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Writing Irresistible Kidlit: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers

4.55  ·  Rating Details ·  407 Ratings  ·  86 Reviews
Captivate the hearts and minds of young adult readers! Writing for young adult (YA) and middle grade (MG) audiences isn't just "kid's stuff" anymore--it's kidlit! The YA and MG book markets are healthier and more robust than ever, and that means the competition is fiercer, too. In Writing Irresistible Kidlit, literary agent Mary Kole shares her expertise on writing novels ...more
ebook, 405 pages
Published November 6th 2012 by Writers Digest Books
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Jonathan Peto
Perhaps I beat a dead dog by reading writing books. I have a long list of goals when I do but actually realizing them requires an elusive, intangible application of knowledge, call it skill or talent if you like, a lament I’ve made at the start of one of these reviews at least one other time. The process is worthwhile and satisfying though - call me old-fashioned. I also sincerely believe writing can be taught. I just hope it does not take 10,000 hours of practice or a million words of tenacious ...more
Oct 22, 2015 Lynley rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
The title promises a lot, and the author is certainly qualified, with a background in writing, publishing and acting.

The first and last chapters are all about the publishing industry, so the title should really say something about 'writing AND PUBLISHING' kidlit. Actually, this dates the book somewhat, with the assumption that everyone is still interested in the traditional publishing route, completely putting aside that a lot of new writers will have decided to self-publish. But even if you do
Jan 27, 2013 Patti rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-advice
I had the dubious honor of receiving one of Ms. Kole's form rejections last summer. And after finishing this book I know why. In the second to last chapter she discusses queries/submissions. And to quote her:

If you're only getting form declines, something's not working, and I'm betting it's your writing sample. Yes, your writing sample. Not your query, as so many writers hope. We can overlook a heinous query if the writing is brilliant, but never the other way around. (pg 259)

The good thing is,
Aug 28, 2013 Kita rated it really liked it
Most books for writers are written by writers, which makes sense of course. Writing Irresistible Kidlit is written by an agent. She offers an interesting perspective. For example, she includes several lists of clichés that she sees all the time in the slush pile (plot clichés, character clichés, opening scene clichés etc.)

And she has lots of tidbits of good advice, like:

"Never be satisfied with the level of conflict you've engineered. Always twist it, always find a way to make it worse... But
Claire Caterer
May 31, 2013 Claire Caterer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I used to devour books on writing. Now I rarely pick one up, mostly because I realized I needed to spend more time doing the writing and less time reading about doing the writing. But I attended a lecture by Mary Kole at my local SCBWI chapter conference last fall and was intrigued enough to buy her book. And really, no matter where you are in your writing career, this book has lots to teach you.

Kole gives real-world examples of what she's talking about in terms of published YA/MG novels. She of
Nov 03, 2012 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. Like the title states, this really is "The Ultimate Guide" for writing "kidlit."

A few things I loved about this book:
- Ms. Kole uses excerpts from 35 kidlit books to illustrate the writing craft techniques.
- The whole book is a lesson on good "voice." Her book uses a conversational tone that made it feel like she was just sitting at the table teaching me.
- The market sections. She gives an overview of the YA and MG markets, the YA and MG mindset, and the business side of getting your book
Terri Lynn
This is okay if you want to write middle grade and YA fiction but is too serious and stuffy for me. It is like reading an encyclopedia article by a PhD. Stuffy and boring and dull, oh my! There is a lack of examples. If you are looking for an interesting, conversational guide that is full of examples and real help, this isn't for you. Move on along.
Jan 20, 2015 Lori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing, nonfiction
Dammit. My stack of unread and nearly-due library ebooks mounts. I could not persuade my thumb to move past Mary Kole's Writing Irresistible Kidlit without pressing in for a quick peek, and now I've gone and read the whole thing. I own this book, yet I had to read it through before all those others with their ticking expiration dates.

Good stuff, this. I'm wading through revisions on a years-old manuscript, and Ms. Kole's insights are both practical and inspiring enough to effect real, story-alt
Ashlee Willis
Sep 26, 2013 Ashlee Willis rated it it was amazing
Ok ... THIS is an awesome book. There is advice here for any writer who is seeking to WRITE young adult or middle grade fiction. I emphasize "write" because so many books now focus on publishing, promoting, platform, marketing, pitching, etc., etc., ETC.!! This book, however, focuses solely on writing in its purest form - the CRAFT of writing. The advice is wonderful, thoughtful, and so clearly written that no writer could read this book and not walk away with something gained from it.

Kole does
Kim Graff
Dec 09, 2012 Kim Graff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read a lot of How To Become An Awesome writer type books. I've attended conferences, webnairs, and followed a lot of writer blogs, and out of all of those great tools and resources, has always been a favorite of mine. So when I heard that Mary Kole was writing a book, I was intrigued. The book is broken down into the important things you need to know when writing for the YA or MG marketplace.

It starts with an overview of the Kidlit Market then moves to describing the MG and YA r
Mar 20, 2013 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mary Kole is a kid lit agent, so the advice she gives in this info-packed guide comes from a deep knowledge of the industry. For example, there's a list of cliched openings - and mine was one (not wanting to go to your first day of a new school). Ack! But better to know now than after submitting to an agent. I found myself getting lots of ideas for my book, and wound up reading it with my laptop on my lap so I could jot down plot or setting or character points without having to get up. Absolutel ...more
Jan 09, 2016 Meagan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me by a writer friend and I devoured it in a matter of days. It is excellent, filled with great reminders of stuff I already know but sometimes forget, and many new-to-me ideas as well. I would highly recommend this to anyone who is seriously interested in writing publishable fiction, especially if you already have something in the works that you want to improve. I am nearing the end of the first rewrite of the novel I am working on, and this book has me totally ener ...more
Lia Marcoux
I really enjoy Kole's Kidlit blog, but the book seems to focus more on writing that sells than writing craft (which is great for someone seeking that practical guide). Kole is an experienced professional with a successful list, so she obviously knows her stuff, but a couple of those commercial guidelines (which are not her fault) made me sad. Bitter emphasis entirely my own: "Try to give all issues, like experiencing racism probably, to secondary characters. And pack your YA with romance because ...more
Mar 16, 2013 Courtney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a must-read book by the awesome agent Mary Kole for anyone writing for children. She is a master, and loved her words of encouragement at the end, too. My favorite quote: Novels are written one word at a time, and every word is a choice.
Dianna Winget
Sep 17, 2015 Dianna Winget rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This is an excellent book on writing, and I've read my share of craft books. I love Mary's examples and how she's able to put you in the mind of both middle graders and young adults. I would highly recommend this helpful aid.
Anyta Sunday
Jan 15, 2013 Anyta Sunday rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

It's always great to get the basis drummed into you again and again. I particularly liked the examples, my only qualm with it is that it has increased my 'to read' pile by another 20.

Need more reading time!!!
Jan 24, 2016 Anika rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great tool for MG/YA writers.
Marian Perera
Sep 13, 2014 Marian Perera rated it it was amazing
I like checking out how-to books on writing, and Writing Irresistible Kidlit is by (former) literary agent Mary Kole. Although I don’t write MG or YA, I felt sure there would be ideas and techniques that would apply to adult fiction as well.

Well, there are, but I’d definitely recommend this to anyone wanting to write for children or teenagers. It’s a great resource. One chapter is devoted to understanding the mindset of these readers. What level of complexity are they looking for when they read?
Carie Juettner
If you've been within ten feet of me over the past two weeks, then you've most likely heard me talk about Writing Irresistible Kidlit. I'm pretty stingy with my five-star ratings, but I cannot say enough good things about this book.

In order to keep myself from rambling, here is what I loved about Mary Kole's writing guide in bullet form:

* Straightforward, To-the-Point Advice: I love reading books about writing. I've read many of the classics like On Writing, Writing Down the Bones, and Bird By B
Apr 09, 2014 Emilyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Mockers resent correction, so they avoid the wise." (Proverbs 15:12)

Every writer of young adult or middle grade books who wishes to learn how to write better should read this book. I think that includes every aspiring teenage writer, and anyone else who wants to be good at writing. And everyone who wants to self-publish, this book should be required reading, even if you're still going to self-publish. I myself am still deciding on which road to take.

We must be reminded to never stop learning ho
Timothy Pecoraro
Jan 27, 2014 Timothy Pecoraro rated it it was amazing

Unlike many books of this type Mary Kole is not writing from the perspective of someone who writes. She wrote this book, of course, but she does not make her living as an author. Which is exactly what is necessary for a book such as this. Because you, as a perspective writer. Need to know what to do to get published. And it just so happens Mary, being a literary agent is in a position to let you in on some of the things people like her look for. This is an incredible book with lots of great adv
Yume Kitasei
Jun 28, 2014 Yume Kitasei rated it really liked it
Thank you, Mary Kole, for giving me some clear ideas at last about how to fix the plot and pacing in my current project! I am now officially looking forward to 2014.

Seriously, sometimes what you really need is a refresher in the basics, and this 101 on everything from plot to voice was very helpful. She gives specific examples from books and features picks from editors and others. Her advice is about both craft and market - from an "editing agent"'s perspective, which I found unique and helpful.
Christy Luis
Apr 05, 2013 Christy Luis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by raving a bit about the author, Mary Kole. Her blog taught me many writing essentials before I even went to school for writing: character, POV and tense problems, voice and more. When I had read everything on her site, her resource list connected me to other methods of learning. If you're reading this, check out her awesome blog:
Onto the book review. It's nice to read craft books written by agents. Writing Irresistible Kidlit talks honestly about what will or w
Jan 12, 2013 Rafe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read a lot of books about the art/craft/business of writing, and for the most part, they're replete with overlapping information. Some of them are really useful, and some are sadly redundant. This book, Mary Kole's Writing Irresistible KidLit , is now one of my favorites. As the title suggests, Kole has put together a handbook on writing fiction for YA and MG audiences. I picked it up because I am familiar with her as an agent and on Twitter, and I figured she would have a lot to say. I am su ...more
Nov 02, 2012 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers all genres
Recommended to Kim by: Writers Digest Books
It's funny, I wasn't even looking for a book on writing, but this one popped up in an email from Writer's Digest, and on a whim I ordered it. I'm working on a mid-grade novel and thought this might have some good information. Boy, was I right. I couldn't put it down, finished it in two days, then went back and highlighted the concepts I found particularly helpful. Mary Kole covers, plot, setting characterization and all the important elements of writing. But what I found the most helpful was tha ...more
Jeanne Moran
Jan 25, 2013 Jeanne Moran rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This renowned KidLit agent has documented her years of experience in this accessible book. The tone is conversational and encouraging, and she shares dozens of splendid examples from middle-grade and young adult fiction as she discusses the publishing market, the readers' mindset, the craft of plot and character, and more. As an agent, she knows what sells and what doesn't. Those of us who write would do well to heed her advice.
Many of the books on writing in my library are written by authors, a
Jul 23, 2016 Jillian rated it it was amazing
I'll be honest: the title, cover, and description did not give me much faith in this book as a serious resource. But it turned out to be a really solid, helpful, and well-written book on writing craft for an MG and YA audience, with the added bonus that it's from the perspective of a literary agent. The advice was on point and bolstered with plenty of excerpted examples. Highly recommended.
Faith Justice
I thought the content of the book was useful and well-organized. Lots of good examples and advice from folks in the industry. The one big disappointment was the final advice to "get an agent." Kole has worked her whole life inside the bubble and has no advice for anyone wanting to explore self-publishing. There are other options to the gatekeepers.
Oct 10, 2013 Jennifer rated it really liked it
Kole's informative book on crafting Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction is helpful. She gives plenty of examples for how to strengthen material and how to write for these specific age groups. She also offers examples from published material. While some of the examples are helpful, others are so specific to an author or type of book that they don't stretch to all types of genres in the areas of YA and MG. For example, there are very few snippets from fantasy or science fiction works.

Kole has yea
Beth Kemp
Sep 18, 2015 Beth Kemp rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fic
Brilliant, detailed guide to writing for today's MG and YA readers, with loads of examples from successful books to show a range of different ways of getting it right. It's so good to read a 'how-to' writing guide that is specific (in age group), very much up to date in market terms and yet doesn't act as if 'kidlit' or YA is a genre. There are examples from 'quiet', literary kids/YA novels as well as contemporaries and fantasy titles. I also enjoyed the range of exercises, getting me to look at ...more
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