Write a Young Adult Novel

The course

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, guides you 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, we’ll start by honing your concept, thinking about age ranges and word counts for your genre, and you’ll share your idea, protagonist and first pages with the group.

Then you’ll work on your voice, storyworld, dialogue, structure, pacing – and general confidence as a YA writer – as you learn about how the industry works and prepare a synopsis, first chapter and writing plan for peer feedback and tutor guidance.

Lee Weatherly

Meet your course director

Lee Weatherly

Lee Weatherly (L.A. Weatherly) has written more than 50 books for children and young adults, including the bestselling Angel series, and is published in 20 different languages. She’s passionate about guiding new writing talent and has worked as a mentor across many projects.

In partnership with New Writing North

We partner with writing development agency New Writing North to help develop creative writing talent in the North of England with programmes to inspire and engage writers and readers.

New Writing North are offering 10 discounted bursary places, on this course across 2023 as part of the North of Tyne Cultural Skills Programme.

If you are based in the North of Tyne, access more information on the bursary here.

How it works

We give you the theory in the form of videos, podcasts, written lectures and reading extracts. In the case of our live workshops, this includes a live online seminar.

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.

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

Things to know

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 find beta-readers and a support system to help you 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.

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 
  • Learn to 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.

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 building 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 set up 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 

Now 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.

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 the New Writing North site.

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

Join our alumni community 

After your course finishes, 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 course 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.

Taking things further
If you’d like to continue on to another Professional Writing Academy course, please get in touch for more details.

Start your journey


(Including taxes)

I’d like to say how much I’ve enjoyed this course. It has provided a structure for aspiring writers to find a creative ‘home’, to be able to connect with other writers. You have provided detailed content and structure with real tools to help us to grow. I particularly liked the detailed feedback you have provided each of us on an individual basis. The personal examples and the many others you provided are amazing, and to have continued access to the content – invaluable.

Find out about our payment plans and get in touch.