The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction

How to write a historical novel from from beginning research to crafting the story to dealing with logistical intricacies like plagiarism and public domain.
Author:
Publish date:


The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction
by James Alexander Thom
Writer's Digest Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-58297-569-6
$16.99, paperback, 272 pages

Image placeholder title

Buy the Book

Buy a Digital Download

Read an excerpt
Author James Alexander Thom explains the value of specific sensory information in works of historical fiction and how to consider and describe sensory information in a way that speaks to readers.

Read an exclusive Q&A with the author

James Alexander Thom discusses how even though it’s historical fiction, readers are counting on you for the truth; the importance of thorough research; and how to write to your readers' senses.

About the book

Once Upon a Time It Was Now.

While a historian stands firmly planted in the present and looks back into the past, a historical novelist has a more immediate task: to set readers in the midst of bygone events and lead them forward, allowing them to live and feel the wonderment, fear, hope, triumph, and pain as if they were there.

In The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction, best-selling author James Alexander Thom (Follow the River, From Sea to Shining Sea, Sign-Talker) gives you the tools you need to research and create stories born from the past that will move and inspire modern readers. His comprehensive approach includes lessons on how to:

• Find and use historical archives and conduct physical field research
• Re-construct the world of your novel, including people and voices, physical environments, and cultural context
• Achieve verisimilitude in speech, action, setting, and description
• Seamlessly weave historical fact with your own compelling plot ideas

With wit and candor, Thom’s detailed instruction, illuminating personal experience, and invaluable insights culled from discussions with other trusted historical writers will guide you to craft a novel that is true to what was then, when then was now.

About the Author
James Alexander Thom was formerly a U.S. Marine, a newspaper and magazine editor, and a member of the faculty at the Indiana University Journalism School. He is the author of Follow the River, Long Knife, From Sea to Shining Sea, Panther in the Sky (for which he won the prestigious Western Writers of America Spur Award for best historical novel), Sign-Talker, The Children of First Man, and The Red Heart. He lives in the Indiana hill country near Bloomington with his wife, Dark Rain of the Shawnee Nation, United Remnant Band. Dark Rain is a director of the National Lewis and Clark Bicentennial Planning Council. The author’s Website is: www.jamesalexanderthom.com.


Praise for
The Art & Craft of Writing Historical Fiction

"Beyond a primer and in fact a statement of life and philosophy, not just readable but quite entertaining... something beyond success at a particular genre ..."


-
Richard E.Cady, author of THE EXECUTIONER'S MASK


"... the best textbook I'd ever read. It was informative, entertaining, and loaded with lots of gems...This isn't solely for would-be historical novelists; it's for all of us."

-Lawrence S. Connor, former managing editor of The Indianapolis STAR and author

Moral Compass

Moral Compass

Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, write about someone with an unfailing moral compass.

Daniel Levin Becker: On the Forgotten Art of Letter Writing

Daniel Levin Becker: On the Forgotten Art of Letter Writing

Author, translator, and editor Daniel Levin Becker discusses his hopes for future letter writing like those featured in the new anthology, Dear McSweeney's: Two Decades of Letters to the Editor from Writers, Readers, and the Occasional Bewildered Consumer.

e.g. vs. i.e. (Grammar Rules)

e.g. vs. i.e. (Grammar Rules)

Let's look at the differences between e.g. and i.e. with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

20 Authors Share Their Biggest Surprise in the Writing Process

20 Authors Share Their Biggest Surprises in the Writing Process

Experienced writers know to expect the unexpected. Here are surprises in the writing process from 20 authors, including Amanda Jayatissa, Paul Neilan, Kristin Hannah, and Robert Jones, Jr.

Ruth Hogan: On Infusing Personal Interests in Fiction

Ruth Hogan: On Infusing Personal Interests in Fiction

Author Ruth Hogan discusses the process of learning a new skill in writing her new novel, The Moon, The Stars and Madame Burova.

Do You Find an Editor or Agent First?

Do You Find an Editor or Agent First?

It's a common question asked by writers looking to get their first book published: Do you find an editor or agent first? The answer depends on each writer's situation.

writer's digest wd presents

WDU Presents: 7 New WDU Courses, a Chance at Publication, and More!

This week, we’re excited to announce seven new WDU courses, a chance at publication, and more!

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

What Is a Professional Editor and Why Should Writers Use One?

Editor is a very broad term in the publishing industry that can mean a variety of things. Tiffany Yates Martin reveals what a professional editor is and why writers should consider using one.

From Script

How to Find the Right Reader for Feedback, Writing Female Characters and Tapping into Emotionally Authentic Characters (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by Script Magazine, read film reviews from Tom Stemple, part three of writing female characters, interviews with Free Guy scribes Zak Penn and Matt Lieberman, The Eyes of Tammy Faye screenwriter Abe Sylvia, and more!