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Writer's Room => Chapter Books, Easy Readers, and Middle Grade (MG) => Topic started by: Tracer_Brendan on January 25, 2018, 10:53 PM

Title: Caught inbetween lower/upper MG distinction
Post by: Tracer_Brendan on January 25, 2018, 10:53 PM

I recently received feedback from a freelancer editor on my WIP, a MG adventure story at 39k words. I understand where the editor is coming from with this feedback, but I find myself a little confused.

The editor said that while my plot reads lower MG, the character reads lower MG (9 yrs old), the overall reading level is around 7th grade, which frankly, shocked me. There are no fancy 10-dollar words in the entire MS, and to me, it doesn't read much more advanced than something like "Crenshaw," which to me is lower MG. Something like "The Girl Who Drank The Moon" or "Wolf Hollow" are upper. I did the Flesch Kinkaid readability test in MS word, which gave me a readability grade on par with 4th graders.

The reason I'm posting is to try and see if anyone else has dealt with this issue, and how to handle it. Lowering the overall readability by simplifying sentence structure? I'm not entirely sure how to move forward. 


Title: Re: Caught inbetween lower/upper MG distinction
Post by: ButterflyGirl on January 26, 2018, 06:08 AM
I have worked with several freelance editors over the years, and while I have not run into this particular issue, there have been times when I disagreed with the feedback given. That said, usually there was a grain of truth at the center of the criticism, a prompt to re-work "something," but not necessarily the exact issue that was mentioned. In your situation, it may not be a ten dollar word issue, but "something" else. Possibly there are some overly long sentences that could be varied to improve the pace and hold younger readers' attention, since more mature readers can hang in for lengthier descriptions and longer, more complex dialog.

My advice is to do nothing for a few days, except re-read your editorial letter a few times and let it percolate before making any deep revisions. Give your mind time to process and discard any advice that is "off," while allowing the workable advice time to settle into your mind so you can find the best way to apply it.

Best wishes!
Title: Re: Caught inbetween lower/upper MG distinction
Post by: Melody on January 26, 2018, 07:05 AM
Yeah, let it sit for a bit. However, this is just one person's opinion. I write MG and used the same test you did, and mine also came in at a fourth grade level and it was sold by my agent and published at that reading level. Perhaps your editor used a different measurement??

If you are still unsure, you may want to have some beta readers take a look. Personally, I wouldn't panic based on one person's thoughts. If several people say the same thing about any particular issue, that's when my ears perk up.
Title: Re: Caught inbetween lower/upper MG distinction
Post by: Jayca on January 26, 2018, 07:24 AM
Ditto what ButterflyGirl and Melody said! Let it percolate...then take another look to see if there are areas you can tweak...but also keep in mind it's just one person's opinion.
Title: Re: Caught inbetween lower/upper MG distinction
Post by: Tracer_Brendan on January 26, 2018, 10:08 AM
Thanks everyone. I was able to schedule a phone chat to pick her brain a bit on what she had in mind specifically.  I've successfully avoided the knee-jerk reaction by not touching anything for 2 days.

7th grade readability is just a huge leap from what I thought it was. That's Hunger Games territory!
Title: Re: Caught inbetween lower/upper MG distinction
Post by: Vijaya on January 26, 2018, 01:42 PM
Are you sure the editor is referring to readability metrics? Consider that Lisa Yee's Millicent Min is a genius and so uses fancy words but the book reads like a MG book because it deals with friendship and school. If your editor is referring to metrics, FK isn't my favorite one. I write a lot of leveled readers and prefer to use Lexile score. We've discussed this before so I'm sure they'll pop up if you do a search from the home page.

A lot of times, it's the subject matter that dictates whether it's upper/middle/lower MG. What Jamie Saw by Carolyn Coman has a young protag (age 9) but it's more appropriate for a 12-yr-old because it involves abuse. There are historicals with 12-yr-olds that are better suited to YA readers and some with 15-yr-olds better suited for 12-yr-olds.

I'm glad you have a follow up appt. Good luck!
Title: Re: Caught inbetween lower/upper MG distinction
Post by: writg tchr on January 27, 2018, 12:05 PM
I agree with Viyaja- you have to take into consideration the content. For example, Beverly Cleary (Ramona) books come in at a 6th grade reading level but are aimed at 2nd-4th graders. Charlotte's Web is also at 6th grade level but is aimed at younger readers.  And Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants was on a 4th grade level and definitely not appropriate for that age group as it deals with some heavy topics including a first sexual relationship. I'd be very interested in to hear why your book is so high if the content is for younger readers and there aren't big vocabulary words- I'd think it has something to do with the sentence structure. They do use a complicated formula that often doesn't make sense in choosing books for children!
Title: Re: Caught inbetween lower/upper MG distinction
Post by: Tracer_Brendan on January 27, 2018, 01:17 PM
After speaking with the editor, it wasn't so much an appraisal of content but of sentence and paragraph length. But even still, while I think I can definitely shorten/break up some things, I do not think it's as advanced as 7th grade.

Thanks again!