Monday, September 1, 2008

On Historical Accuracy

I had a few minutes between projects here on Labor Day and figured I would get the ball rolling for the rest of the week for you historical writers out there.

I love historical romances. I actually love most historical fiction, but I have to tell you, the one thing that turns me off the most is someone writing about something that is historically inaccurate. Now, I am not someone that obsesses over how many buttons are on a man's waistcoat, but it is the bigger issues that really get my blood stewing. How can anyone, in the age of amazing literacy both in print and on line include such garbage in their books?

Easy, they don't know how to research.

Finding authentic research is a fairly easy task but you have to know what you are looking for. The problem is that when you are out there looking for that research, you have to sort though all of those people that proclaim to know everything about a given topic. Be careful. Many of these "so called experts" received the information from other "so-called experts." Needless to say, you are working with really bad stuff.

If you are planning on doing any writing in historical fiction, take the time to really research the time period you are writing about. Don't just look up dates and information on the first site that shows up in a google search. Really dig. Go to the libraries and use authentic research in those strange things called books. Guess what, this is where the good stuff is located. It is the internet that you have to be careful about. Remember, any hack can create a website and produce information. They can make it look authentic and with enough links, they can move their website way up that search engine totem pole.

Go for the best and if you don't know how to do that, contact me. I would be more than happy to come on out to your writing groups and talk about doing quality research.



  1. I agree with the research, and I can honestly say it is daunting, but well worth the effort!

    From what I've read, in both published novels and research books, the peerage is often misrepresented. That being said, it's also one of the most confusing aspects to grasp if you are merely researching it.

    :) Terri

    P.S. Does this mean that Historical Romances set in eighteenth century Scotland don't make you roll your eyes???? :)

  2. Thank you for posting this Scott.

    It amazes me how many authors will argue that "it doesn't matter" and that "readers don't care" because they most certainly do!

  3. Hi, Scott.

    I do the research because I love it, I absolutely love it.

    I have a question about sex in historical fiction. Is it expected?

  4. And I would add that you should keep careful notes on your sources, for sure as chain mail, someone will challenge it.

  5. How very nice to find one more person who actually reads historical romances for, yes, the history. Let me add one more name to the short list-Beverly Swerling, who has cranked out several wonderfully written and seemingly accurate historicals. I hope this means others find the "contemporary historicals" which are wanted because they are "more accessible to readers" completely disorienting. Thank Christ.
    I would like to know how Scott feels about the advice on the Larson-Pomada site, which recommends writers pay for a professionally-designed cover to submit with their queries,and also publish their MS privately first to "prove to the agent" that it will sell well. Very interesting. The first I would do in a minute. And one can now be published for several thousand. But is it worth to do this?

  6. 18th century is fine if done correctly.

    As for the cover, no. This is something the publisher does. Each publisher has their own artist group and they have their own approach.