Bringing the Past to Life: Writing Historical Fiction

with Jessica McCann
Notice: Sorry, but registration is now closed for this workshop.
Workshop Type: 2015, 4-Week, All Levels, Historical Fiction, Online, Spring, Unlisted
Length: 4-Week
Genre: Historical Fiction
Type: Online
Skill Level: This workshop is suitable for writers of all skill levels.
Location: Online
From: Monday, 07 April 2014
To: Sunday, 04 May 2014

Historians write about dead people; historical novelists write to give them new life. This four-week course on historical fiction will explore how the novelist can bring the past to life with engaging characters, compelling stories and historical detail. Topics will include analysis and comparison of historical fiction genres, how to research your time period of choice, how to layer in historical facts with a light touch, drawing the line between fact and fiction, being true to your story, and much more.

Week One

What is historical fiction? Crossover and blended genres. Commercial v. literary. Fine-tuning your idea; drafting a one-paragraph synopsis and novel fact sheet. Discussion and Handout: Examples and excerpts from a variety of historical novels. Historical fiction recommended-reading list. Homework: Draft a one-paragraph synopsis of your novel idea, if you have one (if not, draft a synopsis for a favorite novel); create a fact sheet for your novel. Due in class, Week Four.

Week Two

How to research your time period. Online resources. To travel or not to travel. How field research (even in your own neighborhood) can add authenticity to your writing. Discussion and Handout: Tips for using the five senses to add historical realism to your writing. List of online resources for researching any time period.

Week Three

Drawing the line between fact and fiction. Knowing when to blur the line. Remember that you are writing fiction; the story comes first. Discussion and Handout: Avoiding “history lesson” prose and “information dump.” Tips and ideas for including historical events and every-day-life facts in a way that creates time and place without weighing down your story.

Week Four

Outline v. seat-of-your-pants writing. Why every detail and scene must have a purpose and must contribute to the story. How researching as you write can generate new ideas and spark creativity. The importance of revision and beta readers. Discussion: Share your homework with the group for discussion if you’d like. Include your email address, if you would like the instructor to follow up with private feedback after the workshops conclude. Final Handout: Additional resources, books and websites helpful to historical fiction writers and aspiring novelists.

Notice: Sorry, but registration is now closed for this workshop.

Jessica McCann photoAbout Jessica McCann

Jessica McCann, a professional freelance writer and novelist, lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. Her nonfiction work has been published in Business Week, The Writer and Phoenix magazines, among others. Her debut historical novel, All Different Kinds of Free, was awarded the Freedom in Fiction Prize. She teaches an online historical fiction workshop for ASU’s Piper Writers Studio. Jessica enjoys interacting with fellow readers and writers at her website blog ( and on Twitter (@JMcCannWriter).

Notice: Sorry, but registration is now closed for this workshop.