Posted by: nancyisanders | November 12, 2007

Middle Grade Musings

As I was rejoicing that I finished the first draft of chapter one for my new middle grade novel, I was thinking it would be helpful to have a Chapter Check-off List of items I can make sure each chapter contains as I go back and edit it. Here are some key ingredients I plan to add to my list. If you know of more, please send them my way! Wouldn’t it be fun to make a great list for these middle grade novels we are writing to help polish and hone during the editorial process?

Chapter Check-Off List
for Middle Grade Novels
*Does the chapter end with a cliffhanger?
*Is the setting clear but not obtrusive?
*Are characterizations developed to make each person unique?
*Are main characters carrying more weight in each scene than the minor characters?
*Do the subplots work together to increase tension?
*Are the five senses included? Sight, sound, smell, hear, touch?
*Is the level of interest on target for this age range?
*Did anything slow down the forward progression of the plot such as: dialog, unnecessary scene, too much background information, too many details in the setting, bunny trail?

Already, I’m getting ideas to go back and add more sensory details. Let my reader feel the cold air (it’s winter), smell the savory soup in the bowl that was handed to my main character from over the camp fire, hear the axes cutting down trees to build log huts…


  1. Here’s another one for your list: Does your opening paragraph have a strong enough hook to draw the reader into the story? This needs to continue in each subsequent chapter, particularly following a great cliff hanger.

  2. The blog came through just fine, Nancy…although I’m still very confused about setting up my own blog. Way too busy right now to try figure it out (and I don’t have a “computer genius” son to help me!)But one of these days….
    Anyway, the Check-Off list for Middle Grade novels is great! I’ve printed it out and I’m using it as I write and edit the chapters for Jacaranda Time. See you soon.

  3. Marge again…
    Meant to ask…what is ‘bunny trail???’ Haven’t heard that one before! M.

  4. Glad you like the Chapter Check-off List, Marge!
    A bunny trail is when a writer lets the plot head off in a different direction that doesn’t move the plot forward as it should. Usually bunny trails should be omittted during editing to tighten up the plot.

  5. Thanks for the great addition for the list, Catherine! I’ll be sure to plug it in.

  6. Wow! these are all great things to include a story. I know when I’ve read a great story when I come away feeling like I made a friend.(and I hate saying goodbye.)

    Thanks for the check list!


  7. Hopefully, Veronica, you’ll like this new MG novel, too! I’m glad you found the Chapter Check-off List helpful.

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