Become the historical fiction writer you want to be!
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Build on your existing skills
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Access our courses from anywhere in the world.
Join Lucy Hughes-Hallett, award-winning cultural historian and novelist, for an 18-week in-depth online creative writing course. This intermediate 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 take place in a series of live zoom sessions and a 1-2-1 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.
Classes are capped at 15 places to ensure a high-quality experience.
What the course covers
Module 1 – 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 2 – 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 3 – 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 4 – 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 5 – 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 royality in historical fiction, and examples of fiction which write about the recent past.
Module 6 – 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.
By the end of the course you will have
Mastered the foundations of historical fiction
Decided where you want to draw the line between truth and fiction
Explored some of the most popular topics in historical fiction
Discussed the ethics of historical fiction
Written up to 9,000 words of a historical fiction novel.
Writing Historical Fiction: Next Steps course = £945
How to apply
This is an intermediate-level course. To apply, we ask that you submit:
1. A 500-word sample of your work
2. A one-paragraph introduction to yourself.
Email email@example.com 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 Midday GMT Wednesday 7th September.
Committing to an 18-week course is a big decision for any writer. If you have any questions at all please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Designed in partnership with the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at UEA
Format: How the course works
Our Next Steps Creative Writing Online courses take place entirely over the internet. All you need is a computer and an internet connection.
The majority of the course is delivered in text form, making it easy to progress through the course chapter-by-chapter.
Your knowledge will be developed through writing exercises and the analysis of samples of writing.
The course is divided into fortnightly modules, each of which introduces an aspect of the craft of writing.
Every two weeks you will submit an assignment to your tutor, who will then respond with constructive feedback and advice. Outside of those assignment deadlines you can progress through the lessons and exercises at your own pace.
You will have 1-2-1 feedback from your tutor and fellow students.
Forum-based student discussions are included throughout the course, providing an opportunity for students to interact with each other and the course tutor. To get the most out of the course, we recommend taking part in as many discussions as possible.
If you have any questions, you can get in touch by emailing Vicki at email@example.com.
This course runs for 18 weeks and is split into several modules, which each last two weeks. Modules consist of multiple chapters and your progress is tracked throughout, making it easy to pick up where you left off.
Although a module is open for two weeks, you are not expected to dedicate that entire time to the course! Our online courses are designed to fit around a busy lifestyle and each chapter is conveniently bite-sized so that you can always be making progress. On average we expect most students to spend between 3-5 hours per week on a course (this time will be a mixture of reading, community discussions, exercises and assignments). This will vary from student to student and some modules may be more intensive than others.
Each module includes smaller exercises and a main assignment. How much time you spend on these is flexible and will depend on your own writing style and process.
September 2022 term schedule
Module 1: Monday 19th September – Sunday 9th October
Zoom session: Tuesday 20th September, 7-8pm
Module 2: Monday 10th October – Sunday 30th October
Module 3: Monday 31st October – Sunday 20th November
Zoom session: Monday 21st November, 7-8pm
1-1 Tutorials: bookable slots w/c Monday 21st November
Module 4: Monday 21st November – Sunday 11th December
Module 5: Monday 12th December – Sunday 15th January (includes 2-week break over Christmas)
Module 6: Monday 16th January – Sunday 5th February
1-1 Tutorials: bookable slots w/c Monday 13th February
Equipment and software: What you need
You will need access to a computer and you will need access to the internet.
You can view the study materials on a mobile device but we recommend using a desktop or laptop computer for working on assignments and taking part in community discussions.
Important: Your web browser must be up-to-date to access the courses. We recommend using Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox.
We use two platforms to deliver our tutored online courses:
This online course platform hosts our study materials and community interactions. You will be provided with a login for a Teachable account at the beginning of your course.
We use zoom to host any live tutored elements of the course. Please see the course-specific pages for full details
What people think of our courses
“I’ve taken away a much greater confidence in my creative work, an ability to be much more flexible but also decisive with my writing ideas and have learned many new writing techniques and ways of working.”
“I have learned a huge amount on this course. I feel I have leaped ahead in my knowledge of writing and what I am capable of writing at the moment.”
“My output has improved a thousand-fold in both content and quality.”
“The course had a therapeutic effect. I gained a sense of freedom from getting lost in the characterisations and dramas of my stories.”
“The course exceeded my expectations in every aspect with how well-structured it was, the exercises and the feedback. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
Motivation and focus
Motivation and focus
“Having someone read and feedback on my writing gave me focus and motivation.”
Who is this course for?
This course is ideal for people who have done some training or beginners courses who want to:
Take your writing to the next level
Build your confidence
Develop your writing routine
Receive tutor feedback on your writing
Discuss your writing with peers
Writing Historical Fiction: Next Steps course = £945
Writing Historical Fiction: Next Steps not the right course for you? Browse our other courses
Core areas of expertise: I read English at London University, then entered the Vogue Talent Contest, won a prize and got a job on the magazine. I was at Vogue, writing features, for five years and won the Catherine Pakenham Award for Young Female Journalists for a profile of Roald Dahl.
In my thirties I became the television critic of the Evening Standard. My daily deadline was 8 am, which meant I had the rest of the day free to work on my first book, Cleopatra. My twin daughters were born two weeks before it was published, which partly explains why it took me a while to finish my second book.
Throughout my working life I have written book reviews. I currently review for The Guardian, the New Statesman and the TLS. I have also written introductions to new editions of classic novels – Jane Eyre, Villette, Dombey and Son and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials for Everyman Books; the Mayor of Casterbridge for Vintage. I have judged a dozen literary prizes. In 2021 I was Chair of the Judges of the International Booker Prize. Over the years I have spoken at numerous literary festivals, in this country and in India, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.
In 2018 I curated Metamorphoses, a festival in Greenwich bringing together architects, artists and writers who take their inspiration from the classical past.
As well as teaching courses for NCW, I teach a creative writing course to American undergraduates at the London Centre of Arcadia University (Philadelphia). I have taught courses in Life-Writing and Fiction for the Arvon Foundation. I am an accredited lecturer with the Arts Society, lecturing to branches around the country on topics arising from my books. I am a Fellow of the Royal Literary Society and Associate Fellow of the Historical Association.
Notable works: I am the author of five books – two works of fiction and three of non-fiction.
My book The Pike, a biography of Gabriel d’Annunzio, won all three of the UK’s most prestigious awards for non-fiction – the Duff Cooper Prize, the Samuel Johnson Prize (now renamed the Baillie Gifford Prize) and the Costa Biography Award. It was chosen in The Observer as ‘the biography of the year’ and in The Sunday Times as “the biography of the decade”.
My other non-fiction books are Cleopatra (winner of the Emily Toth Award and the Fawcett Prize) and Heroes. I am currently writing a book on George Villiers, the 17th century Duke of Buckingham, known as ‘the handsomest man in Europe’. He was the adored favourite and first minister of King James I, who addressed him as ‘my sweet child and wife’. Cleopatra was published by Bloomsbury. The rest of my books have been published by Fourth Estate.
My historical novel Peculiar Ground was set in a big house in Oxfordshire, partly in the 1660s, partly during the Cold War. The Guardian’s reviewer described it as “Tolstoyan in its sly wit and descriptive brilliance”. Roddy Doyle wrote “It gripped me from start to end. I abandoned work and family to finish it.”
My short stories, collected in Fabulous, are versions of stories from the bible, or from Graeco-Roman myth, relocated to modern Britain. St Joseph is a window cleaner. Actaeon is an estate agent. King Minos is a people trafficker.
Teaching creative writing gets me thinking about the techniques I use in my own work. It’s a useful exercise for me to define what I am doing, and to find ways of passing on what I’ve learned from many years experience of historical writing, both fictional and non-fiction.
What’s great about the courses you run?This is a course for anyone who enjoys entering the past imaginatively and wants to develop the skills and confidence to write about it in fiction.
The core of the course is your writing. You will be doing plenty of writing exercises, and at the end of each module, you will submit a substantial piece of original writing. My appraisal and feedback is central to your learning process. I will be suggesting detailed revisions and improvements, as well as advising you on the overall direction of your work.
For me the most exciting part of the teaching process is observing how writers acquire the craft and seeing their writing become more fluent and powerful as the weeks pass.
We learn to write by reading. These courses contain a large number of brief readings, most of them extracts from brilliant works of historical fiction, with my commentary, and questions guiding you to think about how the authors get their effects.
You can learn from those authors’ strategies. You will also, if you decide to read the whole book, be giving yourself many, many hours of pleasure.
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