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How to write historical fiction

Writing historical fiction can be a rewarding but challenging endeavor. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:

Choose Your Time Period:

Consider the time period that sparks your curiosity or holds personal significance. It could be a momentous event like the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, or a specific era such as Ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, or the Roaring Twenties.

Think about the social, political, and cultural aspects of the time period. What events shaped the world during that era? What were the major conflicts, inventions, or societal changes?


Dive into a variety of sources, including books, academic papers, primary documents, and online resources. Visit museums, historical sites, and libraries if possible.

Look beyond the surface to understand the everyday lives of people during that time. Explore aspects such as cuisine, fashion, entertainment, religious beliefs, and social hierarchies.

Take notes on significant historical figures, key events, and societal norms. Pay attention to details that can add authenticity to your story, such as slang, mannerisms, and cultural practices.

Create Your Characters:

Develop characters who feel authentic to the time period while remaining relatable to modern readers. Consider their backgrounds, occupations, aspirations, and personal struggles.

Think about how historical events or societal norms might influence your characters’ actions, beliefs, and relationships. What conflicts or dilemmas might they face in the context of their time?

Give your characters depth by exploring their motivations, flaws, and emotional arcs. Allow them to evolve over the course of the story, shaped by their experiences and interactions with others.

Outline Your Plot:

Sketch out the main events of your story, including both historical milestones and fictional elements. Consider how your characters’ journeys intersect with larger historical events or themes.

Create a timeline to track the progression of your story, ensuring that it remains cohesive and logically structured.

Incorporate elements of conflict, tension, and resolution to keep readers engaged. Think about how historical contexts might create additional obstacles or opportunities for your characters.

Blend Fact with Fiction:

Strike a balance between historical accuracy and creative storytelling. While it’s important to respect the facts, don’t be afraid to use artistic license to fill in gaps or imagine plausible scenarios.

Stay true to the spirit of the time period, even when inventing fictional characters or events. Consider how your additions enhance the overall narrative without detracting from historical authenticity.

Be transparent with readers about where you’ve taken liberties with history. Consider including author’s notes or a bibliography to provide additional context for curious readers.

Set the Scene:

Transport readers to the past by vividly describing the sights, sounds, and sensations of the historical world. Use sensory details to evoke a sense of immersion and bring the setting to life.

Pay attention to the physical environment, including architecture, landscapes, and weather patterns. Consider how these elements shape the mood and atmosphere of your story.

Incorporate historical details seamlessly into your narrative, using them to enrich the reader’s experience without overwhelming them with excessive exposition.

Capture the Language:

Research the language and speech patterns of the time period, taking care to incorporate period-appropriate vocabulary and expressions.

Strike a balance between authenticity and readability, ensuring that your dialogue feels natural and engaging to modern readers while still evoking the flavor of the past.

Avoid anachronisms and overly formal language unless they serve a specific narrative purpose. Aim for a balance between historical accuracy and accessibility in your prose.

Edit and Revise:

Review your manuscript with a critical eye, focusing on areas where historical accuracy, pacing, characterization, or plot development could be improved.

Seek feedback from beta readers, writing groups, or professional editors to gain fresh perspectives on your work.

Take the time to revise and refine your manuscript, honing it into the best possible version before moving forward with publication.

Polish Your Manuscript:

Pay attention to the finer details of writing, including grammar, punctuation, syntax, and style. Strive for clarity and precision in your prose, ensuring that your writing is polished and professional.

Consider hiring a professional editor or proofreader to review your manuscript and provide constructive feedback.

Take pride in your workmanship, presenting your historical fiction novel to the world with confidence and professionalism.

Publish and Promote:

Decide whether you want to pursue traditional publishing or self-publishing, weighing the pros and cons of each approach.

Develop a marketing strategy to promote your book to your target audience, utilizing social media, author events, book signings, and other promotional opportunities.

Engage with readers and reviewers to generate buzz and word-of-mouth recommendations for your book. Cultivate a loyal fan base by connecting with readers who share your passion for historical fiction.

By following these steps, you can craft a compelling and authentic historical fiction novel that transports readers to another time and place, while also providing insight into the human experience across different eras of history.

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Published inWriting tips


  1. Love all the great information that you have here. It is a great guide on how to dive into writing historical fiction.

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