Write a Young Adult Novel

Event information

Where: Online

Date: Online course starting 22 May 2023

Cost: £900 / £325 (bursary places available)

Type: Online Writing Course , Writing and Publishing Skills Hub

Book full price place now

Everything you need to write Young Adult Fiction

Find a fresher, more relatable teenage voice, and new ways of coming at the big issues in Young Adult writing with hands-on support from a world-leading YA writer. This 18-week course, led by author Lee Weatherly, will guide writers through the key techniques and skills YA writers need to master to sustain reader interest and keep productive through the long form of a novel.

Working in a small group of fellow writers, start by honing your concept, thinking about age ranges and word counts for your genre, and share your idea, protagonist and first pages with the group. Then work on your voice, storyworld, dialogue, structure, pacing – and general confidence as a YA writer – as you learn about how the industry works. At the end of the course you’ll have a synopsis, first chapter and a plan to keep up momentum and progress your novel.

Duration: 18 weeks
Skill level: Intermediate
Frequency: Bi-weekly
Sessions: 9

Bursary places for North of Tyne residents

Our funding from North of Tyne Combined Authority allows us to offer 60% off the price of this course for residents of Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

Apply for a bursary place

Lee Weatherly, course director

Lee Weatherly (L.A. Weatherly) has written more than 50 books for young adults and children, including the bestselling Angel series.

She is published in 20 different languages. Awards for Lee’s work include the Sheffield Children’s Book Award, the Stockport Children’s Book Award and the Leeds Book Award; she was also shortlisted for the Edgar Allan Poe Award and the RoNA Award.

Passionate about guiding new writing talent, Lee works as a mentor, including for The WoMentoring Project and Gold Dust, and over 15 years has taught workshops and residential courses for Arvon, SCBWI and at Hay, Edinburgh and YALC festivals – she’s seen many of her former students go on to writing careers of their own.

Originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, Lee lives in the Scottish Borders.

“The new character I’ve discovered on the course brings an extra dimension that was lacking in my novel. I can’t wait to push on with it now! I’ve really enjoyed the course and found it very productive.”

​- Jo, Alumni

Full course information

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for YA writers or writers in other genres who want to explore writing for teenage voices.

It’s suitable if you:

  • Are a YA writer with some experience who would like to polish your skills and feel more confident about your voice and genre positioning.
  • Want to stress-test a new idea for a novel or series.
  • Are struggling to nail your genre, word count or age range expectations.
  • Need help establishing a voice that feels authentic for a YA reader.
  • Write fantasy and are looking for help with world-building.
  • Would like insider insight on the YA market and publishing landscape.
  • Are looking to develop effective writing habits and new routines.
  • Want to broaden your palette of fiction craft skills.
  • Would like to join a peer group of beta-readers and find a support system during the long haul of writing a novel.
  • Enjoy the discipline of deadlines and peer feedback
  • Can dedicate 5-7 hours per week for the duration of the course
  • Want to join a friendly and supportive small group of learners

What will I learn?

This course allows you to:

  • Become more aware of the factors that impact upon and shape the YA novel writer’s process and your own practice of the craft.
  • Increasing knowledge of how YA writers use techniques including character, voice, structure, pace, dialogue, description and world-building.
  • Trust your instinct when selecting and developing ideas
  • Become a more effective writer, for recreation and at work
  • Develop the transferable skills writers require (eg discipline, attention to detail, ability to work to deadlines)
  • Practise giving feedback to other writers and receiving responses to your work
  • Build greater independence, autonomy and judgement as you work on a final assignment.

What are the sessions?

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.

How much time do I need to commit to this course?

You will need to put in around 5-7 hours each week. The deadline for posting your final assignment each week is the end of Saturday. The deadline for giving feedback to others is the end of Sunday. Other than that, you can work through the course materials each week at your own pace.

What time will I need to log on?

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.

What happens after the course?

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.

Bursary information

If you are a writer based in North of Tyne, you may be eligible for a bursary discount through New Writing North.

You can submit your application through this site.

This course is open to writers all over the globe. If you are based anywhere else in the world, you can buy now here.

How it works


We give you the theory in the form of videos, podcasts, written lectures and reading extracts.


You put it into practice by completing the writing assignments.


You share your work with the small group of fellow writers and the teaching team.


Your tutor and fellow learners read your work and give professional-style feedback on your submission. Giving feedback notes helps to build your skills as an editor – a critical part of the writing process.


You reflect on the exercises with the group and share what you’ve learned.

Review and Improve

You use what you learned from the feedback and discussions to review your work and improve it.

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