Andrew Harwell is a Senior Editor at HarperCollins Children's Books.
What is middle grade?
The fiction that is aimed at readers from 8 to 12 years old, about 2nd to 6th grade.
Key elements of middle grade:
Character, POV, Perspective
Middle grade readers are incredibly sophisticated and you can trust them to read and understand point-of-views that are a bit more sophisticated. You never want to talk down to your reader.
We want to hit the ground running on page one with your character, seeing what they see, thinking what they think.
3 things that Andrew often see in middle grade in terms of voice:
1. gross-out humor
2. precious cleverness
3. arch narrators
Middle graders can handle the sophisticated.
Hooking your reader on page one doesn't have to be active or big. What makes a moment exciting is that it matters to the character.
Theme or Concept
Be sure when you're plotting that you are trying to tap into something bigger and more universal.
Paying attention to setting and making your setting unique is important to your story.
Diversity, #OwnVoices, Representation:
More and more editors and writers are using sensitivity readers to get the representation right. There is a lot that writers might not even know they don't know. Editors are also trying to find representations from marginalized voices.