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The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction

3.80  ·  Rating details ·  133 ratings  ·  30 reviews
Once Upon a Time, it was NOW...While a historian stands firmly planted in the present and looks back into the past, a historical novelist has a more immediate task: to set readers in the midst of bygone events and lead them forward, allowing them to live and" feel" the wonderment, fear, hope, triumph, and pain as if they were there.

In "The Art and Craft of Writing
Paperback, 249 pages
Published February 1st 2010 by Writer's Digest Books (first published January 27th 2010)
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Carol Morgan
I enjoyed this book, but felt the author talked too much about his own historical writings. I also believe some of his research methods are outdated. He talks about using index cards for research and going to a library. Every bit of this can be done online and there are writing programs that function in the same way as index cards. He did have good advice about seeing history in a new way and not always believing the research you read.

All in all, somewhat helpful.
Aug 18, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: misc-non-fiction
There were many things I liked about this book, but a couple of things that weren't great. First off, I love that he wrote this because there is barely anything like it out there. Also, this man seems to be a genius at research and it showed. He gave great tips for it. On the other hand, he spoke about himself and his own interests too much. That's perfect for a different kind of book, but not for guidebooks like this. Thom writes American historical fiction. Great for him. But he needed to also ...more
Laura Talley
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: a-writing-career
I've been working on a novel off and on for over two years. Every time I think I'm ready to finally write it, I realize I have gaping holes in my research, and with the research comes new plots and the need for more research. I thought I was doing something wrong and wanted some tips on how to write it, and I got them. While Thom focuses primarily on American history and I am looking at the near East, I was still able to extract the information I needed to move confidently forward, knowing I'm ...more
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
My initial view of the book was rather unfavourable. The initial chapters seemed light on practical advice and heavy on anecdotes and memories of the author. Because his focus is on American history, I found the first few chapters a little bit light on practical advice and a bit heavy on points that do not apply to my own research.

Moreover, the book is now quite dated. This is apparent in two main aspects. The author and the contemporaries he interviewed (at the time of writing) could not have
Michelle Rodes
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book very much. It gave some good advise on how to approach writing historical fiction and provided a lot of food for thought. I had many questions about the genre and this book answered a lot. The examples were helpful and I appreciated the author’s perspective from his own experience.
Sarah Baughman
Jul 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good, comprehensive look at the responsibility historic novelists have to history as a whole, and the individuals who have lived in it, live in it now, and will live in it. Sometimes rambling in style, but always to illustrate a point, this book is helpful for instilling in writers the importance of good research.
Carol Bro
Jun 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Learn from a master! Excellent reference book for those interested in writing historical fiction!
Mar 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Outdated and America-centric, but it can't be helped considering the background of the author. If you have done any sort of academic research before, I wouldn't recommend this book. If you're looking for writing 101, look elsewhere. The author has limited pages on writing itself and spends a lot of time on historical accuracy.

I do appreciate his excruciating research in writing his books, however, and I'll definitely check one out in the future. The part about genealogy was intriguing as well,
Phillip McCollum
May 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Most writing books I've read can sit comfortably on a scale with Technical on one side and Inspirationalon the other. James Thom's The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction definitely leans toward the latter, and that's not necessarily a bad thing if you know what you're getting into. There are plenty of excellent craft books out there that will serve you better on the technical aspects (Dwight V. Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writercomes to mind).

The primary message in Thom's book is
Carrie Slager
Feb 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-bought
Well, to close off History Month here on The Mad Reviewer, I decided to review this non-fiction book on how to write historical fiction. Because why not? I picked this book up on speculation because I’m an amateur writer in my free time and I love to write historical fiction (which ends up being utter crap). So now I can review it from a reviewer’s and a writer’s perspective.

James Alexander Thom is a man that doesn’t fool around when he writes; he never sugarcoats the truth. The truth is, you
L.M. Elm
Mar 14, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-craft
I'm all over the place with my reading. Usually I have a books in about every room, all in some state of incompletion. One book I finished recently The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction by James Alexander Thom, who has good insite into writing about the genre. But I was a little put off by some of his chapters. Especially the one dealing with credibility.

Thom states that many scholars of non-fiction snub their noses at historical fiction. While he gives the merits of both, he has an
Erica Cosminsky
Apr 02, 2013 rated it liked it
Surprised at how poor this "millions of books sold" author is with transitions. Many of his sections end mid thought.
Also I am offended by his wife's unintroduced, uncredited chapter on genealogy. Why would you leave a reader suddenly questioning why you said "my husband". My grandmother is Cherokee so I'm very familiar with Native American research. (Yes actually documented.) This lady comes across as a bitter, know-it-all. Much better ways to educate people than to call your readers stupid.
Aug 28, 2010 rated it liked it
This book had some very good advice regarding writing in general, and some tips on writing historical fiction. Its major drawback was that it was very focused on specifically writing American historical fiction, which made several chapters completely irrelevant to anyone not writing historical fiction set in America. The author was also very Internet unfriendly. Yes, the Internet may not be the most credible source of information, but to almost completely disregard it was, in my opinion, another ...more
Dan Shaurette
This is a fine book, but is serves more as the biography of an author of historical fiction than what I was looking for, which is a tool to help me become an author of historical fiction.

Really, the only useful chapter was Chapter 11 - Songs, Smells and Sensations. This held real advice. The rest of the book is his musings.

This is not to say it is a bad book, it just isn't what I'm looking for.
Eileen Iciek
Aug 03, 2013 rated it liked it
If you are interested in writing historical fiction in 18th and 19th century America, this book may provide some help for you. However, Persia Wooley's book on writing historical fiction was more thorough and helpful re: the details of writing any kind of historical fiction.

This author spends a lot of time discussing the books he has written and the books other writers that he knows have written. Not particularly helpful. I really learned nothing new from this.
Mar 09, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, writing
I did not enjoy this book--the author's voice did not draw me into it. In fact, the way he kept referring to himself and his writing really turned me off of this book. I do not mind at all when writer's talk about their work--that's the whole purpose of reading a book where they are trying to teach you the craft of writing. I guess I just don't like this author.
L.A. Jacob
Sep 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing, bedtime
Any researcher worth their salt knows the tips and tricks that Thom and his wife discuss. Hopefully a writer is a bit of a researcher - even if they're making up a world out of whole cloth, they are still "researching" that world. If you've done any research on your own on any topic, you don't need this book.
Jerry Landry
May 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Excellent insight into what all is involved in writing a historical novel. While it touches some on style, the main focus is content and driving home the idea that the story must draw the reader in with verisimilitude. To use a cliche, the devil's in the details for Thom.
David Lottes
Jun 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed it very much. I recommend it to anyone working in the genre, especially those just getting started. It is in large part a biographical piece with loads of insights into Mr. Thom's long career.
Jul 30, 2012 added it
In some ways, this was a very good overview of writing historical fiction. Thom is a seasoned pro, and he has many helpful insights into writing. The book is peppered with amusing and interesting anecdotes from his writing career.
Linda Ulleseit
Apr 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Good information and wonderfully inspiring to finish my novel!
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing
A friend gave me this book, and while it contained nothing new or eye-opening, Thom's stories of his own writing were interesting and fun.
Daniel Bowman
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Not a how to book.
But helpful in ideas for being in the scene. I also liked the references to his writings and the numerous historical tidbits.
Dec 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing-books
A good read for anyone interested in writing historical fiction.
Feb 12, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a good book for beginner researchers in historical fiction, and for anyone who enjoys anecdotes about a writer's life and adventures in writing.
Nov 01, 2010 marked it as not-read
Interview With Speer Morgan
Jay C
Mar 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
Very good book providing insight into the methods and practices of a superb "historical fiction" author.
Lynette  Lee (J.Kirby)
Apr 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction by James Alexander Thom is a good guide for historians and for historical fiction writers. Since I am both, a historian and historical fiction writer, I found Thom's advice and information valuable. For instance, on the history side of things, Thom describes the research and where to go to dig valuable documents. He then tries to convey how to use this information for novel writing. He could have elaborated on this some more, but instead, he pulled ...more
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
A helpful, entertaining resource for writing in the historical fiction genre.
Jun 05, 2017 added it
A book that almost mentored me to create truthful, fictional stories.
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Review Group: Are there any takers for a Historical Fiction review group? 9 14 Feb 06, 2018 10:55AM  
James Alexander Thom (born 1933) is an American author, most famous for his works in the Western genre. Born in Gosport, Indiana, he graduated from Butler University and served in the United States Marine Corps. He is a former professor of journalism at Indiana University, and a contributor to the The Saturday Evening Post. His fifth wife, Dark Rain Thom was a member of the Shawnee United Remnant ...more
“Once upon a time it was now.” 6 likes
“Most historical accounts were written by fallible scholars, using incomplete or biased resource materials; written through the scholars' own conscious or unconscious predilections; published by textbook or printing companies that have a stake in maintaining a certain set of beliefs; subtly influenced by entities of government and society — national administrations, state education departments, local school boards, etcetera — that also wish to maintain certain sets of beliefs. To be blunt about it, much of the history of many countries and states is based on delusion, propaganda, misinformation, and omission.” 1 likes
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