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Write a Young Adult Novel

The course

Write and edit your first 10,000 words

Find a fresher, more relatable teenage voice, and new ways of coming at the big issues in Young Adult fiction with hands-on support from a world-leading YA writer.

This 18-week course, led by author Lee Weatherly, will broaden your palette of techniques and confidence as a YA writer, to better equip you to write for the most discerning and passionate audience out there. 

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, consider voice, viewpoint and what makes a strong opening.

Then you’ll write the opening of a novel session by session, supported by feedback from your peers and tutor guidance as you learn about how the industry works with guest webinars.

At the end of the course you’ll be invited to submit the first 8-10,000 words of your novel, plus a three-act graph or story plan. Your tutor will mark-up your material and offer a written summary highlighting strengths, areas to explore further, and next steps.

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 2024 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.

Each course is divided into sessions. These sessions are released one by one (weekly or fortnightly, depending on the course). 

There’s no need to log on at a set time. You can work through the learning materials whenever suits you, day or night, wherever you are in the world. Just complete the assignments and join forum discussions by the session deadline. 

Our teaching method is based on the science of active learning: you read/listen/watch, try out, share and reflect. It’s a social experience – you become part of a small group, feeding back on each other’s writing to build a supportive bunch of readers you trust. Find out more here.

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.

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.

Download our prospectusEnter your email below to download our course prospectus and find out more.

Start your journey

£900

(Including taxes)

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