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

4.49  ·  Rating details ·  677 ratings  ·  135 reviews
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 for young adult and middle grade readers and teaches yo ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published December 4th 2012 by Writers Digest Books (first published November 6th 2012)
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Jonathan Peto
Jun 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Ashlee Willis
Jul 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 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
Mar 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writing
This is a thorough, top notch writer's guide. Mary Kole brings years of solid experience and insight to the art of writing literature for younger audiences. She highlights specific kid lit categories, and shows how to craft stories that meet their criteria. In terms of characterization, plotting, tone, length, etc., she shows what to do as well as what not to do in order to make your writing stand out in a very competitive market. Highly recommended. ...more
Melanie Kilsby
Mar 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This was such a great resource and was an insightful guide for writing KidLit.
I wish there wasn't swearing (which took me a bit to hurdle through), but the examples she gave through literature that was on the market today, and the way she explained how to craft Literature geared towards kids, was superb! It confirmed what I was doing and helped me to achieve things I never truly considered thoroughly.

Nov 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. Don't make my mistake and read it after you've written your first novel. Read it first. How-to for everything. ...more
Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
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. ...more
Danielle Burns
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Read this How-To Book with a notebook by my side. I’m so glad I did, otherwise it would have been twice it’s size with all the post it tabs I would have wanted to add!

The author (a US literary agent) reinforces all the old themes about setting, characterisation & theme but does so with practical examples from well known US kidlit along with insightful comments from other literary agents & publishers.

There are exercises to complete at the end of each chapter and although I skipped a few most of
Dec 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
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
Lia Marcoux
Mar 08, 2015 rated it liked it
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
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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
Dianna Winget
Nov 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Anyta Sunday
Jan 10, 2013 rated it really liked it

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!!!
Mar 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Andrew Shaffer
Sep 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you're thinking of writing YA/MG fiction, you need to read this book. Even if you write it already, I'm sure you would enjoy it as well. ...more
Oct 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Great tool for MG/YA writers.
Toni Suzuki
Feb 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing-advice
I went into this book hoping that the advice it contained would be geared a bit more specifically towards writing for kids and young adults. The first chapter delivered exactly what I wanted!

Unfortunately, everything after that was general writing advice. And though all of it is solid and true advice, as someone who has read several craft books at this point, none of it was new to me.

Also, some of the points made in the book, especially related to the market at the moment, are a tad dated. Do b
Olivia Cornwell
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, writing
This was really useful to me. I've read writing books before, so a lot of the material was familiar to me. But I wanted that YA/MG "setting," since that's what I write. It was a helpful read, in understanding what teens/middle graders feel and experience (since, I suspect, I had a vastly different growing-up time than the average person). Some of that, though, I was iffy on (I was concerned, for example, that young adults/kids find a fascination in dark stuff like death and suicide and such???? ...more
Maggie Holman
Jan 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mary Kole really knows what she's talking about! This book has completely turned around how I was approaching my children's and YA writing. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Each chapter contains relevant, useful and insightful information about writing and about the book world. Kole doesn't just tell us things from her own point of view. She refers throughout the book to contextual examples from current books to support her points, and asks also writers and agents for their thoughts and cont ...more
Linda Judd
Oct 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful guide for story crafters and writers. Even though its aim is for Middle Grade and Young Adult, the development of characters is the same for any genre. Mary Kole has brought to light every aspect of creating characters with specific examples from published books, all works of novel length. Lots of examples, to cover plot development, that even the young reader would appreciate.
Clare Bird
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
I was given this book as a gift my brother- who has been consistently cheering me on in my endeavor to become an author. I enjoy writing YA and felt like Mary Kole had great advice. I found it a slow read, not because it boring, but because I really wanted to let it all soak in and be beneficial to me. I made sure to add the books she provided examples from. I'm excited to see the changes in my writing and approach to plot and even querying. ...more
Melody Loomis
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
If you enjoy writing and reading about writing, and especially if you write MG or YA, this is a good one to read. I’m working on my query letter and going to use her tips on it. She seems to know what she’s talking about. This book is going on my shelf to keep as a reference. I’m sure I’ll need to refer back to it later on as I work on my next book!
Savannah Hendricks
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I found this book rather helpful, but not a easily spelled out as a few other books on writing that I have read. That said, it is a heavier read and there is a lot to take in. Se of the chapters seemed for writers just starting out, while other chapters felt more for advanced writers. Even though it's marketed as MG and YA, the book works for adult fiction also. ...more
Roxanne Troup
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Definitely geared more toward the higher end of the kid-lit spectrum, I enjoyed this book's library (excerpts used as examples) of good voice, theme, character, setting, etc. Nothing earth-shattering here, but solid advice none-the-less. I would have like to see more middle-grade examples given--most seemed to be YA. ...more
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