Some beliefs sneak into our heads without us even being aware of them. It’s a strange phenomenon. Then, down the road, we run headlong into those beliefs like they’re the shadowy guy hiding in the alleyways of our minds. It’s only when we see him in full daylight that we realize how truly ugly he is.
One of those beliefs for me happened to be about reading level. Somewhere along this author journey, the belief snuck into my head that to be a professional author, I had to write at a certain level. Maybe this came from newspapers that are generally written at an 8th-grade level and up. Or maybe it came from my love of epic fantasy with its in-depth world-building, long character arcs, and even longer page counts. I can’t exactly say what planted this belief, but somewhere in my brain lurked this expectation that I had to achieve an 8th-grade level or higher in my writing.
So it disturbed me when I figured out how to check the reading level on my stories and kept finding them averaging at a 5th or 6th-grade. Every time I ran the check, the thought lurked in the back of my head that I wasn’t there yet. It kept telling me that I wasn’t succeeding, I wasn’t good enough.
That’s a lie and it’s totally inconsistent with the goal of the Adventure Books, which is to encourage young readers. I just had to realize that I’m writing for Middle Grade readers and that my “reading level” expectations weren’t in line with anything else I was doing.
Our brains are weird.
P.S. For those who might not know, Middle Grade simply means content-appropriate books written for children between the ages of 8 and 12. The Adventure Books, including Mystery of the Golden Shells, fall solidly into this age range.