Online | Fiction | Novel | Workshop

2-Week Online Fiction Workshop: Developing the First Act of Your Young Adult Novel

This workshop is best suited for writers of young adult fiction (aimed at an audience 13 and up) who have completed the first thirty pages of their novel. The first act of your novel is maybe its most important: It’s where your readers decide if they want to buy into your characters and your world. And young adult fiction has its own particular demands. From the beginning, your novel should be intelligently plotted and paced and feature complex, compelling characters.

In this two-day workshop, we'll discuss what features and strategies you can use to create a strong foundation for your novel, whether it be ‘genre’ or ‘contemporary’ (literary) YA. Topics to discuss include: What's the best way to invite readers into your world while also hinting at its complexities? What are good strategies for introducing your characters and their wants and needs? How do you plant the thematic seeds that will grow into a strong story?

In our first session, we’ll also discuss the openings of young adult novels by Maggie Stiefvater, Justin Reynolds, and Leigh Bardugo. You’ll be given a number of take-home prompts to help you rethink, revise, and build on your first thirty pages.

In our second session, we’ll workshop the first ten double-spaced pages of your novel together. Students will receive verbal feedback from their classmates and from the instructor.

Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.


- 10 double-spaced pages of workshopped material

- Exercises to help you revise, rethink, and build on your beginning

- Real-life writing advice on narrative structure and development

- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes


Students will be asked to read the opening chapter of three YA novels before our first class.

Students will be asked to read and comment on the first ten double-spaced pages of their classmates' manuscripts before our second class.


Week 1: What needs to happen in the first thirty pages? We'll look at published examples, talk about character, world-building, pacing, and voice, and discuss a few of the most popular strategies for building your book's narrative. We'll end with some take-home prompts that will help you revise and build on your first thirty pages.

Week 2: Workshopping student manuscripts and a brief Q&A.

Brittany Cavallaro

Brittany Cavallaro is the New York Times bestselling author of the Charlotte Holmes novels, including A Study in Charlotte. Her most recent novel, Muse,  is out from HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books in February 2020. Her work has been translated into eleven languages. She lives in Michigan, where she teaches creative writing at the Interlochen Arts Academy.


"Cavallaro's crackling dialogue, well-drawn characters, and complicated relationships make this feel like a seamless and sharp renewal of Doyle's series."

Kirkus starred review of A STUDY IN CHARLOTTE)

“Beautiful prose, thrilling action, a touch of romance, and two complicated heroes to root for make this a not-to-be-missed sequel. Readers will be craving the final book in the trilogy.”

Booklist starred review of THE LAST OF AUGUST

“This teenage Thelma and Louise, laced with the feral charge of a Gillian Flynn novel, centers on unlikely duo Winona Olsen and Lucille Pryce, who’ve forged their friendship in fire. Leaving town in a stolen convertible to escape the abusive circumstances of their lives, they sputter their way across the country, their sisterhood only growing. Cavallaro and Henry tap into an electric current of female rage, cataloging this tale of loyalty and friendship with startling ferocity.”

Entertainment Weekly review of HELLO GIRLS

"Brittany Cavallaro is a life-changing teacher and mentor. She's brilliant and compassionate, and she understands the writing process like nobody else."

former student

"Brittany Cavallaro knows how to identify your novel's strengths, but also how to find its weak points. And then she helps you fix them! She's so good at asking questions that help you flesh out what you want to do. Working with her was invaluable."

former student