Develop Your Historical Fiction (Intermediate)

Monday 20 May
£ 995.00

Join Lucy Hughes-Hallett, award-winning cultural historian and novelist, for an 18-week in-depth online creative writing course.

Do you want to take your historical fiction writing to the next level?

It’s a great time to be writing historical fiction. From Maggie O’Farrell and Madeline Miller to Colson Whitehead, historical fiction is gathering larger readerships and more critical recognition every day. As a writer, it allows you to blur the boundaries between truth and invention, and examine the present through the lens of the past.

Starting this May, embark on a new writing challenge with our 18-week intermediate creative writing course, led by cultural historian and award-winning novelist Lucy Hughes-Hallett.

This course builds on the expertise acquired at an introductory level and will lead you through the elements of writing a historical fiction novel. In this course you will read deeply from a wide variety of historical fiction texts, you will participate in live Zoom sessions and a one-to-one tutorial, and you will broaden the possibilities of your historical fiction writing.

By the end of the course, you will have up to 9,000 words of a historical fiction novel.

Start date

Monday 20 May 2024





18 weeks (please see course schedule below)




On this course, you will…


  • Look at popular ways of structuring historical fiction – including linked stories, flash-backs, and dual narratives
  • Explore and blend the line between reality and imagination
  • Learn to conduct and use research efficiently, looking at both written and visual sources
  • Play with tone and voice
  • Analyse popular subjects in historical fiction, from politics to folkore
  • Discuss the ethics of writing about a place far from you
  • Skew gender traditions and dig into queer history
  • Write up to 9,000 words of a historical fiction novel.
Online course

How to apply

Apply this course today — places are on a first come first served basis and limited to a maximum of 15 students to ensure a tailored experience. To apply, we ask that you submit:

1. A 500-word sample of your work

2. A one-paragraph introduction to yourself.

Email [email protected] to apply. Please format your email’s subject line: ‘[your name] application for Historical Fiction’. Applications are assessed and places are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. Application deadline is 5pm BST on Monday 13 May.

You can pay for the full course upfront today, or by instalments. For details of our instalment plan, please email [email protected].

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The feedback I received from my course tutor was so valuable — constructive and encouraging.

Morwenna Rogers

Course programme

Module one – Structure and Beginning
In this first module of the course, you’ll be introduced to foundations of writing historical fiction. You’ll start off by looking at planning your historical fiction novel, before moving on to looking at popular ways of structuring historical fiction – including linked stories, flash-backs, and dual narratives. For all your assignments in this course, you can either submit based on a prompt given to you by your tutor, or you can submit a portion of your existing work in progress.

Module two – Fact and Fiction
Historical fiction blends the line between reality and imagination. Some historical stories will stick very closely to real events, whereas others stray off into imagined realities. In this module, you’ll look at incorporating historical figures into your fiction and you’ll explore counterfactual historical fiction. This module will also look at research and how to use it, with a look at both written and visual sources.

Module three – Politics
This module will look at one of the most popular subjects in historical fiction – Politics. You’ll read examples of historical fiction which focus on revolution, the decline and fall of empires, and slavery. You’ll also play with tone, and see how using different tone and voice can provide different perspectives on historical events.

Module four – Once Upon a Time
In this module, you’ll go far back in time to explore stories inspired by fairytale and folklore. You’ll discover the line between historical fiction and fantasy writing and you’ll read stories about knights in an age of chivalry. You’ll also discuss the ethics of writing about a place far from you, with particular reference to the issue of western authors writing about non-western cultures in their historical fiction.

Module five – Herstory: Historical Fiction Written By, For, and About Women
Many works of popular historical fiction centre their traditionally male led story through a female lens – whether by flipping the gender of the main protagonist or writing the history through the eyes of the women who have been forgotten by historians. This module will also look at queer history, the use of royalty in historical fiction, and examples of fiction which write about the recent past.

Module six – Endings
This module loops back to the opening module, as you’ll return to discussion of structure in historical fiction. Knowing how to wind up your story is hard, so this module will look closely at the endings of six great historical novels. You’ll analyse these in detail for inspiration for the ending of your own work of historical fiction.

Live sessions

There will be two live sessions for this course, which will take place over Zoom.

Zoom one: Thursday 23 May, 6-7pm BST

Zoom two: Bookable one-to-ones

Meet the tutor

Lucy Hughes-Hallett is the author of the historical novel Peculiar Ground – described by the Guardian’s reviewer as ‘almost Tolstoyan in its sly wit and descriptive brilliance’. It was shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize and longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.

She is also known for her historical non-fiction. The Pike, her book about Gabriele D’Annunzio, won the Samuel Johnson Prize, the Duff Cooper Prize and the Costa Biography Award. The Sunday Times has called it ‘the biography of the decade’. Her other non-fiction books are the acclaimed cultural histories Heroes and Cleopatra. 

She is currently working on a book about the 17th century Duke of Buckingham, the favourite, chief minister and lover of King James. Website

Why study with National Centre for Writing?

National Centre for Writing has been supporting writers to develop their craft for over 25 years. Our online tutored courses are developed in partnership with University of East Anglia, home to the prestigious School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, which boasts award-winning alumni including Kazuo Ishiguro, Ian McEwan and Anne Enright. Our course tutors are all published writers, many of whom have studied or taught at UEA themselves.


While there are many online courses available to you across the world, ours are unique in offering:

  • One-to-one feedback on up to six assignments, directly from your course tutor
  • A tailored learning experience with 15 students maximum
  • Flexibility to progress through the course anywhere, any time
  • Support and structure to develop a writing routine
  • Skills and knowledge to improve the craft of writing
  • Confidence in your ability as a writer
  • Opportunity to join our NCW Alumni, an international network of like-minded writers and translators.

How does this course work?

We have partnered with digital learning platform Teachable to host our self-paced courses. The platform is accessible across a range of devices, simple to use, and does not require any specialist equipment.

We want to make sure that you get the most out of our tutored online courses and feel confident that you’re choosing the right course. Each course contains a mixture of teaching content, reading to prompt discussion, writing exercises for you to hone your skills, and group and one-to-one feedback.

Click to read more about how they are structured and what equipment you may need.

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Got a question?

If you still have questions, get in touch with the learning team by email [email protected] or phone (+44) 01603 877177 between our working hours of 9am – 5pm BST, Monday to Friday. We’re here to help!

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