Writing Historical Fiction

Travel to the past and explore what makes a compelling historical novel with the help of bestselling author S J Parris – aka Stephanie Merritt


Jul 07 2022 - Aug 18 2022


Write a compelling historical novel


Hosted on our bespoke learning platform


+ £145 for a 500-word report


Is there a particular historical moment that inhabits your imagination more than any other? Perhaps you’ve stumbled on an event from centuries ago with striking parallels to the world we live in now – or maybe you find yourself drawn to a real-life figure whose voice fills your head and whose story you’d love to tell? From Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell Trilogy to the novels of Robert Graves, Phillippa Gregory, Tracy Chevalier and Andrea Levy, historical fiction continually  captivates us – offering an escape into the past while also shedding light on the present. Arguably it’s the perfect time to write your work of historical fiction – and whether you have the germ of an idea or are already half-way through – this course is for you.

Across six weeks, Stephanie Merritt (S J Parris) will travel with you into the past – exploring what makes a compelling historical novel, identifying key techniques that you can bring to your own writing and illustrating her points by drawing on her own experience in writing her bestselling series about the 16th Century heretic philosopher and spy Giordano Bruno. Whether you’re fascinated by the Tudors, intoxicated by the Roaring Twenties or immersed in Victorian London, Stephanie will equip you with the tools to help you research your story, construct your plot, and bring your chosen historical moment vividly to life in novel form.

In addition to the specially filmed teaching videos, detailed notes and resources, Stephanie will set weekly writing tasks that will help you to practice the skills you’re learning and put them into practice. These range from identifying the key locations to build the world of your novel and re-inventing historical characters – to using language and dialogue in ways that feel convincing and authentic. All students will receive a short piece of written feedback on one writing task from an expert editor during the course.

Stephanie’s material is rich, accessible, and full of useful tips and guidance that should be equally helpful to those dipping their toe into writing for the first time and to those who have lots of writing experience and want to try out a new genre or hone their research and character development skills.


Stephanie Merritt/S J Parris

Stephanie Merritt is an author and journalist. Writing as S J Parris, she is the bestselling author of the Giordano Bruno series, which follows the renegade monk, philosopher and heretic Giordano Bruno in Elizabethan England. The sixth novel in the series Execution was published by HarperCollins in 2020. Stephanie regularly writes for the Observer and the Guardian.


Weekly Teaching Modules

We give you the tools to help you write an immersive historical novel

Work through six weekly modules comprising teaching videos, substantial notes and tasks by Stephanie Merritt. Topics range from establishing the all important time period to plotting and planning.

Stephanie Merrit

Dedicated Teaching Videos

Bestselling author Stephanie Merritt guides you through the course

Watch specially filmed, informative teaching videos presented by Stephanie Merritt, offering a practical and inspiring approach to help you understand the key elements of historical fiction as you craft your own narrative.

Resources & Notes

Comprehensive teaching notes and reference materials which are yours to keep

You’ll get access to detailed notes and teaching resources, including extracts and a plot breakdown from Stephanie's S J Parris novels to illustrate how she puts her advice to work.

Curtis Brown Creative learning platform forum

Student Forum

The hub of our online courses – find your writing community

Upload your completed tasks, give and receive feedback, and discuss this week’s topics with your fellow students and the CBC team.

Weekly Tasks

Tailor-made tasks help you put the lessons into practice

Work your way through Stephanie's weekly tasks, including researching your chosen time period/location and creating convincing characters whether they are based on real people or completely fictional.


Get feedback from your peers and an expert CBC editor

Sharpen your editorial eye through offering comment on other students’ work and get their feedback on yours. An expert CBC editor will give brief written comments on several of the students’ practical assignments each week, with all students receiving feedback on a task at some stage of the course.


You can follow the course at your own pace, but to get the best out of it, allow plenty of time each week to watch the videos, read and reflect on the notes and resources, complete the writing tasks, and take part in discussions in the forum. We encourage all students to offer positive, constructive feedback to each other in the forum as the course progresses.

It’s also important to be working on your historical novel throughout the six weeks. At the end of the course, we invite students to share the opening 3,000 words plus a one-page synopsis to give an overview of the story. This is not a submission to the agency but an opportunity to get peer feedback.


All students will be given the option to purchase feedback on their final task from a CBC editor (a published author with relevant teaching/editorial experience).

  • CBC report: For an additional fee of £145, you can obtain a detailed 500-word report on your work (of up to 3,000 words) from one of our editors.
  • CBC report + tutorial: For an additional fee of £240, you can obtain a 500-word report from one of our editors and have a 30-minute video or telephone tutorial with them to discuss your work.


Each week students will gain access to a new module packed with practical advice for how to develop and write your historical novel. Our bespoke learning platform features separate forum spaces for all six teaching modules, arranged in a clear structure that’s easy to use. Our online learning space allows students to quickly find and take part in discussions and to easily locate task materials they’d like to refer back to.





Overcome your fear of not being a ‘proper historian’, connect with your inspiration and settle into your chosen historical period.





Discover the best ways to research your novel – then bring your knowledge to the creation of a key location from your story.





Make real-life protagonists your own, and shape up your own original characters. Plus how to find the right narrator for your story.




Explore the voice of your central character, create their inner circle, and learn how to use language and dialogue effectively and authentically.


Structure and Plotting


Discover the building blocks of story. Learn how to master conflict, jeopardy, the set-up and the pay-off – and evolve your own approach to plotting and planning.




Learn the writing and editing techniques that will help you to keep up the momentum and move confidently forward with your novel beyond the end of the course.


We’re excited to have you join our community of writers. Choose your preferred option from the right-hand-side and click the ‘Pay & Enrol’ button by 5 July 2022 (midnight, end of day). Make sure that you agree to the Terms and Conditions. If you have a discount code you can input the details at payment. You will be shown a secure credit card form for payment. Once you have paid you will receive an email confirming your enrolment.

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