What do you teach in a workshop on historical fiction? – Emma Darwin

The below is an extract from Emma Darwin’s article on Writing Historical Fiction for The History Girls blog

This time last year I was asked to give a workshop on writing historical fiction at Guildford Book Festival, and although as ever I was amazed by how much you can do in two hours with twenty keen writers, as ever I also came away with my head buzzing with all the other things we could have done if we’d had more time. So when the good folk running the York Festival of Writing asked what I’d like to teach for one of their four-hour mini-courses, I said immediately, “Please may I do Historical Fiction?”, and they kindly said, “Yes, of course”. The consequence is that at two o’clock on Friday 7th September, an as-yet-unknown number of aspiring writers will sit down, and I will stand up, and we’ll be off. And with any luck, by the time the bar opens at six… well, I’d love to think that all the writers would skip the bar to go straight back to their rooms and get scribbling, but I know I’ll be badly in need of a drink by then, so I should think they will too.

But now, of course, I’ve got to work out what to do in that four hours. The only qualification for attending a workshop like this is that you want to, so that’s all that I’ll know about them. What exercises, what ideas, what discussion, are most likely to lead each of them to what they need of greater confidence, understanding, excitement and knowledge about writing historical fiction? It’s not just that there will be a wide range of writerly experience in the room (let alone a wide range of talent, which is the elephant in the room on all writing courses). Is that experience/talent in writing historical fiction, or simply fiction, or even just writing? To continue reading

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