Wednesday, July 17, 2013

She's Crafty: Refining Middle Grade Voice into smooth Delicious Butter

I recently got a rejection from an agent because my writing voice sounded too much like an adult writing for children. It needed to be less obvious. This was incredible feedback and I soaked it in. (I'm glad to be past the form rejection stage.)

I relate everything in life to good butter. (I judge restaurants by their butter too. Good butter: good restaurant. Except for Mexican restaurants. I judge them by the quality of their tamales.) So if a good middle grade voice is sweet creamy butter, my writing must have tasted like margarin to this agent---tastes like butter, but there's definitely something oily and not right about it. Really people, no one should be eating margarin in polite society these days. So of course I don't want my story to taste like it.

How do I refine my style so that it tastes like good butter?

I've been asking myself over and over: how do I tone down my voice so that it isn't "trying too hard?" I want it to sound more like a middle grader and not an adult writing middle grade.

My solution:  Read more middle grade novels. Duh. But this time, I'm going read and study the styles of the books that are similar to my own. See what they do better and see if I can improve. I may start a new adventure wip just to get words on the page too. Read, write, refine. Best way to sharpen your voice, right? This way my finished adventure can grow cold too. Then hopefully, the oil will be more noticeable to me and I can scrape it off.

Do you have any great tips for refining a middle grade voice? I need them, please, share what you do.

Butter sidebar: I found this pix by googling fancy butter. It made me giggle. Sometimes the Internet is really amazing to me.


  1. I struggle with voice too. One of my critique partners suggested I ask my daughter (she's now YA) whether she'd say it like I have it when I'm not sure, which is great advice. I also think reading books that have great voice like you suggested is a good way to try to nail voice.

  2. Congrats on moving up on the rejection ladder - ha!

    I think that reading other MG books is a great way to absorb and study what makes a more "kid like" voice. That's one of the reasons I started my 100 book challenge.

    I know that when I have a problem with voice, sometimes it's because I get caught up with how the language sounds instead of "telling it like it is", which is what kids do. Just blurt things out.

    I also get my daughters (now teens) to read my manuscripts and point out places where the language, and especially the dialogue, isn't right. They love to point out the flaws in my manuscripts.