Welcome to Writing Tips Oasis and our newest guide on how to write historical romance novels. There is something magical about the past – it is, after all, a place where we could never visit – except in fiction. And romance is the most popular genre in the world. Combining the two can lead to a novel that will mesmerize the readers and transport them into a different time.
However, as far as genres go, historical romance is one of the more difficult ones – not because you need plenty of imagination – but because you need to provide accurate historical information, especially in worldbuilding.
In addition, your characters must be true to their time as well: in their manners, behavior, and voice. In that regard, any historical fiction, not just romance, depends on research and good worldbuilding. We will talk more about those two in the guide, as well as how to create a good story using both characters and worldbuilding.
Table of Contents
- Part 1: Traveling to the Past
- 1. Decide on the historical period
- 2. Research and reading
- 3. Attention to detail
- 4. Worldbuilding
- 5. Culture and customs
- 6. Courtship and dating
- Part 2: The Romance Story
- 1. Creating a romance story
- 2. Creating characters
- 3. Connections and relationships
- 4. Romance clichés
- 5. Hero and heroine clichés
- 6. The romantic plot
- 7. Subplots and how to build them
- Part 3: Writing a Historical Romance Novel
- 1. Benefits of outlining
- 2. Writing process and method
- 3. Language and writing style
- 4. Editing for plot and character
- 5. Editing for worldbuilding inconsistencies
- 6. Polishing the manuscript
Part 1: Traveling to the Past
It’s true that reading a historical romance book should make the reader feel like they’ve traveled back into the past. You need a lot of details, and not just about major events of that period. You need to know the details of everyday life as well.
For that reason, the first step should always be research. Or, even better, reading books set in the time period when you want to place your story. For this reason, the period you choose is very important.
Here, in the first section, we will take a look at all the things you should do before beginning to write your historical romance novel.
1. Decide on the historical period
This needs to be the first step. Everything in your world: from everyday life to the clothes your characters will wear will depend on the historical period you will choose. It would be inadvisable to just sit down and throw all historic details you’re familiar with off the top of your head, and change the historical period that the story takes place in just because your story now requires the use of a telephone, for example.
Once you’ve decided on the period, you will be able to build the world around it, and then you can tell your story within that world. For that reason, the next step is research.
2. Research and reading
Today, it is easy to do research on the internet, and as previously said, research is the most important part of writing a historical romance book, especially for the historical part. It’s very easy to lose yourself doing research, however. Having done good research before you started writing your novel will be very helpful – however, make sure to double-check and triple-check everything for accuracy. When it comes to history, there is a lot of information on the internet, however, in this case, it’s better to turn to official sources: books from that time period, newspapers, periodicals, and anything else, if possible. Depending on the historical period, you should also check out history books about it. When it comes to historical romance, accuracy is imperative. However, once you do your research and have a basis to fall on, you can write multiple books in the same time period without having to repeat the process from the beginning.
When it comes to reading books in the same genre, which in this case is historical romance, the same rule as the internet applies: double check everything against multiple sources. While you might glean a good idea of everyday life in a historical period if you read a book set in that time period, you should still check the information in official historical sources. Authors are not infallible – and neither will you be – and readers are very quick to catch any errors and let you know about it in a review.
3. Attention to detail
All of the objects that you’re using in everyday life were invented at some point in the past. Moreover, there are objects that were widely used in different time periods, but are unused today. You will need to pay a lot of attention to detail, and details, like, how did people kept mouth hygiene, or how did they travel from one place to another. Did they use mules and carts, or did they ride horses and/or other animals?
What kind of objects are your characters using in the novel? Do they have recreational activities? If they do, what are they? Is your protagonist a duke or a count? What’s the difference, and how can you portray it accurately?
Moreover, how did people travel from one place to another over great distances? If your novel is set in the 20th century, you might be able to put your characters on a plane, but what if your novel is set in the 15th century?
Once you’ve done your research and feel like you have a good basis to fall back to, you can begin creating your world. When it comes to worldbuilding, it’s good to have maps, especially official maps from that time period. Where is your novel taking place? And how far is that place from other towns and cities in that time period? How big of an impact will that have in your story?
Keep in mind that you can always – always – create the world first, and then create the story within it later, or, create the story as you are building the world. However, even if you already have the story, you can still create your world around it. The only thing you should do, if possible, is to keep the story open to changes that come directly from the world you’ve built. In the end, it would be a choice between keeping the story intact, or keep the world as authentic as possible to its time period. If you were writing a different genre, for example, fantasy or science fiction, you wouldn’t need to – because you create your own world from scratch, and you can change it in any way you wish. But, in historical romance, you need to be authentic to the time period that your story is set in, and in that case, you should not take too many creative liberties. On the other hand, there is nothing wrong in doing so – but make sure to add a foreword or an afterword explaining that you created a new world based on that historic period, and that you took creative liberties in worldbuilding because it enabled you to tell a great story.
5. Culture and customs
Nothing colors the past better than people’s behavior – both individually and as groups – and in a historical romance, culture and customs dictates how people behave towards one another.
In fact, one of the most common internal conflicts in the heroine of a historical romance is the conflict between what she really wants and what society says that she has to want. And the same applies to male characters and heroes – the conflict between what he wants to do and what society wants him to do can help you build a great story.
In order to paint a time in a colorful way, you need to do a lot of research into the culture of that period, the customs of different groups of people, and how those customs affected their everyday life. However, and this is very important, make sure to refrain from portraying most of the characters as open minded, because in that case, your story might as well take place in the modern world of today. You need to have characters that firmly believe in those customs, characters that are representatives of a different time. Then, the open minded characters who are ahead of their time will have an even bigger impact, because of their rareness, not because everyone in their world shares that opinion.
6. Courtship and dating
Every era has different rules for courtship and dating. Even modern dating has seen a change: dating back in the 90’s was different than it is today. In fact, writing a romance novel set in the 90’s means writing a historical romance. And the 90’s were merely 20 or so years ago.
The rules of courtship and dating stem directly from the culture and customs of an era. When it comes to writing a historical romance, it’s imperative to learn the rules of courtship of a certain period of time, and then build the romance around it. It’s your choice if you will break those rules – or write an unusual story around those rules. For example, a very common romance story of past times where the hero and the heroine got married through an arrangement – and then fall in love afterward. Or, you can tell the story of the couple who broke the rules and eloped.
Love can be found anywhere and at any time – and that’s what romance novels are about, regardless of the time period. You can tell a love story that falls within the rules of courtship and dating, but you can also tell a story that breaks all the rules. The best thing is that both stories can be equally compelling and touch the hearts of many readers.
Part 2: The Romance Story
Just because you created the perfect historic world, where each detail is as real and as accurate as you could have possibly made it, it doesn’t mean that your historical romance novel is complete.
The romantic story – where two people fall in love – is still the cornerstone of your novel, and you need to do it justice. You may have written romance stories set in the modern world, but, in the past, different rules apply. In addition, you must focus on the romantic plot, otherwise you’d be writing historical fiction with a bit of romance thrown in. For that reason, the main plot in a romance story is always love – or the love between two characters, with all the other subplots (if any) falling behind.
A good romance story depends on conflict between two people who are in love. These two people (characters) need to be realistic and compatible. Never have two people fall in love just because they are beautiful. Emotional connection is key. First is the emotional connection between the readers and the characters – for which you need to create characters that are relatable and real. Second comes the emotional connection between the characters themselves – you need to make your readers root for the happy ending of the couple. If you don’t, your readers will not care about the characters or their relationship – and they will not care about the romance.
That’s why the first step is to create the romance story and the characters. We will take a separate look at the story and the characters, before moving forward to clichés, and finally, to building a romantic plot in a certain time period in the past.
1. Creating a romance story
Many aspiring writers think that writing a romance story is the easiest part. When it comes to historical romance, do not fall under the assumption that as long as you have the historical part right, the romance will fall into place. Because it most definitely won’t.
Let’s take a look at two different examples.
A man and woman meet, fall in love, and live happily ever after.
A man and woman meet, fall in love, face numerous internal and external obstacles, make mistakes, maybe even hurt each other (or, think they’ve done something hurtful to one another), and finally, after many events that change both of them, they get to live out their happily ever after.
Of the two, guess which one makes a love story.
The problem with the first example is lack of conflict. Getting to live that kind of a love story in real life is a blessing, however, when it comes to storytelling, you want to tell the extraordinary stories, not the ordinary ones.
Here comes the payoff of knowing the rules of dating and courtship of times past. You will be able to create extraordinary love stories that would not happen to just about anyone – this story happened to these two characters, and it would not happen to any other two characters within the same universe you’ve created.
Romance – or a romance story – can be built around any kind of conflict: misunderstanding, womanizing, cheating, or even caste/class differences. Knowing the rules of courtship of an era will let you find the ordinary love stories, which then you can use to create the extraordinary one. Of course, love can be a story by itself, but there is no payoff at reading a romance novel, regardless of the era in which it is set in, unless there is conflict between the characters that leads to a change in the relationship.
2. Creating characters
In this section, we will focus solely on creating the hero and the heroine of your romance story. Usually, stories only have one protagonist, however, when it comes to romance, having two protagonists – the hero and the heroine – will enable you to tell a much more layered story. However, you do not necessarily have to write from a dual point of view. You can follow one character – the hero or the heroine, while the other can remain a mystery to the reader. But, you must remember to give the other character agency, and write the story with the other character’s agency in mind.
How to create a hero and a heroine that will fall in love?
Well, first, you define their characters – or their characteristics. What makes a character relatable and real?
The first thing that most writers will tell you is flaws. A flawless character is not a sympathetic character that the readers can relate to. However, character is built around many other things that do not fall into the flaws category.
When it comes to historical romance, you cannot just create characters with a modern setting in mind. You need to keep characters true to their era. While real life research into character is a bit of an impossibility when it comes to the past, you can still glean a lot by reading books not only from the genre of historical romance, but also from reading historical romance novels set in the time period that you want to write in. The danger with this activity is falling into character clichés, which we will take a look at later.
On the other hand, all clichés are based on archetypes, and the archetypes are timeless. That’s why the best advice in creating characters is to start with a cliché, and then build layers around it. Layers are built in two steps: first is defining a character, and then comes redefining it by adding contradictory characteristics to the character. In other words, your characters need to have a “but.”
A very good example of this can be easily found in the novel Wuthering Heights, in the character of Catherine. The two men in her life represent the two sides of her nature that are in constant conflict inside of her, and her choices and actions are determined depending on which side of her was dominant at that moment.
In addition, and this is very important, your hero and heroine are supposed to really fall in love with one another. This will not happen unless you create two characters that complement one another. One has something that attracts the other one. It will enable you to create a natural emotional connection between them, which in turn will make their love for one another believable and real.
3. Connections and relationships
So, here is the thing: you can write a novel set in the past, you can have two characters fall in love with each other, and you can still not have a historical romance novel. Why?
Because unless your story is about the romance, you don’t have a romance story. You might have a steampunk novel with romantic elements, for example, or a fantasy novel set in the past where two people fall in love, but it will still be a historical fantasy with a touch of romance.
If your goal is to write a historical romance, then you need to follow the expectations of the genre. And those expectations, most of the time, revolve around the (most often) unlikely romance between two characters, in a different time period where different rules apply.
And this type of story is always about the connections between the people and the relationships between them – be it good relationships or bad ones.
How important is family in that era, and how important is family to your characters? A woman who wants to marry the man she loves, but does not want to disappoint her family who have found her a suitor can be a very compelling character, especially if the relationship she has with her family is just as important to her as the relationship and possible happily ever after with the man she loves.
The duke who wants to follow the customs of his time period, but has fallen in love with one of his fiancée’s handmaidens can be a very compelling character – especially if the time period allows men to have more power into choosing who they will marry. His family might be facing a financial and social ruin if he chooses the handmaiden, however, that is what makes a great love story.
4. Romance clichés
Let’s get the big one out of the way: the love triangle. The love triangle is timeless – it can happen in any era. The Duke who is in love with the serving girl, but is promised for another woman, who is also in love with him is a good example of this, and, it makes the novel all about which one he will choose: the kind serving girl, or the duchess who will enable him to rise socially or financially?
Why it doesn’t work: because the stakes are not high enough, for starters, and for another, why would the readers be invested in a character that only seems to lead on two women at the same time?
And here is the problem: once you fall into one romance cliché, you will need other clichés to keep the story going. To go back to our previous example, the duchess usually ends up as the scorned one (because why should a duchess be a realistic person with realistic feelings), and she turns into an evil woman whose only goal is to harm the relationship between the duke and the serving girl (again, another cliché), and maybe even go as far as to cause real physical harm to the serving girl (or pay someone else to do it). This leads to the serving girl (who would be the heroine in our case), to become the damsel in distress. And if there is a young stable boy who gets to be the hero at the right moment – you see where this is going.
Other clichés include the womanizing man who falls for the naïve woman who has never been with a man before. Often seen is the cliché where the hero gets reformed by the heroine – and he fell in love with her just because she is beautiful, kind, has never been with a man before, and she probably loves animals as well. On the opposite side is the heroine who constantly ignores the hero’s advice and goes off on her own, or does something that, in real life, would be considered awfully stupid, and then gets rescued by the hero.
And that’s the problem with clichés – you should use them to build your story around it, but unless you find a way to subvert it, one cliché will lead to another one, and then you do not have an original story on your hands. For that reason, we will take a look at the most common clichéd characters in historical (and contemporary) romance novels.
5. Hero and heroine clichés
When it comes to the hero and the heroine of a historical romance, and even contemporary romance, the clichés can easily pile up. Here are some of the most common hero and heroine clichés:
– The Womanizing Hero: we’ve mentioned him above, but he is so common that we must mention him here. The hero who has been around the block and slept in many beds. Maybe even he carved his name into each bed frame. He is dashing, tall, dark, and handsome, and he does not care about any of the women whose beds he previously shared. He only seems to care about the…
– Virginal Heroine: she is naïve, she has never been with a man, and she is probably a serving girl or in a lower societal position compared to the hero. In fact, her life changes drastically and completely as soon as the hero is in her life. Of course, at the beginning, she does not want anything to do with the womanizing man, but considering that he is persistent, charming, and has decided to change for her, she slowly breaks his walls, finds his inner issues, and heals them one by one. And then, there is the opposite…
– The “Pluck” Heroine: the woman who has views that would rival the open-mindedness of women in the 21st century (even though she lives in a time when the word ‘century’ has not even been coined yet). She is not afraid of her sexuality, and she considers her own views as the only views a woman should have, and might even scornfully look down upon women who follow the customs and rules of the society and time period they live in. And she may be paired with…
– The Alpha Hole: In a historical setting, he can be anyone from a pirate captain to a duke, a crowned prince, as long as he is in a position of power over other people, including the heroine. He is often combined with the womanizing man, having had lots of experience between the sheets. What makes him Alpha Hole is the way that he treats other people: he is demanding, he is rude, insulting, but all of that is just a mask for his insecurities. He might insult the “Pluck” heroine, and find her views annoying. They will butt heads until he passionately steals a kiss. Our heroine might even fight him at first, until she accepts the kiss. And of course, nothing screams better romance when the heroine is kissed against her will – she just did not realize what she wanted, that’s all. Then proceed with the heroine changing her life – for the better of course, because remember, our Alpha Hole is in no need of money, he seems to have all the money in the world. Our heroine can just kick back and enjoy her new lifestyle.
When it comes to character clichés in historical romance, we must make an honorable mention of the New Couple. This often happens if the author plans or hopes to write a series. The New Couple are two characters that meet in a very cute or dramatic way, and then book number two in the series focuses on them. And while it’s not a bad idea to introduce characters whose stories you wish to explore in the first book, it’s a bad idea for those characters to be two dimensional clichés. Usually, on the heroine’s side, we have the sister (or brother), the best friend whose only job is to ogle to hero, idealize him, and spend most of the time in the first novel egging the heroine on.
On the hero’s side, it might be a younger brother, a second in command (these two are often combined), whose only job is to listen to the alpha’s orders and execute them, while the alpha spends his time courting our heroine. Both of these characters will probably get their own tragic backstory, which, especially in the case of the heroine’s giggly best friend, barely match their characters and appearance in the first book. For that reason, while introducing the new couple is a good idea, if you plan on a second book that focuses on them, make sure that you have developed the characters well enough to be able to portray them in a consistent way throughout the series.
6. The romantic plot
When it comes to romance, most people tend to believe that building the plot would be easy. After all, it’s romance, right?
However, building a romantic plot does not have to be difficult either. From the perspective of the protagonist, the plot is built around three events in the novel. The first event is the inciting incident. In a historical romance novel, the inciting incident is always when the characters meet – or discover the spark between them, in cases where the hero and the heroine have known each other for some time. Then follows plot point one – the moment where the protagonist makes the wrong decision. In a historical romance novel, this event is the moment when the hero and the heroine discover that they cannot be together. For example, it’s the moment when the cute boy in the stables that our servant girl heroine met this morning, had a pleasant conversation with and hoped to get to know better, turns out to be the Lord’s son, a man the servant girl should not even think about in a romantic way. And while at first, this discovery – or decision – might seem like a positive thing for our protagonist, they become more and more unhappy, until they decide to fight the internal and external obstacles that stand in their way. That would be plot point two, the moment when the protagonist makes the right decision, and after that, the resolution of the novel and the story follows.
The romantic plot in a historical romance novel is no different than the romantic plots of contemporary romances. The goal is always the happily ever after of the characters, and there need to always be obstacles in the way. Real life relationships are not perfect, and neither should be the relationship between the hero and the heroine in your novel. If their love is so great and worth fighting for, then you better show the readers that the couple did fight to get their happiness, regardless of the era.
However, you might not want the romance to overwhelm your novel, until all other characters can be erased from the world and the story wouldn’t change. That’s where subplots come in.
7. Subplots and how to build them
Subplots are a useful tool to tell a well-rounded story, where it’s not just the hero and heroine that get a part to play, but the other major characters as well. The danger is that you might make the subplot too strong so that it overwhelms the romance (unless you would not mind writing a historical fiction novel with a dash of romance). In other words, the plot of a subplot should never have greater stakes than the romance between the hero and the heroine. You do not want that unintended contrast. For example, if the heroine’s sister’s has gone missing in Victorian London, and our hero is the detective she has hired to find her – then, even if they do fall in love in the process, you’re still writing a novel where the stakes of the mystery plot (where is the sister? Is she alive?) are greater than the stakes of the romantic plot between the hero and the heroine.
But subplots can come in many different shapes and forms. A sick family member might mean the family will relocate – and the hero and the heroine have a mere week before the family moves and they never see each other again, or almost never, especially if airplanes haven’t been invented yet – and considering that most historical romances go for the Regency period, chances are, there would be no airplanes in your story.
Subplots provide you with the opportunity to engage your other major characters, have the hero and the heroine go on side adventures that may separate them for some time or bring them (maybe even force them) to work and spend time together, and paint a broader picture of your world within the novel. In addition, subplots are a great opportunity for slice of life moments for your characters, and when it comes to historical periods, they are the gems that many readers enjoy, and it helps you bring forward a more realistic, yet magical, image of a certain time period from the past.
Part 3: Writing a Historical Romance Novel
We will make the (non-educated) assumption that by the time you have proceeded to write your novel, you will have prepared everything you might need, from history books to books written in that time period, to cooking books even (very useful for historical accuracy in food that was available in certain time periods).
And if you haven’t, we strongly advise you to do so. Yes, some writers like to write by the seat of the pants, and keep all the information inside their heads, however, there are benefits to preparation, especially when it comes to historical romances – and even historical fiction in general.
The thing is, you might be able to write a historical romance during NaNoWriMo (or, write your novel in a period of one month) only if you’ve written at least about three other books in that time period. The good thing about deep research into a certain time period is the fact that you can use the same research for subsequent novels. However, if this is the first time that you’re delving into the world of the past, our advice is to be prepared.
In this section, we will talk about the benefits of outlining, and how to find your writing method. Your first historical romance might take years to write, especially since you need to recheck and recheck all historical facts on accuracy, and that time might even be longer if you’re writing about real historical people. And then, we will focus on one of the most important things in historical romance – writing and style.
1. Benefits of outlining
Outlining is a process the writer does before writing the novel. The outline can be both a blessing and a curse for the writer. The outline is a blessing because if you get ‘lost’ while writing your novel, the outline can help guide you back on track. However, an outline can also be a curse – because often, you might be ‘lost’ in a good direction, even if it’s different than what you planned, and then the outline becomes a curse, or, a frustration, because you might not be able to get back on track without sacrificing really great parts that might even work better. In that case, the writer must choose which way the story will go, which again might lead to changes and cuts that you might not want to make.
However, there are other benefits to outlining. You can develop the characters in a more organic way, especially if you are writing a detailed outline. You can avoid many hours spent editing your novel for inconsistencies and plot holes, because you will be able to catch the major ones as you write the outline.
Some writers even go as far as planning and determining the number of words in the novel, and then divide it into sections, and they add those sections to the outline, making it even more detailed. Again, this can be a good idea because it will keep you from getting lost, but it can also limit your imagination.
On the opposite side, some writers never want to outline the novel because they don’t want to spoil the ending of it – or, living out the story as they write it. However, a romance novel is not a romance novel without a happy ending, and for that matter, outlining a historical romance novel can be one of the best decisions you’ve made when writing your novel.
2. Writing process and method
Writers are not machines – we are human, after all. However, we all develop our own writing method. Some writers, as we previously mentioned, like to follow an outline when they write. They plan ahead the number of words they will put in a day, and then just go, and some months later, they have the first draft of a manuscript.
Other writers like to write every day, or every time they feel inspired, or they follow an outline but keep changing it as they go along, or just sit and write, trusting the information in their mind and their imagination to keep them going, and their intuition about storytelling, for plot and structure.
However, there are two things you need to remember. First is that, even though you have a method that works for, it doesn’t mean that that method will work for you when you’re writing your historical novel. In fact, you should treat each novel as your first, because with each novel, you learn how to write that specific novel, which means that the same writing method might not work for you. The second thing to remember is that you cannot find your ideal writing method without experimenting. If you used to write by the seat of the pants, you might find that this time, outlining fits you better. Or, if you used to outline and then struggled with following it, why not try the snowflake method – where you change the outline as you write your novel, or just try writing by the seat of your pants?
Remember, the goal is to have a first draft manuscript that you can work on and improve. Not every word in your novel has to be perfect, not every sentence, nor every chapter. The best thing about the digital age is that we lose nothing but time when editing a story or a novel, which was not possible thirty years ago. Considering the requirements of the genre of historical romance, be ready for a very imperfect draft that you will need to work on and pound into great shape.
3. Language and writing style
This might be a little brutal, but the language and writing style can make or break your historical romance novel, and yes, the problem lies with the historical part. And the problem gets even more unsolvable when you factor in the fact that some readers enjoy the slang of the past, and want the novel to be written in a style that resembles real books written in that time period, even if that time period is the 1700s, and contemporary readers would barely understand the words if the novel was written in the true style of that era. Then, there are readers who enjoy the slang of the past, and want a balance between the old way of speaking and talking and telling stories, and modern contemporary prose. And some readers enjoy books set in the past but written in modern language.
So, how to solve the problem?
Balance is always key. A well written novel that balances the language of the past and modern language will charm more readers than a novel that would be incomprehensible to the casual historical romance reader. However, your ideal audience might be exactly those readers that want books to feel more historical than contemporary, in which case you should go ahead and use all the thee’s and thou’s you want.
What’s truly important is to keep this in mind: you can write your novel in any way you want, and then edit it for language and style. You can turn modern prose into lyrically historic prose during the editing process. This will save you time when writing your novel, or your first draft, especially if your novel needs a style that you’re not to using every day.
4. Editing for plot and character
All novels, regardless of genre, need a round of editing dedicated to plot and character. After you’ve written your novel, the best thing to do is to take some time away from it, clear your mind and then go back to it with fresh eyes.
Editing for plot and character means going through the novel, chapter by chapter, scene by scene, and determine whether that scene moves the plot forward, whether the scene is important because it’s related to a subplot, or, does the scene show a new side of the character that we have not seen before. More importantly, you need to make sure to keep the cause and effect going throughout your novel. If you are cutting out a scene because it doesn’t fit any of the criteria above, then you need to make sure you’re not changing the flow of cause and effect. For this reason, this type of editing can lead to a lot of rewrites of you make too many changes, so keep that in mind during the editing process.
On the other hand, you will be able to spot glaring plot holes that might need a lot of work to sort out. In this process, discovering the plot holes can even stem from research. For example, you might have your character’s use objects or technology (so to speak) that would not be invented for another 10 years. In that case, you might need to move your story forward in time, which can again lead to many major changes, or, you can choose to keep the time period the same, and rewrite some parts for accuracy.
5. Editing for worldbuilding inconsistencies
Worldbuilding inconsistencies do not stem from research. For example, you can always use a disclaimer in your novel that tells the reader that you’ve taken a lot of liberties as a writer because of lack of historical records.
However, if your character needed a week-long trip to arrive to a certain town in the West, and then he or she needed only a day to come back, that’s a worldbuilding inconsistency that you need to fix. In other words, worldbuilding inconsistencies are errors that you make within the world you’ve created. A heroine that previously said she had never seen a pink dress may put on a pink gown some days later, as if she had forgotten she had it in the closet. Or maybe a character will suddenly use scissors to cut a thread, but thirty pages previously, that character ransacked a kitchen looking for a small knife to cut the thread with (even though they could have used scissors in both cases). Do not let the need for obstacles and drama get in the way of fixing small worldbuilding errors that most of your readers will catch and let you know about it.
6. Polishing the manuscript
Polishing the manuscript comes at the end of the whole writing and editing process. Once you’ve edited for historical accuracy, for plot and characters, and for language and style, you can proceed to polishing your manuscript.
This is the time to take care of spelling and grammar errors. You can use software like Grammarly to help you with this. You should also be on the lookout for repetitive words and phrases, both in writing prose and dialogue. Long sentences do not belong in scenes filled with action and drama, and long descriptive paragraphs might slow down the pace until the reader falls asleep. During this process, it’s good to have at least another pair of eyes on your novel.
These days, many writers use beta readers. Beta readers will provide you with a fresh perspective of your novel. And, if you’re writing in a certain ‘historic’ style, a beta reader will be able to tell you if your novel is comprehensible, if they were able to understand the story, and if they found the characters believable and real, or if they are a cliché. For this reason, you might want to include your beta readers maybe even earlier in the editing process, especially because they might catch errors in plot, character, or worldbuilding.
Writing a historical romance novel, or any kind of novel set into the past, can be a long process. For some writers, it takes years, depending on how historically accurate the writer wants to be, and the actual historical records that are available for that time period. Since you need to create a world accurate to the past, everything in your novel should be well-researched, starting from where your character sleeps (and if he or she shares a room with someone else depending on the norm of the time period and the characters’ positions in society).
However, well done research is the best foundation you can have for a good historical romance story, and you will be able to use the same information if you’re writing more historical romances in the same time period. In fact, a lot of historical romance writers only focus on one historic period, or subsequent historical periods where you can use plenty of the information you already have. You can even keep the same universe and characters, and choose a new couple for each book. As long as you keep the characters lively, real, and layered, you can come back to that world for new stories.
We hope that this guide gave you enough insight in writing a historical fiction novel to enable you to write your own.
Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As a screenwriting student, she is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, watching a film or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her own.