Session 1: You and Your Reader
We’ll start by focusing on the basics of writing for a YA reader and understanding this area of publishing, from concepts, themes, age ranges and average word counts to what you can and can’t write about. As a YA novelist, it’s important to understand the importance of cultural sensitivity and #ownvoices. We’ll look back at your own experience as a teen reader, and ways to draw on this while writing for young adult readers today. You’ll share your novel concept with the group.
Session 2: Tuning into Your Voice
Let’s start thinking about your first pages and how you connect your readers with your story, protagonist and voice. We’ll look at a range of examples from YA novels and pick apart the techniques their authors employ. You’ll work on strengthening your voice, thinking about immediacy, intimacy and humour. You’ll receive peer critiquing and tutor feedback on your first pages.
Session 3: Casting Your Novel
Focus on your protagonist – what they want, why they can’t get it and how they connect with real teens. We’ll break down the appeal of successful protagonists from the YA canon and what gives them life for successive generations of readers. We’ll also look at your supporting cast and their roles – do you need them all? You’ll introduce your protagonist and their backstory to the group.
Session 4: Constructing a Solid Story
This session is all about how to build out from your concept and protagonist to an underpinning story structure that powers every scene. We’ll play with maps and graphs to help capture your story – from initial hook and goal through problem and rising tension – and call on the screenwriter’s arsenal by making beat sheets. You’ll present your story structure as a three-act graph for tutor feedback.
Session 5: Building a Storyworld
Not just for writers of speculative fiction, worldbuilding unlocks different elements of character, plot and the relationship with your reader. We’ll look at how to use description and setting to build atmosphere and foreshadowing, and think about your world’s rules and limitations. Map out a section of your world and share sketches or boards with the group.
Session 6 Putting Words in Mouths
How do your characters speak? We’ll try different ways to work with dialogue and speech markers, along the way looking at viewpoint and language, and how much slang and swearing is ok, both for readers and publishers. How to move from dialogue to description and other ways of drawing in and out of a scene. You’ll share a conversation with your protagonist with the group.
Session 7 Driving the Story On
Here, we’ll start playing with tempo and keeping the forward motion of your story, including when to show and when to tell. We’ll look at genre expectations on pace plus practical techniques to slow down the action, including use of backstory, or speed it up and increase the tension to keep readers turning the page. You’ll select one urgent and one leisurely scene to share for peer feedback.
Session 8: The YA World
In-depth focus on the publishing industry in relation to YA – traditional publishing, self-publishing and other models, including ways of engaging with YA readers and building a fanbase for your writing. You’ll find out how the submissions process works and what makes for a great synopsis, first chapter and query letter. There will be a live Q&A session with a YA industry insider (agent/publisher/editor).
Session 9: Quiet Writing Time
This final session is quieter, to give you time to work on your final submission – a synopsis, first chapter and plan to finish your novel – and share drafts for peer feedback. There will be a live Q&A session with your tutor to talk about next steps.
At the end of the course, your tutor will provide feedback on your synopsis and first chapter.
There’s no need to log in at a set time to take part – sessions open to a timetable and you have until the end of each session to work through the materials in the online classroom.
So you can read the tutor notes and listen to the podcasts, watch the videos, analyse extracts, react to prompts and work through mini-exercises at any time of day or night that’s best for you. You can also contribute to discussions on our forums 24/7, so the online classroom feels like a rich and lively shared experience.
Most people on the course fit learning around their work and caring responsibilities, which is why we teach in this non-synchronous way. It also suits those studying in another language, and offers advantages in terms of accessibility and different learning styles. We ask that you submit your final exercise in each session by the deadline, then read and critique the work of some of your peers.
If there are live Zoom sessions in your course, your moderator will let you know the timing. If you can’t make it, you can send in questions in advance and catch up with the recording afterwards. Past sessions and any recordings remain available throughout the course – and in the alumni area afterwards – so you can revisit any of the learning, revise exercises and chart your progress at any point.
Join our alumni community
After your course, you can join our online alumni community – a friendly group of writers supporting each other as they continue to explore and develop their writing. There’s no cost for this. It’s easy to access via the online classroom, where you can:
- Revisit all your courses materials, including tutor notes, feedback, videos, podcasts and forum posts
- Rejoin your classmates, and continue working together in a private space
- Meet alumni from other courses to find beta-readers and share work on our critiquing forum
- Network with other writers working in your genre or area of interest
- Take part in regular ‘sit and write’ Zoom sessions, to push forward with your work-in progress
- Join our monthly live alumni events with our expert tutors and industry guests, including agents, editors, publishers, competition and festival organisers, and prizewinning writers
Commission a report on your work
If you’d like to receive a personalised, detailed report on your final piece of writing from your course tutor, this is available at an extra cost. You’ll receive detailed written feedback assessing your ideas and writing, plus advice on what steps to take next.