Are you a history buff with a great imagination and a knack for writing? If so, why not combine these skills and author a book in the most popular historical fiction genre? This handy guide introduces the basic aspects of historical fiction and explains the benefits of using creative license and the importance of doing your research. To learn how to write historical fiction, read on!

Writing Historical Fiction: Tips & Tricks

The fun of writing historical fiction is that you can take a well-known period in history or a historical event and then fabricate a whole new narrative around it. By inserting new characters and events, while staying true to the historical details and essence of the period, this genre provides rich ground for creativity to flourish. Here are some tips to get historical fiction writers started:

The Importance of Research

When learning how to write a historical fiction book, be sure to allot enough time to conduct a thorough research of the time period in which your story takes place. Study the social customs, dress, speech and mannerisms, geography, architecture, religion, traditions, real events, and politics of the era. Doing the research prior to starting your book project helps you paint an accurate picture of the period while also avoiding embarrassing gaffes and inaccuracies, or possibly offending your readers. 

Benefits of Creative License

Enter the concept of creative license, a literary device that makes writing historical fiction possible. Creative license in historical fiction writing refers to the author’s ability to deviate from factual accuracy and take creative liberties with historical events, characters, and settings.

How, though, does creative license align with the need for exhaustive research prior to the writing process? Doesn’t one negate the other? Actually, research plus creative license is what allows historical novelists to start off with a solid understanding of the time period or historical events, and then paint their own unique story without falsifying well-known events. With the use of artistic expression, you are able to beef up the actual events, adding extra drama and excitement, while remaining true to that period in history.

How to Write Facts into Fiction (& Vice Versa)

There are a few different approaches you can take to create your historical fiction storyline and make it appealing to modern readers. You can add your own fictional historical characters to an actual event in history, such as during wartime or a natural disaster, or you can use a true story as the inspiration for creating your own original take on that story. Another popular approach is to use a multi-time period format, with flashbacks to incorporate the historical period into the story arc.

Keep these tips in mind when blending fact and fiction:

  • Avoid changing important facts, for example, the dates of the Civil War.
  • Research the era or event’s historical records carefully and thoroughly prior to writing, and always aim for accuracy.
  • Attempt to seamlessly integrate facts into the fictional storyline or fictional elements into the historical facts.
  • Use dialogue to add color and depth to your fictional characters, while remaining true to the speech and vocabulary of the period.
  • Use worldbuilding to vividly bring the era to life and capture the reader’s interest and imagination. Incorporate into your world the details gleaned from your research.
  • Use fiction as a tool that allows you to take readers on a deeper dive into the factual events and era.

Historical Fiction’s Popularity

Historical fiction is among the most popular genres for a reason. It transports the reader into the past, immersing them in a different time period. Of course, historical fiction stories appeal to history buffs, but they also attract those with a desire to learn more about historical events.

A couple of the most successful historical fiction authors include James Michener, who specialized in writing fictional family sagas like The Source and Hawaii within a historical time period, and James Clavell, who wrote Shōgun and the subsequent Asian Saga series about 17th-century Japan.

Popular authors in this genre today include:

Ken Follett, British author of Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, and World Without End

Paula McClain, American author of Love and Ruin, The Paris Wife, and Circling the Sun

Toni Morrison, American author of Beloved, Jazz, and The Bluest Eye

Colm Toíbín, Irish author of Brooklyn and the Testament of Mary

Sarah Waters, Welsh author of Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet

The Ease of Self-Publishing Historical Fiction

If you believe you have a penchant for writing historical fiction, consider your publishing options. Self-publishing is an excellent avenue for both fledgling and established authors, as it provides significant earning potential, as well as the ability to retain complete control over your literary content.

If self-publishing your historical novel, you should consider partnering with a professional editor. After the manuscript is written and polished, the next steps are formatting the book and designing a cover. To create a high-quality book that will stand up to the competition on bookselling platforms, these steps should also be handled by experts in the self-publishing realm. Once your book is publication-ready, you simply upload the files to KDP on Amazon, B&N Press, or other online booksellers following the steps provided.

Partner with Gatekeeper Press for Self-Publishing

The professionals at Gatekeeper Press are dedicated to offering the highest quality editing and design services, guiding authors toward reaching self-publishing success. Reach out to us online today to assist you with your historical fiction novel.