The Three R’s of Historical Fiction

Research. Rewrite. Research again. These three “R’s” are things I have learned while figuring out how to write a novel. I am no expert but I love sharing practical application things I’ve learned along the way. But maybe you’ll find these helpful and as you write!

The First

In the world of online gaming, I’m what they call a “noob.” In the world of writing, I am also a “noob.” Whether you’re a “noob” or a well-seasoned author, some level of research is needed no matter what genre you’re writing.

If you know anything about research, you know that you can so easily get down that rabbit hole. One train leads to another leads to a- well, you get the idea. Using all those facts you build your outline – so you can show off your knowledge of the time period. You spend all that time reading up on everything so it deserves to be there.

Right? Not necessarily.

The Second

Okay, so you’ve written that first draft. Added plots, and chose the big historical events to anchor everything together. However, something isn’t quite right with it so you scour your manuscript several times. You even set it aside for a day or two. And when you come back BAM…there it is. As obvious as obvious can be; a giant, glaring hole or crossed wire.

1. Do you leave it as is and explain things through prose later? or
2. Do you rework it into something awesome?

You choose number 2. The good news is, now that you see the error (or, what I did, errors. As in plural), you know what’s necessary to include and what can be implied. Back to the books and drawing board you go!

The Third

This “R” might seem like a cop-out of the first one and in a way it is. Though this time you can make purposeful choices. That whole rabbit hole concept I mentioned earlier can now be honed, tweaked, specified and so on. You can use specifics at the beginning to set the tone for your time period, but you don’t need to include every minute detail to get the point across. Now that you’ve hashed out what works and what doesn’t, your plots and sub plots are a bit more manageable.


The thing of it is, everyone has their own writing style and their own “rules” with what works for them. This process has helped my brain sort out the bombardment of facts I found myself piled under. I knew writing any form of historical fiction was going to be a beast of a project but I willingly took it on. So use your strengths, knowledge and tallyho! Research, rewrite and research again.

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