Tips for Writing Historical Fiction

We’ve been talking writing different genres in this series. Today I wanted to take a look at historical fiction. Now historical fiction can seem really daunting with its attention to detail and accuracy, but it’s a tangible goal to reach, just like any other genre. Let’s look at some tips for writing historical fiction.

  • Read in your genre. I know I say this every time, but it’s because it works. You’ll get the idea of how to write in an authentic, accurate voice and how to weave in facts seamlessly without an info dump. It will help you determine what works and what doesn’t work for historical fiction. Make sure to read books in the time period you want to write in as well.
  • Write about universal themes. This will help your modern day audience to relate to the past in a significant way. Finding yourself, finding love, and making friends are all things we can still understand, no matter the time period. Connect to your audience with theme.
  • Facts can bog down your story. Yes, you should do research and yes, you want to be accurate in your details, but not at the expense of the story. Avoid info dumps at all cost. And weigh which facts are important and which ones are just extraneous. You need to do a ton of research for your story, but not all of that then gets put in. Only the information that carries the story forward.
  • Don’t go down the research rabbit hole. Have a plan for what you need to know and stick to it. Otherwise you’ll be distracted and follow a bunch of tangents, finding yourself up at 3 in the morning after a five hour blackout. Set aside specific time to research each week, separate from writing time, and stick to your plan. If you find you need to research something while you’re writing, type in [rabbit] and keep going. Later, use the control F feature to search for all of your [rabbit]s and do the research when it’s time to.
  • Organize your research. Use apps like Evernote or Scrivener, use binders, use Pinterest. Whatever it takes to keep track of everything you’ve learned so you can access it easily when you need to. This is a bit of work up front, but saves you time in the end.
  • Show, don’t tell. Especially those facts you spent hours researching and are now trying to cram into your story. Now is not the time to info dump. Immerse your readers into the story world and evoke all five senses, not just sight. If you’re finding it’s too awkward to include a detail or fact, don’t try to force it in. You want your story to read naturally. Don’t bore your reader with too many facts.
  • Once you have enough research done to get started, start writing. Don’t use research as an excuse to procrastinate. The point is to write.

So get started! What are your best tips for writing historical fiction? Share below and happy writing!

Julia

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