Monday, September 14, 2020

Practicing History Without a License

Your dream to write historical fiction isn’t simply a someday choice. The passion is too strong to ignore. Give in. Don’t let it fade. Because the dream includes the following images: 

—library studies with ancient texts
Trinity College Library, Dublin
Trinity College Library, Dublin photo dune

—discovering lost and untold stories 
—late nights wrestling with historians’ opinions 
—making the past come alive through your writing 
—taking a picture as you sign a contract and posting the photo on social media 
—opening the box of books and holding your baby for the first time 
—the cover…a picture of the character you created 
—book signings where people pay money to read your creation 
—speaking gigs 

The work doesn’t scare you. Okay, yes, it's terrifying. But there's more. What’s holding you back? One hesitation might be the following question: are you qualified? 

I get it. I was so scared I moved my young family across the West to get my history degree. But what if you can’t just up and get letters behind your name? There's a way to become more than qualified, and here's what many of us do.

0. Write. Begin writing your plot line, working out your characters.

1. Read. Dig into texts from the time period, about your interest, biographies of your subjects, and other historical fiction. Then study historiography. 

 2. Historiography. What are scholars already saying about your time period? What is the consensus? Vist online at your local library or on your personal computer. There, you will find a vast collection of scholarly articles. As you gather information, consider chatting about what you’re reading with those who have made their lives about studying the past. 

3. Argue. Mentally draw together what you’ve read, compare the information with the articles you’ve devoured, and let the mental battle begin. Watch the fight, then wrestle with the data. Create an opinion about your subject. In other words, reflect. What's the big takeaway. How will your characters react to what you've read?

4. Rewrite. You’ve already written a first draft as you’ve been reading. Now it’s time to weave the historic tapestry by incorporating the fictional plot line into the research. 

If you have the dream to write historical fiction, grasp it with all your might. The public is starved to understand the past and are eager to read quality work. Step into the role you’ve already imagined.

Do I need a history degree to write historical fiction? Practicing history without a license tips #seriouslywrite #writerslife @peterleavell

You've dreamt of writing historical fiction. But are you qualified? You can be, even if you don't have a degree. #SeriouslyWrite #writerslife @peterleavell

You've dreampt of writing historical fiction. If you are imagining yourself as a writer, step into the role. Here's how to get your manuscript started. #seriouslywrite #writerslife @peterleavell

Peter Leavell, a 2007/2020 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and a MA in English Literature, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild's Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing's Best award for First-Time Author, along with multiple other awards. An author, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter's books, research, and family adventures at