Dear Writer-Friends,

I've been self-publishing since 2011, and I've shared the knowledge I've gained in two books: the Indie Author Survival Guide, Second Edition, and For Love or Money. I'm not an indie rockstar or a breakout success: I'm one of thousands of solidly midlist indie authors making a living with their works. These books are my way of helping my fellow authors discover the freedom of indie publishing. Write on, writer-friends!

S.K. Quinn, Independent Author of Science Fiction

CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR QUICK START GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING and to be notified when the 3rd Edition of the Indie Author Survival Guide releases!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Tween the Weekends: Write Smart for Kids

Tween the Weekends is a monthly feature hosted by the Emblazoners. This is an opportunity for everybody to promote tween literature.

I'm giving a workshop this weekend on writing for middle grade and young adult.

(Which would seem to presume I know something on the subject. I'm not entirely sure this is true.)

One thing I do know, however, is what kids like to read. Or at least my three boys, who range from avid to mildly interested if you force me kinds of readers.

My 14 year old's top picks: Ender's Game, Darwin's Radio, Cusp
My 12 year old's picks: Hunchback Assignments, Paranormalcy, Uglies
My 10 year old's picks: The Familiars, Dark Life, Origami Yoda


Kids Read Up... and Down
My 14 year old isn't reading YA (although you could argue that Ender's Game is YA) - he's reading adult SF. My 12 year old is reading clean YA (Paranormalcy, Uglies) and middle grade (Hunchback Assignments). My 10 year old is solidly in the MG zone age-wise, but his favorites are really Tween (meaning upper MG). 

Don't Write Down to Kids
Rich world-building and humor win the day with tweens. All of the tween/YA books listed are heavy in both, plus they're really smart books (I have smart kids, but hey, these are very popular books - lots of kids read them). The show Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? hit it - kids are a whole lot smarter than you think, and they're used to learning all the time (i.e. using their brains).

Tweens Read Long... and Short
Origami Yoda 18885
The Familiars 58513
Dark Life 62350
Hunchback Assignments 63217
Paranormalcy 72883
Uglies 87287

The last two are really YA... but my kid also read those when he was 11. Obviously tweens are capable of reading full-length books - in fact, I'd dare to say the ones that capture their imagination the most are usually the ones with complex worldbuilding... which usually means longer wordcount.

One of the most important things: don't moralize. All of these books have great moral lessons in them without once moralizing (or lecturing) to kids. Letting kids learn the great lessons of life through the actions of characters they identify with? That's one of the best parts of writing MG/Tween Lit.

Happy Writing!

Please visit the following Tween the Weekend participants:


  1. Nice breakdown--and I think your kids have good taste! I haven't seen this (Tween the Reader) before. I'll check it out!

  2. Thanks for a great post, Susan. I think my 12 yo is falling behind, but I can't get him interested in longer novels. He is on his first NERDS book, but I don't know anything about them. He read Punished in a couple of days, so I know he CAN read, he just likes things short and sweet. Haven't checked out the Hunchback series. Sounds like maybe I should.

    1. I highly recommend all the books my kids are reading, especially Hunchback Assignments - I loved the steampunk adaptation of the Hunchback of Notre Dame story! #awesome

      In my experience, keeping kids turned on to reading is mostly about putting books in front of them that they love. This can take some hunting and work on the part of the parents/teachers, but it's well worth it.

  3. Very interesting, Susan. I read up as a kid - now I read down a lot, LOL. Either way, it's whatever keeps my interest. Tween the Weekend sounds cool. I'm going to check it out.

  4. There is something captivating to kids with those Origami Yoda books. My son loves them too. What a smart idea. Good luck with your workshop. I'm sure it will be fantastic.

  5. Great post, Susan and very true! I read hard scifi in Jr. High and High School. I always had a book close at hand. My two girls, however, were reluctant readers. My oldest finally got hooked on the Cirque du Freak series and my youngest (now entering her senior year — when did I get so old?!) likes to read true crime stories. Neither would have been my first choice, but if we were all the same the world would be a very boring place! ;-)

  6. Great post! Love how you give us an eye in on what your tweens read. I tended to read up, though my sons usually chose books in their age bracket. One loved fantasy (like his mom), the other historical (also like his mom) :-) It's a great reminder that the more genre variety kids have to choose from, the better.

  7. Some new ones on here I've not heard of. While my daughter (14) always finds a steady supply of books, my sons (11 and 8 and both low readers) need some help. They're all different, aren't they? Thank your guys for the suggestions. I think some of these will be great read-alouds for us!

  8. I agree with you, no one wants to be talked down to.

  9. Love this post, Sue. Thanks for sharing what your boys like to read. This is all helpful info.


Erudite comments from thoughtful readers