Start Writing Historical Fiction
12-week online writing course returns later in 2022.
To join the autumn waiting list, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Historical fiction is one of the most popular literary forms and one of the most varied. A historical novel can be a war-story, a romance, a whodunit, a tense socio-political drama, a quest or a pursuit. It can be a tightly focussed personal confession. It can be a wide-angled portrait of an era, with scores of characters (think of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall). It can bring the past to life in vivid detail. It can be a medium through which we view our own society with extra clarity.
If you are setting out to write historical fiction you will want the tools any novelist needs. This online creative writing course will help you with the essentials of how to write historical fiction – narrative structure, characterisation, setting, timing, point of view and voice.
At every point it will also ask you to consider the special challenges and opportunities historical fiction presents. You will be thinking about period-appropriate language, about the beliefs and values of people of the past, about the natural world and how humans’ relations with it have changed.
You will be reading extracts from a wide range of historical fiction and learning from authors’ techniques. You will be doing writing exercises designed to stimulate your imagination and sharpen your awareness of how writers achieve their effects. You will be submitting your own historical fiction for sympathetic and detailed feedback from the course tutor.
What the course covers
- When? Where? Who? – Choosing your story
- Finding a voice – the narrator, the language, the tone
- People, Places and Things – situating your story in its context
- Mentality – thinking your way into the past
- War and Peace – life-and-death drama and domestic intimacy
- Another Country? – the connections between then and now
By the end of this course you will have
- Been introduced to a wide range of historical fiction from which you will take inspiration for your own writing
- Written five substantial pieces of historical fiction and learnt from feedback on them
- Acquired the know-how and confidence to think more critically about your own writing, and that of others
Designed by the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at University of East Anglia and the National Centre for Writing.
This course is intended for writers aged 18+. If you’re looking for courses suitable for younger writers, check out these online workshops!
Try a writing exercise
Award-winning novelist and short story writer Sarah Bower shares a short practical exercise for budding historical fiction writers. Give it a try, then carry on your historical fiction journey with Sarah on her online course. Try Sarah’s writing exercise →
About the tutors
There are two tutors available for this course. There is the opportunity to select your preference during checkout.
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
How it works
All you need is a computer and an internet connection. You can find out more about the requirements here.
‘The course is divided into six modules. In each module you will be considering an essential aspect of the craft of writing historical fiction. You will be reading and commenting on extracts from historical novels – some of them acknowledged classics, others new, all chosen to inspire you in your own writing. There will be exercises designed to help you develop a variety of literary techniques. The assignments develop from the writing exercises and build cumulatively to help you develop a finished project.
The modules are posted fortnightly. Every two weeks you will submit an assignment to your tutor, who will then respond with constructive feedback and advice.
There are two live Zoom sessions during this course — dates to be announced.
Designed by the University of East Anglia and the National Centre for Writing.