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Write a Young Adult Novel

Event information

Where: Online

Date: Online courses starting 29 April and 7 October 2024

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: 8

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: What is YA Fiction?

We’ll start with the basics of YA fiction, including concepts, themes, age ranges, word counts – and how to use your past as material while keeping things current. As a YA novelist, it’s important to understand the importance of cultural sensitivity and #ownvoices. By the end of the session you’ll have a back-cover blurb for your idea.

Live group webchat with your tutor.

Session 2: Drawing the Reader In

We’ll consider voice, viewpoint and what makes a strong opening. A close, vivid voice is key in YA fiction to help readers engage with your protagonist – we’ll explore at a series of successful YA openings, noting how the authors use immediacy, intimacy and humour to quickly hook readers into the story. You’ll write the first 1,000 words of your novel and have a one-to-one chat with your tutor.

One-to-one with your tutor on your novel idea.

Session 3: Casting Your Novel

Crafting a main character who teens can connect with is essential. We’ll break down the appeal of some classic YA protagonists and learn how to create sharply memorable characters. You’ll consider how many cast members your novel needs, what your protagonist wants – and why they can’t have it – and the importance of backstory. You’ll continue writing your novel with the next 1,000 words, and will submit the first 2,000 words of your novel for tutor feedback.

Live group webchat with your tutor.

Session 4: Constructing a Solid Story

YA fiction needs a solid structure: a definite problem or goal, and rising tension all the way. We’ll explore what story structure is and how it can give your story greater focus and drive. Expanding on the concept of ‘the hook’, we’ll look at how to incorporate that into every scene for un-putdownable fiction. You’ll start to develop your story’s structure by creating a rough story plan or three-act graph, and will continue onward with your novel with the next 1,000 words.

Podcast feedback from your tutor on your first 2,000 words.

Session 5: Bringing Your Scenes to Life: Dialogue and Description

These two textural elements bring life and immediacy to your scenes. We’ll consider how to craft natural-sounding dialogue that’s succinct and purposeful, and how much swearing is OK for YA. You’ll explore using description from your protagonist’s unique perspective. A section on worldbuilding is included for writers of speculative fiction. By the end of this session, you’ll have completed the first 4,000 words of your novel.

Live group webchat with your tutor.

Session 6: Driving the Story On

Now we’ll start playing with tempo and keeping the forward motion of your story going, including when to show and when to tell. We’ll consider practical techniques to speed or slow the story’s pace – such as the strategic use of language and backstory – helping to up the tension and keep YA readers turning the page. You’ll write the next 1,000 words of your novel, bringing you to 5,000 words in total.

Q&A forum to put your questions to your tutor.

Session 7: The World of YA Publishing

We’ll explore an overview of YA publishing: how to make your manuscript look professional, as well as what agents want and how to approach them. We’ll consider sample query letters and synopses, and discuss what to expect if you’re taken on by an agent or publisher – or should you self-publish? For practise, you’ll write your own query letter. By the end of this session, you’ll have completed the first 6,000 words of your novel.

Live Q&A webchat with an industry guest.

Session 8: Pulling it All Together

This final session lasts for four weeks and is quieter, to give you time to work on your final submission. You’ll write an additional 2-4,000 words of your novel for a total of 8-10,000 words, along with an updated beat sheet or three-act graph. At the end of the session you’ll submit this material for peer feedback.

At the end of the course, your tutor will provide feedback on your opening 8-10,000 words and three-act graph or story plan.

Final group webchat with your tutor during the last week of the course, to talk about next steps.

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

Learn

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

Practise

You put it into practice by completing the writing assignments.

Share

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

Feedback

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.

Discuss

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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