDLE GRADE FICTION

A GUEST POST BY JACKIE MINNITI

One thing I learned from years of teaching reading in middle school was that middle graders have very definite opinions about books. We had some lively discussions about what they liked (and hated) in the books they read. This came in handy when I decided to write Jacqueline and One Small Spark, my middle grade historical novels. I wanted them to appeal to even the most reluctant readers, so I decided to make a list of what to avoid when writing for 8 to 12 year-olds.

DON’T make your book too “fat.”
One thing that was like Kryptonite to my middle grade students was a book that looked too thick. Most of them wouldn’t even pick up a “fat” book, so keep your word count between 30,000 and 60,000 words.  This will force you to keep your writing on a diet. Edit relentlessly.
DON’T use graphic scenes or coarse language
Remember that your book will need to get past the gatekeepers (parents and teachers) who actually do the buying. Avoid graphic violence, cursing, or any hint of sexual activity. Your book should be something a teacher could read to a class without sending parents running to the school board.
DON’T make your protagonist perfect
Your main character will make or break your story. Middle graders like to read about characters who are a little older, so make your protagonist between 10 and 13 years old. Your main character should have strong opinions and beliefs and be someone young readers can care about and identify with. This will be difficult for them to do if thecharacter is too perfect, so be sure to include some flaws.
DONT overdo the introspection
Middle graders don’t do a lot of navel-gazing, so your main character shouldn’t spend a lot of time on self-examination. Keep focused on the action, and reveal your character’s thoughts and feelings through what he or she says and does.
DON’T talk down or preach
Few things irritate middle school kids as much a someone talking down to them, so don’t write down to them either. Use challenging language, but include context clues to help young readers figure out unfamiliar words. Your theme should be presented in a subtle, non-“preachy” way. And don’t be afraid to tackle difficult subjects. My books deal with death, war, and the Holocaust – pretty heavy subjects, but handled in an age-appropriate manner.
DON’T use “helicopter adults”
In middle school, kids are shifting their focus from home and family to school and friends. Keep the adult characters in your story in the background. Center most of the action on your main character’s interaction with the outside world. And be sure the central conflict in the story is one your protagonist can resolve without adult intervention.
DON’T overdo description
While your story should definitely include description and sensory details, keep it to about 10% of the total text. While you may love the sound of lush, descriptive writing, your middle school readers will quickly become bored with anything that gets in the way of the action. Keep this in mind when you have to cut a favorite paragraph.
DON’T forget humor
Middle graders love “funny stuff,” and that goes for the books they enjoy. Be sure to include humor in your story – the more, the better. Jacqueline is definitely not a humorous story, but I tried to include enough amusing incidents to provide some comic relief. I also added a very mischievous baby to One Small Spark that the middle grade readers really seem to like.
Don’t slow down
Middle school kids have no qualms about abandoning a book that becomes “boring,” so keep that plot moving forward. Don’t overuse adjectives or adverbs, and stick to the “Show, don’t tell” rule to keep the momentum going. Try to end each chapter with a cliff-hanger to keep them flipping pages. Remember that your book is competing with television, iPads and Wiis, so it had better be interesting.
Don’t leave them hanging
One of the biggest complaints from my students when they didn’t like a book was that the ending wasn’t satisfying. They hate open endings.  I’ve actually seen kids throw a book across the room because the ending wasn’t definitive. That’s one of the reasons I decided to end Jacqueline with an epilogue that told what happened to the characters as grown-ups. Try to end on a positive note, and be sure to tie up any loose ends.

While writing for middle grade readers presents some unique challenges, your book can have a profound influence on them.  That’s what makes the process worthwhile – and so much fun!

For more posts from Fabulous Florida Writers go to…

http://fabulousfloridawriters.blogspot.com

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L.❤️

Love, Life and Relationships. 💘The Romance Novel of Today.

Who doesn’t love a good romance novel? Maybe I should rephrase that. Who isn’t afraid to admit that they love a good romance novel? Read below; you may be surprised!

For the past two Labor Day weekends I’ve traveled to the Decatur Georgia Book Festival with my publisher, Southern Yellow Pines (SYP) Publishing. Both years were exciting and eye opening, because I found out that a lot of readers are ashamed to admit that they like reading romance. Case and point. I’m pretty good at engaging with people so I I tried to encourage them to stop into our booth by asking them “What kind of books do you like to read?” Or “What’s your favorite genre?” Or even “What are you looking for today?” Of the hundreds of people I spoke with not one said “I’m looking for a good romance novel.”

Okay, maybe I was talking with the wrong people, but the romance novel industry garners sixteen percent of all books sold each year and brings in a whopping billion dollars! Yes, that’s billion with a BIG B! Yet here I was talking with people who either truly didn’t like books about love, or they were ashamed to admit it in public. Hmmm.

Is it that people aren’t interested in love, connection, and intimacy? I don’t think so. 53,000,000 romance novels were sold last year, so there’s a lot of people who still enjoy a good love story. And I’m not talking about the old “bodice rippers” from our parents day, but a book about relationships…both inside and outside of the bedroom.

One issue that Romance Writers of America has dealt with recently  is lack of diversity. Just like with every other entertainment  segment, there’s talk of racism, or awards not being given fairly. I’m staying out of that debate, but one person who isn’t is Stacey Abrams, a rising political star. She realized that the  books she was reading didn’t accurately depict the women she knew, so she started writing her own! Selena Montgomery is the pseudonym that Abrams writes under, and some of her titles are quite steamy. Hidden Sins, The Art of Desire, and Power of Persuasion, just to name a few.

So if Stacey Abrams, a lawyer, businesswoman, and politician is willing to admit she not only likes romance novels, but writes them, why should the rest of us be embarrassed to stand up and say we do, too?

I’ll lead the charge! My name is Dana and I love romance novels. In fact, like Stacey Abrams I like them so much that I decided to write one. And that one became two, and two became  three, and the fourth will release later this spring. My book boyfriends have gotten me through a lot over the years, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I’ve had people tell me that they don’t like books about romance, and maybe they really don’t. Or maybe it’s that they don’t understand romance on a personal level, so the books make them uncomfortable. Whatever their reasoning it’s their choice, and I’m not going to argue about it with them.

But, for the rest of us, who get lost in someone else’s life and love, I say refuse to let anyone make you feel badly about a book with a shirtless man on the cover, and continue to support your favorite authors. And if I’m one of them I want you to know how much you, and every person who buys and reads my books means to me. Oh, and FYI. I did end up selling books from the AMI Series at the Decatur Book Festival, so either I’m a really good salesperson, or people gave in to their hidden desires to read a story about love.

Romance might not be the most respected genre in the world of books, but their market share is more than respectable.

Wishing you a wonderful February 14th, the official date for love stories in life and in books!!!

 

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L.❤️

http://amazon.com/author/danalbrown

Excerpt from Noah’s Lark: Crazy, Rich People!💰💰💰

Below is an excerpt from Noah Lark, which is set to release this spring. I’ve purposely changed some of the words so we can play a game!

At the end of the excerpt are four questions. Put your answers in the Contact Me section on the website, and let’s see what you know about the AMI Series, and the upcoming spin-off series, with Noah Greyson as the first main character. Everyone who answers all four questions correctly will have their name’s entered into a contest for a FREE Ebook copy of Noah’s Lark, when it releases.

(This offer is available to residents of the United States only. For some reason Amazon won’t let me send ebooks outside of the country. 😢)


                                    Now

By the time he made it back the hurt was gone, but the anger had set in. While he waited for a tender Noah went to the Tiki Hut and had a double shot of tequila. He had just finished sucking on the lime when a hot to trot beach bunny sat down beside him.

You look like you’re all dressed up with no place to go,” she purred in his ear.

Noah barely looked in her direction. A band aid might cover the wound he was feeling tonight, but he just wasn’t interested. He shook his head, placed a twenty on the bar and went outside to wait for his ride.

The Lark felt cold and lonely when he stepped inside. Loosening his tie, he opened the fridge looking for something to fill the empty spot in his gut. Could this night have been a bigger shitshow, he wondered? Finding an old wedge of cheese, he ate around the spots that were dried out and hard, and then threw the rest in the trash. He popped the top on a can of Coors and then wondered if it was a bad idea to drink beer on top of tequila and champagne, but he chugged the golden liquid anyway.

His phone had been ominously silent all evening but he checked his messages just to be sure before placing the call that needed to be made. As soon as he heard a “hello”, his tirade began.

“They’re crazy Nick, you know that, right?” Noah half yelled. “You tried to warn me but I wouldn’t listen and now they’ve pulled me into their little fucked up life. Crazy, rich people that’s what they are, and I don’t do crazy.”

Nick chuckled on the other end. “It sounds to me like you’ve been hitting the sauce Little Brother, how much have you had to drink, and please tell me your safely tucked in for the night.”

Considering the night I’ve had I’m nowhere near done drinking, but I’m in for the night so you don’t need to worry. I just turned down a chance with a beautiful woman Nick, and all because of those crazy fucking people. I swear there’s something evil going on there, I think you need to investigate them.”

Nick couldn’t stop laughing as he continued to listen to his brother rant and rave, which only made Noah yell more. When he was finally quiet Nick spoke.

“I don’t know what happened to you tonight, Noah,” he said, “but this is a conversation for tomorrow. You need a bottle of water and three aspirin and to call me in the morning. But not too early because it’s Saturday. And yeah, they’re are a little crazy, but she’s worth the headache. Anyway, I’m pretty sure you think she is, and that’s what matters.”

Noah listened to his brothers words, and because it was true, he did think she was worth it, and he had drunk more than he should have he blurted out, “Do you know she’s still a virgin, Nick?”

Nick sighed, but it was a sigh that spoke volumes.

“Nick,” Noah said before hanging up the phone. “Thanks for always being there.”

“I always will be,” Nick answered, now I’ve got to get to sleep before Charlotte starts to snore. This is one of aspects of her pregnancy that I’m not enjoying.”

That was enough to bring a smile to Noah’s face, but he still cracked open another beer.

“Are there aspects you do enjoy?” he quizzed.

Nick chuckled. “I hope some day you get to find out.”

Questions

1. Who is the woman Noah and Nick are referring to?

2. Who are the “crazy rich people” Noah’s mentions?

3. What is the name of the woman that Noah has been in love with for most of his life?

4. What is The Lark?

Remember to enter your answers in the Contact Me section of my website. Answers must be submitted by Valentines Day, the day we celebrate love and relationships. Good luck, and have fun!

Until we read again…📚

Blessings,

Dana L.❤️

http://www.syppublishing.com

http://amazon.com/author/danalbrown

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