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Writing Young Adult Fiction

Course Times & Enrolment

Wednesdays from 17th January 2024 (Code CW089-201) Wednesdays from
17th January 2024 6:30pm - 8:20pm • (10 classes)
LG48 Paterson's Land, Holyrood Campus • Tutor: Caroline Dunford MA BSc PG Dip; MSc Psych For (Open)
This course is now closed for enrolments

Course Summary

Young Adult Fiction is a trending market, enjoying explosive growth and new heights of recognition. It is an important category that introduces fresh concepts to burgeoning minds, tackling difficult and often controversial subjects. This course will enable participants to gain an understanding of the genre and develop their own writing.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

The class is open to all students, but advantageous for students to have some creative writing experience.

Content of Course

1. What is Young Adult Fiction?

The key to a young adult story is about the intensive, introspective  nature of the teenage years and the opening out of the central character’s world view with a coming of age angle. Introduction to the psychological perspective, including exercises to aid students remember what it felt like to be a teenager as well as considering the issues of modern teens.

2. Current Popular YA Fiction.

We will discuss popular fiction extracts and blurbs with a view to understanding what is marketable, including considering the sudden break-out successes of novels such as the Twilight Series. Class exercises eliciting the strengths, conflicts and commonalities of the books we had read and moving on to create a class idea for a novel.

3. Building Characters.

Examination of the defining characteristics of protagonists in YA as opposed to adult fiction. In depth exercises on creating characters, supplemented with handout checklist for character creation. Discussion on character development and growth during story and exercise to help students develop their own central character.

4. Building Blocks of Story Structure.

Exploration of how to devise a story, including choosing point of view and moving on to synopsis creation. Class exercise on taking novel idea from week two and turning this into a synopsis. Preparing students to work on synopsis of own novel.

5. Testing Boundaries.

YA fiction is particularly open to experimental writing. We will look at alternative ways of telling a story including time-slip, unreliable narrators and multiple endings. Students will continue to work on their own synopsis, sharing and discussing ideas.

6. Is Anything Taboo – Being the Gatekeeper.

Considering ethical responsibilities of being an adult writer introducing stories and concepts to young adults. Are we as gate keepers of morality in YA fiction. Exploring how to cover difficult story concepts in class exercises.

7. Do You Have to Make Your Writing Hip?

Considering style and longevity of work in YA. Looking at setting tone and pace. Intensive work on first sentences and paragraphs.

8. Credible Endings.

The importance of hope in YA fiction. Review of story structure. Skills and strategies to continue working on a project, in particular finishing the synopsis and/or first chapter. Class exercises on breaking ‘writers’ block’.

9. Troubleshooting – Presentation of Students’ Work (Part 1).

Looking at issues students have found in the creation of their work, one to one tutor time and presentation of opening pages/first chapter from student

10. Troubleshooting – Presentation of Students’ Work (Part 2).

As per the previous week, plus session on how students can take their work forward, including information on contacting agents and publishers of YA fiction.

Teaching method(s)

Teaching will consist of short lectures, in class exercises and discussions. Students will be encouraged to write between classes to gain the best experience.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Understand the difference between Children’s and Young Adults’ fiction;

  • Have an awareness of issues most likely to appeal to young adults;

  • Appreciate the responsibilities of writing for young people;

  • Take forward their idea for Young Adult fiction for development.


Core Readings


  • Collin, S., 2009. The Hunger Games London:Scholastic Fiction

  • Dunford, C., 2014. The Map Maker’s Daughter (ebook). :Bloomsbury Spark

  • McKenzie, S., 2008. Blood Ties. London: Simon and Schuster: Children’s Books

  • Strachan, L,. 2012. Dead Boy Talking. East Kilbride: Strident Publishing

  • Terry, T.,  2012. Slated. London: Orchard Books

  • Wein, E.,  2012. Codename Verity. Surrey: Electric Monkey Publishing

Class Handouts

Weekly handouts on class topics


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.