Natalie Bright

The following list of elements for middle grade novels was a handout from a writing conference. The name or origin of the information is not on the handout, so apologies that I cannot give credit. It’s a helpful list as you are crafting your story for middle grades, defined as a core audience of 8 to 12 year olds or 3rd through 6th grades.


  1. Drama!
  2. Imagination.
  3. Use humor.
  4. Write to the age level.
  5. Make place a character.
  6. Make each word resonate.
  7. Bring history alive.
  8. Mix genres.
  9. Craft prose carefully.
  10. Let joy spill out!

The Writing Process

The Writing Process

By Natalie bright


If you enjoy reading about other author’s writing process like I do, you’ve probably come to the conclusion that there is no right or wrong way. I think the main goal that will set you apart from other writers is to actually get to THE END.

Here are examples of two totally different methods that have worked for me.

Option 1: Chasing Rabbit Trails

When you look at the pasture behind my house, you can see several well-worn trails used by cotton tales and jack-rabbits. They criss-cross, head in every direction going on as far as you can see or ending at a fence or under a tree. Here’s a true confession; I find it extremely difficult to stay with one project.

With two teen boys (a senior and 8th grader) and day job demands, I’ve decided to follow the advice of Natalie Goldberg in WRITING DOWN THE BONES: go with the thing that’s burning a hole in your heart. Come to that story with fire in your gut. From novels to nonfiction magazine articles to short stories, I just write. I’ve learned to never question the idea muse and to write whenever I get the chance.

Take for example a picture book manuscript I just finished. The idea hit me as I was climbing into my husband’s pick-up truck on our way to lunch. We were talking about the kids fighting. He was explaining to me that it’s nothing unusual for brothers. As an only child, I can’t relate to how mean siblings can be to each other. I got a visual image of a picture book, as clear as if I held it in my hand. I made notes right then and there, and worked on it over the next two months. Then sent it off to my agent, who had a few suggestions. Took several more weeks to work on edits, and now it’s out in the world. Fingers crossed that it finds a home.

This process may seem crazy to some, but I am able to get things done.

Option 2: Emersion into Fictional World

The middle grade manuscript I recently finished involved a total emersion into the world of Comanche, a Plains Indian tribe that once walked the ground that is now our cattle ranch. The book began as a story about a mule skinner’s son set in the old west, but when I typed THE END it felt incomplete. Something was missing. One Saturday morning, after two hours of digging in the dirt, I found a perfectly shaped arrowhead point which reminded me that the last person who had touched that piece of flint had been a Native American. The burning in my gut turned into a Comanche brave. I had to bring Wolf’s point of view to that story.

A secondary character became a main character, and I started over with research. If words refused to come, research turned into long walks staring at a Texas sunset trying to figure out what in the heck a Comanche teenager might be thinking in 1854. This was the most difficult and most fun book I’ve ever written. Hopefully it will find a home as well.

Don’t Question the WHY!

Take the advice of David Morrell, father of Rambo and an amazing speaker; don’t question the why. He really motivated me to keep writing; no matter the rejection, no matter the crazy ideas that pop into my head, no matter that my story may never be seen by the world.

Let’s be fearless, dear writers! Follow that fire in your gut and discover where it leads. You might be amazed at what you can accomplish.

Please share your writing process. How do you stay on task until THE END?


Are You Writing in the Right Genre?

Are You Writing in the Right Genre?

By Natalie Bright

The question was posed at a romance writers workshop in Wichita Falls by Jane Graves, an award winning author of contemporary romance. Her advice was to, “hone in on the one thing that speaks to you.”

I’ve always been a huge fan of historical romance, and that seemed the obvious direction when I decided to expand my nonfiction job-related writing to writing fiction. I love history and stories set in the wild west. In the beginning the whole process was a chore; I hated my characters, the dreary plot line, and the editing process seemed like torture. In the back of my mind lurked a ten-year-old boy who found a Comanche as a best friend and one night I dreamed about a wild-haired eleven year old girl who turned a frontier town on its ear. In my minds eye, I could see them clearly and their adventures played out in my head on a daily basis. They refused to leave me alone, and that’s when I realized I wanted to write for children.

I found my notes from that workshop just yesterday, and Jane’s words came back to me, “Freshness and originality come from what you can imagine.”

Rather than fight with myself and feel frustration every time I sit down at the keyboard, I work on the piece that puts a fire in my gut. Today, I’m writing blogs. Tomorrow, who knows?

I’ve finished four middle grade novels since that first romance seminar. Some I’ve entered into contests, some are buried in a closet, and one I self-published. They may never find a place to land in the publishing world and at this point it doesn’t matter because those characters are not waking me up nights anymore. I refuse to ignore the voices in my head.

Are you writing in the Right Genre?

Natalie Bright