Pen and paper

Sneaky Beliefs

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.

10 thoughts on “Sneaky Beliefs”

  1. I find it frustrating when children’s books are considered lesser than adult books. I chose to be a writer because of the books I loved as a child. The early influence of storytelling can change your life! Keep on writing; the world needs your stories! 😉

  2. You have a gift that every writer needs, and many want, and that is to write with your readers in mind. In my recent children’s book, I have had to replace some of the words with words young children would understand better. On the other hand, regarding my book on prayer, one of my unofficial “editors” asked who my audience was. When I said teens or adults, he said I should eliminate or replace phrases like “How cool is that?” and cut down on the exclamation points. (I was teaching middle school at the time and had become used to communicating with them on their level. 😉
    (One of my friends disagreed about the exclamation points, saying, “But I love your enthusiasm!” I told her, enthusiasm is one thing, but coming across as a preteen at a Justin Bieber concert was quite another.)

    1. Lol 😂 Some of our word choice reflects our voices as authors but you’re right, we also have to keep the audience in mind! It helps so much to know who we’re writing for 🙂

  3. Yes! It is so true that we can be totally succeeding, but still feel like we’re failing simply because of our expectations!
    You are slaying!! I’m so proud of you!!!

  4. Sounds like fodder for the circular file. No need to carry around those burdens, just let them go. Of course sometimes it’s not that easy but still worthwhile to pursue. Cheering you on.

  5. GO Jen!! Glad you figured this out and can throw that idea in the trash. Love your books!

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