Writing YA (Online)

Improving | Fiction
Young Adult fiction is one of the boldest forms of recent times – learn how to write for the most passionate and discerning audience out there.

YA fiction confronts the big issues: coming of age, challenging authority, figuring out your place in the world. It's read avidly by both teens and adults – but how do you write it? Neither simplified adult fiction nor advanced children’s writing, YA has its own rules and conventions and is a diverse and exciting age range to write for.

In this comprehensive eight-week course taught by award-winning YA author L. A. Weatherly, we’ll uncover the secrets of writing for teenagers: developing authentic characters, finding a fresh and relatable voice, and the importance of pacing and structure in making every word and every scene count.

Working in a small group of fellow YA writers, and using extracts from a range of contemporary successful novels, we’ll explore the themes and concepts that work for YA (and what to avoid), and through practical exercises how to apply these insights to your own writing, including to fantasy ideas. By the end of the course, you’ll have a solid story plan and a completed prologue or first chapter – along with the skills needed to tackle the rest of your novel.

Each week you’ll receive valuable feedback from your close-knit group while finetuning your self-editing skills by responding to other writers’ work. There are weekly group webinars or Q&A sessions with your tutor, plus a live chat with a guest YA author whose work you’ll learn from during the course. Every session features downloadable tutor notes and recorded lectures, guided reading and analysis, practical exercises and prompts to keep you writing, as well as exclusive interviews with leading YA writers. You’ll have dedicated private forums and chatrooms to discuss your work in confidence 24/7, along with around-the-clock moderator support.

18th October 2021 - 12th December 2021

Availability: In stock

15 Places

This course is a flexible one, meaning that each session – with the exception of the last, longer one – is open for one week. During that week you're free to work through the materials, join in the discussion and upload your work at any time that suits you. Any live element that requires you to be online at a particular time (webinars with your tutor or a guest author) will be scheduled for a slot during the relevant session that's convenient for as many participants as possible.

Session 1 – 18 October: What is YA fiction?

What makes a compelling YA novel? We'll talk about concepts, themes, age ranges, average word counts, and how to use your past as material while keeping it current. By the end of the session, you’ll have a back-cover blurb for your idea. (Session will also cover current sensitivities in the YA market and how to avoid cultural appropriation, and include an icebreaker discussion on your favourite YA novel of the past five years.)

We’ll be reading a recommended novel through the course and will explore the techniques the author uses in each session before a live Q&A with them in the final session.

Live group webinar with your tutor.

Session 2 – 25 October: Your Cast

Creating memorable teen characters that real teens will connect with. Letting your teen protagonist have autonomy while keeping it real. How many characters are needed? What does your main character want and why can’t they have it? The importance of backstory.

We’ll study three different YA characters, break down their appeal, and look at tips on creating an unforgettable protagonist.

Q&A session with your tutor.

Session 3 – 1 November: Voice and Openings

A strong and vivid voice is a key to drawing readers in and making them connect with your protagonist. We’ll look at immediacy, intimacy and humour, and study voice through a series of successful YA openings, noting how writers use voice to hook readers into the story.

Live group webinar with your tutor.

Session 4 – 8 November: Structure: Story and Scene

Alongside a compelling concept and appealing protagonist, YA depends on a solid structure: a definite problem or goal, and rising tension all the way. We’ll explore three-act structure, you’ll plot your favourite YA novel onto a graph to see how it fits, and we’ll look at beat sheets.

Expanding on the idea of ‘the hook’, we’ll look at how to incorporate that into every scene for unputdownable fiction.

Q&A session with your tutor.

Session 5 – 15 November: Pace and Action

YA is all about keeping it trim and pacy. We’ll look at when to slow down and when to speed up – how to spot the flab and keep the action ticking along using Show Not Tell. We’ll study a series of extracts showing great pacing at work and discuss what’s included, what’s not, and why that’s effective as you look at ways to hold back with your backstory and keep your story’s mysteries at the forefront.

Live group webinar with your tutor.

Session 6 – 22 November: Keeping it Real: Dialogue and Description

The penultimate session focuses on elements that bring depth and veracity to your writing. How to craft dialogue that sounds natural but is succinct and purposeful, the dangers of slang, and how much swearing is OK? You’ll work on ways to use description to flesh out your scenes and add immediacy, with a focus on worldbuilding for those writing fantasy or sci-fi.

Live Q&A webinar with featured YA author.

Session 7 – 29 November: Pulling it All Together

Two weeks of quiet writing time as you focus on your final assignment: taking the characters, concept and techniques you have explored throughout the course, you’ll write a first chapter or prologue for your peers to respond to.

Final group webinar with your tutor during the last week of the course.

Click here for more information +


Lee Weatherly has written more than fifty books for children and young adults, including the...

"There's no point staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike - to get your creative muscles working you need to start writing, reviewing and sharing your work."

Helen Shipman