The Den: A blog for authors of children’s and YA genre fiction

The Den: A blog for authors of children’s and YA genre fiction

Know your audience: middle grade
934 532 Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Unless you’re ten, it can be hard to get into the mindset of your young readers when writing middle grade fiction. Schooldays are a distant memory for most of us, but even if we could remember them clearly, things have changed a little since our day. When I was in primary school, we spent our…

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Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole
1024 584 Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

A while ago I started a series in which I give you a very, very quick introduction to some of my favourite writing guides. These books will typically be aimed at authors of middle grade or YA, or they might be genre specific, focusing on writing horror, sci-fi, fantasy or mystery. This week I’m discussing…

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Fleshing out your secondary characters with Greg House
1024 576 Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

I’m going way off-piste today with this post: it’s not about fantasy, horror, sci-fi or mystery (well, House is a medical mystery show, but I’m not sure that counts) and there isn’t a middle grade or YA reader in sight. But it tackles something I know a lot of my author clients struggle with so please bear…

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Creating empathy with universals and ant mothers
1024 576 Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

I recently worked with a YA sci-fi author whose protagonists were non-humans permanently floating in space and trying to survive. It’s unlikely teenage readers from Earth will be able to empathise with this plight, so I recommended my author limit her marketing to the more distant planets like Uranus and Neptune. Okay, not really. I…

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Obstacles and goals in Sex Education
1024 576 Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

You’ve probably noticed editors and writing teachers are always banging on about the importance of obstacles in fiction. That’s because if you give your characters exactly what they want right away, they won’t have anywhere to go from there. Characters need to have clear goals and it’s your job to dream up conflicts that stop…

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The Magic Words by Cheryl B Klein
1024 576 Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

I adore reading books about writing and I have several favourites that I always recommend to everybody. When I read them for the first time, I cover the pages in pink highlighter (sorry to the sensitive book preservers amongst you) and write up the best bits in an Evernote notebook so I can search for…

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Lessons from R. L. Stine’s Masterclass #1: No moralising
1024 548 Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

Last year I took R. L. Stine’s masterclass on writing horror for young readers and it was utterly fascinating. I was a huge Point Horror fan as a teenager and still read a lot of middle grade and YA horror now, so I knew I had to sign up for this course. Just minutes in and I’d…

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The Shining as a romcom: notes on genre conventions
1024 576 Siobhan O'Brien Holmes

When I use examples to talk about writing craft, I really try to stick to books, TV and films that are aimed at a middle grade or YA audience, but I am such a huge horror fan that it was inevitable some grown-up movies would sneak into the blog eventually. Sorry about that – regularly…

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Hello! I'm Siobhán, a developmental editor of middle grade and YA genre fiction. This blog is aimed at authors who write for a young audience, particularly those working on horror, sci-fi, fantasy, mystery or anything with a dash of magic or macabre.


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A free email course with two weeks of surprising interview questions to get to know your middle grade or YA character


A bumper guide to middle grade & YA genres and subgenres, from cyberpunk and space opera to magical realism and portal fantasy



Testimonials

Here are some lovely things my gorgeous clients have said about me. When I'm having a bad day, I like to read these and eat Cadbury's Creme Eggs.

‘One of the best editors working with emerging voices’

Like the best of editors, Siobhan will respect your own individual writing style – and work within those parameters to coax you towards ever greater clarity and impact. She has an instinctive grasp of story, and some of the best craft knowledge I’ve ever come across. As a writer herself, she understands the highs and lows of the journey and always has a listening ear. She is never one to rush, and when a script inevitably throws up a knotty issue, will ponder deeply before putting forward possible solutions. Her openness, kind heart and gentleness make her one of the best editors working with emerging voices.

Chrissy Sturt | Advanced report

‘I can’t wait to dive back into my story with greater clarity’

Wow!! This cub report is AMAZING and I need to read it like 16 more times to let it all soak in! You’ve given me such concrete suggestions! I love all of the little tips, suggestions, examples, etc that you’ve provided and I am seriously going to be re-reading this report MANY times. I can’t wait to dive back into my story with greater clarity about the pacing. I also truly appreciate the comps and MG insight! Thank you, thank you!
Jennifer Grolemund | Cub Report (Pacing)

‘Your generous effort has already made the book better’

Thank you SO much for all your notes and for the honesty. I read them all and they’re extremely helpful. I’m very grateful for you taking the time. Your generous effort has already made the book better.

Chad Lutzke | YA horror beta read

‘I will seek a developmental edit much earlier next time’

Well I have read the report and documents and ARRGHH!! But in a good way. I have to say that your comments, suggestions and advice are excellent and I don’t disagree with much if anything that you suggest. They are really helpful and will truly make this book better. Also the pointers will definitely improve my subsequent stories. I will seek a developmental edit much earlier next time as I think this would have made the whole process a quicker and much more streamlined editing process.

Jonathan Evans | YA fantasy critique

‘I don’t want our editing relationship to end yet’

I have just skimmed through your brilliant editorial critique and will follow your suggestions and recommended reading lists. I think you have been very good at steering me the right way. I don’t want our editing relationship to end yet. I still need you!

Akin Jabar | MG sci-fi critique

‘I’m really impressed with your critical eye’

Wow, an excellent middle grade manuscript critique! I’m really impressed with your critical eye and what you’ve picked up on here – your comments are very astute and your feedback has been very valuable, as always. I agree with almost everything! Thanks a lot for this – I can’t wait to send you another.
John Lomas-Bullivant | MG fantasy critique

Several pennies have actually dropped’

I’ve had a look through everything and wanted to thank you so much for the forensic view of my novel. It’s the first time I’ve had a developmental edit like this completed and it has been, in turn, horrifying, enlightening, surprising and confidence boosting! But I guess you’ve probably seen that before. In many respects, several pennies have actually dropped and I have a firmer idea of what I need to do and will work on more research and reading.
Maria White | MG fantasy dev edit

I couldn’t have asked for a better editor

You’ve nailed everything and picked up on the things only an editorial expert can spot! You really have been amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better editor to help with this! All of your comments have made me realise exactly what needs working on.  They are super informative, and will really lead me in the right direction. It feels so much stronger, and I’m now super excited to see it in print.
Angela Kecojevic | YA sci-fi dev edit

‘I’ve never felt so quickly understood and supported by an editor’

Siobhan is absolutely brilliant! I’m trying not to sound too gushy but her work truly is astonishing — the best editing I have ever received. Siobhan is a master editor at every level, from word to idea. She is a consummate craftsperson and expert researcher. She is also immensely creative, able to help solve a manuscript’s problems and repair its shortcomings. She is efficient and generous, bright and fun — an absolute joy to work with. I have never felt so quickly understood and supported by an editor.

Sara Cassidy | Children's adventure critique

‘I can’t believe how lucky I was to encounter you!’

Thank you so, so much for this. I actually jumped for joy when I read your first comments! I couldn’t respond immediately as I was travelling but this took away so much of the stress of the flight – I was on such a high (literally!) There’s so much to take forward. Thanks so, so much again, Siobhán; I can’t believe how lucky I was to encounter you!
Middle grade author | Cub Report

‘Absolutely delightful!’

Thank you so much! Working with you has been absolutely delightful! I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness.

Jena Ataras | MG fantasy critique

‘It’s already helping massively’

I want to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU for all that you’ve done for me and my book baby. It’s already helping massively. I already love all the three big suggestions you made and I’m really happy you thought it’s a book worth working on as that’s exactly what I’m planning to do 🙂

Martina O'Brien | Dev edit

‘So thorough and rich with insight’

What a treat! This is exactly what I needed. Your critique seems so thorough and rich with insight. I will be sure to send you questions if I’m unsure about anything you meant but I think you’re so thorough that I will be able to digest almost everything on my own just fine. It was an absolute pleasure to work with you as well!
Chanya Sainvilus | YA sci-fi critique

‘The story has been truly seen for the first time’

I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the hard work you have done on my edit. I am absolutely thrilled with it; the attention to detail and depth with which you went into the manuscript left me speechless. The hashtag system is so handy and the book map made so many things clear for me. I feel like the story has been truly seen for the first time. I will recommend your work without hesitation.

Aisling White | YA fantasy dev edit

I am completely blown away!

I finally had time to read through the entire Monster critique and I am completely BLOWN AWAY! Your feedback is SO helpful and SO thoughtful. You are a truly talented editor! Not everyone has your gift to provide notes that are so comprehensive, succinct, and meaningful! You’ve given me ideas, direction, and underscored the key elements for crafting MG in the horror genre. This is the best Christmas present I could’ve ever wished for and I need to read it at least a hundred more times to let it all soak in…and to percolate all of the ideas that are already flowing in my head. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I am so grateful to have this opportunity!
Jennifer Grolemund | The Monster

‘A breath of fresh air’

Siobhan has not only been a breath of fresh air, breathing new life into my first ever draft manuscript, but she’s also provided me with the impetus to get it finished. Her comments and feedback led me to make some hard decisions but these have resulted in a much better book. Here’s to the future!

David Rogers | MG sci-fi dev edit