Writing the YA Novel

w/ Shivaun Plozza, Bec Kavanagh and guests

YA fiction is amongst the bestselling genres in Australia, read avidly by teenagers and adults alike—but how do you start writing for this highly engaged community of readers? In this special course, you will carefully study YA’s complex set of rules and conventions, while working towards completing a full first draft of your manuscript.

Wednesday evenings 6.30pm – 8.30pm (AEST), May 8 – October 2, 2024

$2200/ $1870 (alumni)

Young Adult (YA) fiction is an introduction into the world of reading and flights of imagination, and is many readers’ first true love. Writing YA novels, however, can be daunting. How do you write for a teen audience while retaining an authentic, believable voice? This course will lead you through the key tenets of writing for young adults.

Across 18 weeks, you will be taught by industry experts Shivaun Plozza and Bec Kavanagh, who will guide you through the ins and outs of YA writing. Writing a novel for young adults might look simple on paper, given that YA is often shorter than adult fiction, so the distance to travel may look more achievable. However, YA fiction is just as complex as adult fiction when it comes to developing themes and characters.

Working in a small group and using extracts from a range of successful contemporary novels, you will explore the themes and concepts of YA—including character, setting, world-building, structure and form—and will learn how to apply these insights to your own writing through a range of practical exercises. By the end of the course, you will have a solid story plan and will be working towards a completed first draft of your own YA novel. You will also develop the necessary skills to tackle revisions and pitching.

Your course also includes:

  • A complimentary copy of a recent A&U publication
  • On completion of the course, alumni discounts on future Faber Writing Academy courses and books from the Allen & Unwin website.

Writers you'll be working with:

Shivaun Plozza

Shivaun Plozza is an award-winning author of books for children and young adults. Her debut, Frankie, was shortlisted for the CBCA Book of the Year (older readers) and won a number of awards, including the Davitt Awards and a commendation from the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award. Her second novel, Tin Heart, sold in five foreign territories, received…

Bec Kavanagh

Bec Kavanagh is a PhD candidate at La Trobe University. Her research explores the homogenisation of the adolescent female body in coming of age narratives. Bec is a recognised expert in youth literature and has worked extensively in feminist literary spaces. She was the inaugural chair of #LoveOzYA and currently manages the Schools Program at…

Lili Wilkinson

Lili Wilkinson is the award-winning author of nineteen books for young people, including The Erasure Initiative and A Hunger of Thorns. Lili has a PhD from the University of Melbourne, and is a passionate advocate for YA and the young people who read it, establishing the Inky Awards at the Centre for Youth Literature, State Library…

Simmone Howell

Simmone Howell is a Melbourne-based award-winning writer of books for young adults (Notes from the Teenage Underground, Girl Defective, Take Three Girls). Her non-fiction is regularly published in the Age/SMH. She recently completed a PhD at La Trobe University, researching life writing and the teenage experience.

Course outline

This course consists of 18 x evening sessions, Wednesdays, 6.30 – 8.30pm (AEST).

Session 1: May 8 Shivaun and Bec
Introduction: Meet your tutors and solidify your intentions for the course.

Session 2: May 15 Shivaun (with guest writer Lili Wilkinson)
Story, structure, plot: What makes a story ‘YA’? How do plot, structure and story work together? How do you determine the best framework for your novel? How do you maintain an intensity and momentum that will engage a YA reader?  

Session 3: May 22 Bec
Beginnings, middles and ends: How do you hook a reader from the first line and sustain their interest through the novel? What note will your novel end on? How do you know when to walk away?

Session 4: May 29 Shivaun
Point of view and voice: How do you choose a POV and tense to tell your story? How do you create an authentic and engaging narrative voice?

Session 5: June 5 Bec
Theme, imagery and symbolism: What is your story about? What is it really about? And how can you create powerful images that bring these themes to life using sensory detail?

Session 6: June 12 Shivaun (with guest writer Jared Thomas)
Characters: Who is at the heart of your novel and why? How do they drive the story? How do you bring characters to life? How do you construct a character’s emotional arc?

Session 7: June 19 Bec (with guest writer Simmone Howell)
Place, setting, world building: Where is your story set? How do you create a setting that is active, not passive, and that interacts with plot and character? What does your setting reveal about the characters?


Session 8: July 24 Bec (with guest writer Leanne Hall)
Language and detail: How do you create and sustain a distinct narrative voice? What impact do your word choices have on the way your reader encounters your story? How do we make our sentences perform double duty?

Session 9: July 31 Shivaun
Dialogue: How does dialogue impact plot and character? How does everyday speech differ from dialogue? Tips for crafting character specific and authentic dialogue.

Session 10: August 7 Shivaun
Scene and Summary: What is the difference between scene and summary? What roles do they each play in effectively communicating a story? How do you choose when to use one or the other?

Session 11: August 14 Bec (with guest writer Amie Kaufman)
Genre and an intro synopsis: What is the hero’s journey, and how does it apply (or not) to contemporary YA? What are some of the conventions of particular genres within YA, and what are the conventions of YA as its own genre? How can we use genre to start conceptualising our writing and thinking about a pitch?

Session 12: August 21 Shivaun
Consolidating, taking stock and moving forward: How do you maintain effective writing habits? How do you push through to the finish line? Tips and tricks for battling procrastination, negative thinking and writer’s block.

Session 13: August 28 Shivaun
Editing, part 1: Structural editing focuses on refining your story’s ‘big picture’ elements, such as characterisation, plotting/pacing and themes. We’ll go over the key stages of a structural edit and apply a ‘big picture’ analysis to your story.

Session 14: September 4 Bec
Editing, part 2: Close editing – here we’ll look at the nuts and bolts of editing, making sure we know what red flags to look for at sentence level, and learning some tips and tricks to whip a manuscript into shape.

Session 15: September 11 Bec
Pitching and synopsis boot camp: What’s your elevator pitch? We’ll be talking industry and sales and putting together (and practicing) a compelling pitch to get readers and publishers interested!

Session 16: September 18 Bec and Shivaun
The wrap up: After revisiting your intentions and celebrating your successes, we’ll discuss where to next, set new goals for the future and discuss the current market landscape for YA.

Session 17: September 25 – Guest Agent

Session 18: October 2 – Guest Publisher 

The exact course content could be adjusted according to the experience and concerns of the group and availability of guest writers. 

Praise for this course

“It’s hard to fault any aspect of this course.”

“…I rocked up to this course with only the whiff of an idea…I am ending the course with roughly 50,000 words and a much better outlook on where things are heading.”

“I had a great time, met a bunch of lovely people and am incredibly grateful to Bec and Shivaun.”

How to Apply

In the first instance we ask students to submit an application for a scholarship placement. To apply you will need to submit:

  • An online application answering several questions asked by our Writing the YA Novel tutors
  • An attachment with a sample of up to 500 words of prose

 The selective process ensures that all applicants are applying for the course best suited to their needs and allows the tutor to determine your readiness for the course. Submit your application here.

Please note that Scholarship applications close at midnight on Sunday 7 April, 2024.

What happens if I am accepted?

If you are accepted into Writing the YA Novel, you will be sent an email inviting you to take your place in the course from the Faber Writing Academy at Allen & Unwin team. In order to secure your spot, you will be asked to pay a deposit of $220/ $187 (alumni).

Please contact us if you wish to discuss further payment plan options via email or phone (02) 8425 0171.