Writing historical fiction

Course Dates: 19/03/23
Time: 10:30 - 17:30
Location: Online
Tutors: 
Dig into the past to craft historical fiction that speaks vividly to contemporary readers. From Hilary Mantel to C.J. Sansom, learn techniques writers use to turn historical record into compelling fiction.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £69.00 Senior fee £69.00 Concession £35.00

Course Code: HW606

Sun, day, 19 Mar - 19 Mar '23

Duration: 1 session

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

Lines open Monday-Friday 12:00-18:00

Any questions? writing@citylit.ac.uk
or call 020 7492 2717

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

Historical fiction is writing that remakes the past, pulling from anecdote and archive details that ignite the imagination of writer and reader alike. On this course you'll learn how to begin work on a writing project that demands sensitivity to a particular time period, how to start the research journey and when to stop. You'll discuss how to fictionalise historical detail, and work on developing the elements of craft such as character and plotting within the context of a period piece through guided exercises. This course will also incorporate an element of workshop that will enable you to gain valuable constructive feedback on your work in progress.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

- How to begin a short or long-form historical fiction project.
- The research journey.
- Turning the historical record into fiction.
- Key craft elements such as character, plot, and especially setting within the context of historical fiction.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Brainstorm creative ideas productively.
- Turn historical fact into compelling fiction.
- Give and receive constructive critical feedback with confidence.
- Analyse excerpts of historical fiction for craft.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

This course is suitable for those with some creative writing experience. You will need to be prepared to participate in class and to share your written work.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

- Tutor-led presentations.
- Class discussion.
- Group activities.
- Individual writing exercises.
- Workshop.

You will be given optional homework set by your tutor.


All writing courses at City Lit will involve an element of workshop. This means that students will produce work which will be discussed in an open and constructive environment with the tutor and other students. The college operates a policy of constructive criticism, and all feedback on another student’s work by the tutor and other students should be delivered in that spirit.

For classes longer than one day regular reading and writing exercises will be set for completion at home to set deadlines.

City Lit Writing endeavours to create a safe and welcoming space for all and we strongly support the use of content notes in our classes. This means that learners are encouraged to make their tutor and classmates aware in advance if any writing they wish to share contains material that may be deemed sensitive. If you are unsure about what might constitute sensitive content, please ask your tutor for further clarification and read our expectations for participating in writing courses at City Lit.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

There are no additional costs associated with this course. You will need to bring writing materials, and a laptop if you need one.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

You can continue developing your writing project in one of our short story or novel writing courses, or if you're ready for the challenge you can apply to enrol on one of our Advanced critical workshops in fiction or multigenre. You might also wish to focus on honing a specific element of craft such as character or point of view in one of our craft focus courses. Check out our prospectus for current offerings.
All students are invited to join us at Late Lines, our regular performance night for City Lit writers. Students are also encouraged to submit their work to Between the Lines, our annual anthology of creative writing. For the latest news, courses and events, stay in touch with the Department on Facebook and Twitter.

Jonathan Barnes

Jonathan Barnes is the author of five novels, most recently Dracula's Child and The City of Dr Moreau. He writes regularly for The Critic, the Times Literary Supplement and the Literary Review. He has written extensively in the audio medium, especially in the areas of licensed fiction - Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sherlock Holmes and others.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.