There are so many reasons to read this book by literary agent Mary Kole. If you've been a writer for a while and already know much about the writing craft, you can probably skim that part. But there are so very many more reasons than that to read this book.
If you write for children and young adults, it should be essential reading material. I downloaded it to my Kindle. When I finished reading it, I had left 80 notes. It's that chock-full of specific information.
Here are some of the things that Ms. Kole addresses:
- Optimum manuscript length for Middle Grade and Young Adult
- Definition of Middle Grade and Young Adult
- Age of MG and YA readers, and age of the protagonists in MG and YA novels
- MG mindset, Teen mindset
- Popular genres in each category
- The distinctions between literary ("quiet") and commercial fiction
- Definition of "quiet"
- The definition of high concept (books with an obvious sales hook) and definition of sales hooks
- A definition and discussion of the Dystopian genre, and why it's so popular
- How and why story endings differ between MG and YA
- Definition of historical fiction (anything set in the 1980s and prior) and caveat: The history must be integral to the story. If the same story can be set in the present, then do so.
She also goes into specific reasons why agents reject manuscripts: How to start well. Common opening cliches to avoid.
Here's a quote from her that piqued my attention on a personal level:
From a craft perspective, here’s why I’m such a stickler for a shorter word count: It’s always easier to add just the right thing to a sleek and streamlined project than it is to cut from an overlong one. A shorter, tighter manuscript often shows me that the writer has many skills in his revision toolkit. An indulgent longer text is usually a red flag telling me that the author is either a beginner or someone who will be especially precious when it comes to revision. I’d much rather work with the former, and I know a lot of editors who agree.
It gratified me to hear this because I have spent a considerable amount of time over the past year studying just this. I played with removing the subplots from my manuscript to see how it read in an ultra-streamlined, almost subplot free version. I discovered how easy it is to excise subplots, and then to drop them back in, judiciously, for a fuller story.
Among my 80 notes, I also especially liked reading the following:
. . . some editors and agents are clamoring for strong contemporary stories where nobody has any magic powers and nothing falls out of the sky or crawls out of the ground. They (and readers) want real life . . .
Teens feel everything very intensely, and two things in particular: An interest in romance and darkness.
My story isn't terribly dark, but it is definitely a romance, with all of the genre-specific scenes requisite to telling a romance, and that readers expect to find in a love story.
Mary Kole works for MovableType Literary Agency, and also writes a popular blog, Kidlit.com.
Again, if you are writing for this market, should you read this book? Absolutely.