Here is a hypothetical beginning for a Middle Grade novel that I'll use for a Before and After makeover example.
Summer was nearly over. Only a week until Labor Day weekend, and then it would all end for Ron. His parents would arrive from the city to fetch him, and his grandparents would wave farewell and invite him back for next summer. Soon, it'd be back to school for him. He'd miss walking by the lake and going on long bike rides. He'd miss picking vegetables in the garden with Gram. He'd miss fishing with Gramps in the rowboat.
Most of all, he hadn't figured out what that large dark thing was that swam in the lake. He'd seen it eight times now. He didn't know whether it was a thick snake, a sea monster of some kind, or just a really big fish.
Ron whistled for Old Jake, Gramps' golden retriever, and ran off toward the lake. His bare feet were tough by this time, calloused from a summer's worth of running free. He spotted the dock and dashed down its boards. Old Jake followed, long tongue hanging out sideways.
The story isn't bad, but it could be stronger. For one thing, it starts off with a weak "was" verb featured in a pretty bland sentence. The first paragraph is distant, as though the narrator is talking about Ron rather than seeing or feeling the scene through Ron's eyes. The paragraphs could use some voice, some pizzaz added to make them more lively and less ordinary. More middle grade. This can be accomplished by using zestier verbs, adding details, describing sensory things (sounds, smells, etc.), and using imagery or figures of speech.
Ron flipped the calendar page to September and blasted out a sigh. One week left until Labor Day weekend, when his parents would arrive from the city to fetch him. Sure, Gram and Gramps would invite him back next summer, but soon he'd be back at school. No more puttering around collecting rocks. No more sweaty bike rides on the trails. No more picking carrots and zucchini and tomatoes in the garden with Gram. He'd have to leave the rest of those fat silvery trout for Gramps to catch.
Most of all, he still hadn't figured out what that large dark thing was that swam in the lake. He'd seen it eight times now, churning up to the surface like a black slug in a stewpot. Was it a giant snake? Some sort of sea monster? Or just a really big fish?
With a rattley clang of the screen door, Ron left the house. He whistled for Old Jake, Gramps' golden retriever, and ran off toward the lake. The grasses hissed under the toughened soles of his bare feet and the wind whipped a strange blend of honeysuckle and pine-needle smells into his nose. At the dock he thumped down the boards. Old Jake followed, long tongue hanging out sideways like a slobbery red rope.
Note: For the makeover I added about 45 words.
Can you think of anything else that would make this excerpt stronger?
Does the makeover seem less distant to you than the original, & more like a MG voice?
Have you ever written middle grade fiction, for readers ages 8-12?
Do you have a MG or YA page excerpt for use as a guinea-pig post on this blog, to help other writers hone their work? Perhaps an old shelved novel or other work?
It can be anonymous or labeled with your name, as you wish.
Email me if you do: artzicarol [at] gmail [dot] com