Thursday, January 25

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, January 25, 2018 2 comments
By guest Shannon L. Mokry

So you want to write a children’s book, but you don’t know where to begin? First get those ideas on paper, just the basic outline or concept to start with. Then, before you go any further, decide what age group you’re writing for. Next, consider what subgenre you are wanting it to be. If you have already finished your piece and are only now looking at defining it, all is not lost. Most manuscripts need several revisions before they are ready to publish.

So why is it so important to define now? What is a genre anyway? Both of these things are important because they tell you how long your piece needs to be, and what expectations your readers will have . If you want your book to be read, then it is important to understand your audience.

When I decided I wanted to write for children there were several questions I needed to ask myself. Will I be writing fiction or nonfiction? What age am I writing for? Children’s books fall into several age brackets. Hilari Bell does an amazing job listing them all in detail here.

For our purposes, the bare facts look like this:

  • 8-12 Middle Grade (MG) 40,000-55,000 words, MC(Main Character) is usually 10-12. It’s important to keep the story age appropriate. You really start to see subgenres at this point; is it a mystery, a fantasy, sci-fi? No specific page count. Still mostly sold in paperback.
  • 10-13 Early Young Adult (EYA) 50,000 words, MC 13-14. This category is a gray area. While it had some popularity a few years ago, it is important to note that libraries and bookstores don’t recognize this category. If you find yourself here, pick MG or YA and make the adjustments needed. This article goes into more detail on why EYA is not a real category. 
  • 12-18 Young Adult (YA) 55,000-70,000 or longer. These are full on novels with a MC usually 15-17 yrs old. No language concerns, no specific page count. You start to see an real uptick in ebook sales.

Now let's look a little closer at the differences between MG books and YA books. The vast majority of MG books are written in third person, while the majority of YA books are first person. That doesn’t and shouldn’t restrict you, but it is important to be aware of. Another factor is where the average MC age comes from. Kids want to read about kids their age or older. They do not want to read about younger kids. For example, a 16 year old doesn’t want to read about a 12 year old, they just don’t relate. For a similar reason, an 8 year old can read about 10-12 year olds just fine, but doesn’t relate at all to a 14 or 15 year old. That really makes sense because a 8-10 year olds are still in elementary school and while they may be looking forward to middle school, high school is too far into the future.

You may notice a that MG book doesn’t deal with edgy topics. There shouldn’t be any bad language or intimacy, drug use or explicit violence. Some of these things may be hinted at but not gone into detail and not be things your MC is experiencing. With YA all those rules go out the window. YA readers want to read about edgy subjects. They are exposed to and experimenting with the darker things in life. You can still write clean and sweet, but ignoring the roller coaster of emotions that a teen goes through will just make your book unrelatable.

About the Author

Shannon L. Mokry lives in Texas where she homeschools her three daughters. The Bubbles stories were inspired by stories she would tell her youngest daughter Charlotte. She recently published a MG novel.

Website / Twitter / Facebook

About the Book

Escaping Gardenia
MG fantasy

Friendships are forged in the most unlikely of places.

From a kingdom at war with dragons, Ivy is sent to scout out a path to safety. Along the way she learns about magic and accidentally hatches a baby dragon.

Safety is the next kingdom over. Vlad, a gamekeepers apprentice, joins in the effort to help the refugees. His only intent is to help as many people find safety as he can.

Making new friends was the last thing either of them expected. Can they get Ivy's village to safety and learn to trust each other? Or will they learn to late that even well meaning secret can have big consequences?

Available from Amazon

Q4U: What are some of your favorite books written for these age groups?


  1. I met an agent last year and mentioned the book I'm writing: The protagonist is 13, and so I assumed it's a YA. She said it's MG. What do you think?

    1. I'll be curious to hear Shannon's take, but I agree that 13 is too young for a YA protagonist. Does the story have edgy content? That's probably the bigger deciding factor.