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.