This online course is ideal for: Writers of historical fiction who want their stories to be captivating, authentic and accurate.
Develop techniques in creating characters who are believable and historically authentic
Learn how to build a past world for your reader
Discover how to best use your research in your story without slowing down your narrative
Write compelling and believable dialogue that’s true to the era of your story
Receive guidance on research methods and sources, both Australian and international.
Historical fiction is a popular, long-established genre that is growing in prominence. But writing a novel that’s set in the past brings specific challenges – and that’s where this course can help.
The biggest challenges in writing history typically encompass two main areas:
You can’t do one without the other. And remember that research alone won’t help you keep your readers engaged and entertained!
Throughout this course you will immerse yourself in the historical fiction genre and its conventions – as we guide you through the main pitfalls and provide you with the tools to write brilliantly enjoyable fiction. You’ll discover how to plan, complete and use your research effectively and creatively.
“It's practical, easy to follow and you never know what little gems you may find to help you along your writing journey.”
While the eras portrayed in historical fiction vary enormously (from pre-history to the 1960s), authors in this genre face the same challenges: how to bring the past alive on the pages while crafting a compelling, entertaining story. So many factors can get between the reader and the story, turning a great historical story into a boring stodge of a book. This course guides you through the twin minefields of research and historical storytelling, so that you can create a lively, engaging novel that readers will love.
It’s ideal if your novel is set in the past and you want to ensure your setting is authentic and accurate. Many authors don’t know where to start so you’ll learn a systematic approach to research that will enhance your story. It’s ideal if you don’t have much experience in formal research processes.
“The research resources modules far exceeded my expectations. I thought I was pretty good at doing research, but this was awesome and I was able to resolve some of my research dilemmas as a result.'”
This course is created by Pamela Freeman, an award-winning author of more than 50 books, and Director of Creative Writing at the Australian Writers' Centre. Writing as Pamela Hart, she is well-known for her historical fiction. Her latest novel is The Charleston Scandal, which tells the story of young Australian actress Kit Scott as she gets caught up in a Royal scandal on the stages of London's west end. Pamela's other books include the WWI novels The Desert Nurse (2018), set in Cairo and the Sinai, and A Letter from Italy (2017). The War Bride (2016), a historical novel set shortly after World War I, is the sequel to The Soldier’s Wife (2015) – all published by Hachette Australia.
This is one of AWC’s 35+ “self-paced” online courses. But what does that mean? Allow us to explain:
Q: I'm a complete beginner. Will this course suit me?
A: We recommend that absolute beginners start with Creative Writing Stage 1. It covers the core skills and knowledge you need to become a great writer. This Historical Fiction course will help you develop the specific skills you need to write historical fiction, but it doesn’t cover basic narrative skills like point of view or story structure.
Q: I don’t know which historical period or character I want to write about. Will this course still be helpful?
A: Absolutely! In fact, it will give you a jumpstart in researching and planning your story once you choose it.
Q: I've already written my manuscript. Will I have to rewrite it after doing this course?
A: Probably – but that’s not a bad thing! Remember, most books go through several drafts before they are ready to be submitted to a publisher or agent. In fact, publishers often tell us that the most common problem they have with manuscripts is that they’re not ‘cooked’ enough – i.e., they haven’t gone through structural edits to improve them. So short answer, YES – but by doing so, you’ll almost certainly increase your chances of being published!
Q: Will this course help me to structure my novel?
If you're new to writing, please start with Creative Writing Stage 1.
If you're already writing your novel, please do Fiction Essentials: Structure.
This course does NOT go into detail about structure. The focus is on how to use research, facts and historical events to make your story come alive.
Q. Will this course show me how to research?
A: It will help you find the appropriate sources, organise your information and decide which part of your research should go into your story. More importantly, it will help you integrate research into your story without destroying reader interest or narrative tension. We give you step-by-step video walkthroughs on how to access and explore essential research resources which will help your story come alive.
Q. I’m writing a family history. Will this course be useful to me?
Unless you’re relying entirely on oral histories for your family history – yes, it will! Family historians face many of the same problems that historical novelists do, especially in terms of portraying the broader cultural environment and historical context of your family’s experiences. This course will guide you in choosing the details to include in your history and in how to make the past come alive for your readers, whomever they are.
Q. I’m writing about real historical people, and I’m worried about defamation. Will this course cover that?
Yes, it will, in general terms. However, if you’re writing about people who are still alive, or their families, you may need to seek legal advice. But there are ways around problems with defamation, which will be discussed in the course.
Q. I’m not sure if I’m writing a historical novel or not. It’s set in the 1970s/1980s/1960s….
The current definition of an historical novel by academics is a novel set before the author’s birth – so whether your novel is historical depends on how old you are!
But, in publishing, historical novels are basically anything before 1970 (although, as the past retreats, that is changing…). Another way of looking at it is: will your readers remember that period? If you’re writing a YA novel about the 1980s, you are, in a very real way, writing an historical novel, because you’ll have to recreate a world your readers have never seen and know very little about. So the question is: do you have to build and explain that world for your readers? If you do, you’re writing historical fiction.