When I first started writing, I was quite young. I wrote short stories modeled after the Ramona books by Beverly Cleary. When I was around 11 or 12, I started writing my first middle grade sci-fi novel titled Jarva. I got about 60 pages in. It was the most I had ever written. I was ecstatic and so into it! That is until my mom ran the manuscript through a Flesch-Kinkaid program that rated the reading level of my novel. I think she thought it would be good to know and helpful for me, but my immature mind was hugely insulted to see that I wrote below the grade level I was in at the time. How could that possibly be? I was a good writer. Everyone said so! How could I be writing at only a 4th grade level when I was in 6th grade?! I just couldn’t wrap my head around it and honestly, it kept me from writing for years. YEARS.
Now that I’m older and wiser (well…older at least), I’ve come to understand that I need to be writing at a level my intended audience can read and enjoy. Being that I write for the Young Adult crowd, I don’t want to be writing over their heads. While some of them would enjoy the challenge, I prefer to write for the masses. The more who can read and enjoy my work, the better. I leave the more difficult writing for my research papers and such.
I do think it’s important for all writers to know the level of their writing. What if Middle Grade is your deemed audience but you’re writing on a 9th grade level? Do you think many 5th and 6th grades will be able to read and enjoy your stories? It’s not likely. I think it’s also good know so you can try to improve your wordsmithery if your writing is too simplistic for your genre/crowd.
For those that don’t know, the American reading average is around a 9th grade level. Use this link to plug in some of your own work and see what level your writing is at. Before you go getting upset over what you see or ecstatic over writing at a genius type level, stop and remember your audience. Are you writing your best for them?