Certificate in Historical Fiction Writing at West Dean London

Creative Writing and Publishing

Certificate in Historical Fiction Writing

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College Award
Duration: 1 year, part-time course
School: School of Arts
Location: London

The certificate in Historical Fiction Writing is awarded in recognition of the successful completion of three-weekend course units spread across each academic term, self-directed study and the completion of the first 5,000 words of a historical fiction novel.  

The course seeks to bring together all the key components of good historical fiction writing into one continuing programme and to offer an insight into the writer’s toolkit necessary for developing skills and building your confidence. 

Delivered by international bestselling author Adrienne Chinn, each weekend unit will be based at our London campus, located in the heart of literary Bloomsbury. The course is aimed at writers who wish to commit to an extended programme of study without having to make a significant time commitment, and who will benefit from a cohesive course that offers focus on the key elements of successful historical fiction writing over the course of an academic year. 

It also offers a potential pathway to those interested in applying for the College’s Higher Education programmes in Creative Writing and Publishing.

Course structure

This Certificate is designed for writers who want an extended and cohesive course on historical fiction writing. It offers a deeper and broader range of teaching, designed to enable the student to take on a piece of longer fiction. At the end of the third unit, students will be asked to submit the first 5,000 words of a work-in-progress for marking and feedback by the tutor. (Deadline for text: 7 November 2025, with feedback from the tutor the following month on 7 December 2025.) 

On successful completion, students will be offered an interview for the MA in Creative Writing and Publishing, should they wish to apply in order to continue their studies and project. The MA is set up to facilitate the production of a completed novel. 

Course aims

  • Introduce students to the key skills and knowledge that underpins successful historical fiction writing, including the organisational skills required for historical research, plotting and structuring, world building, character development and narrative technique
  • Introduce students to constructive and focused critical reflection of their work
  • Provide a stimulating and varied learning environment to enable writers to develop their skills around voice, style, point of view, pacing and prose
  • Offer and discuss a series of writing exercises, along with discussion, textual analysis and a review of the ‘golden rules of historical fiction writing’ to support writers to develop their craft
  • Support the development of drafting, editing and rewriting skills
  • Develop the use of dialogue, crafting scenes, adding suspense and effective pacing  
  • Examining how much historical detail/background to include
  • Offer insight into the traditions, theory and responsibilities of the historical fiction writer
  • Enable students to make clear authorial and editorial choices about their developing work

Course units

Unit 1: Research, Structure & Plotting 
22–23 February 2025, 11am-5.15pm | Intermediate | D2D33813 

The first unit will include: 

  • An introduction to historical fiction 
  • The rules of historical fiction 
  • Historical research 
  • Structure: Creating a solid foundation 
  • The five key elements of plotting 

Suggested reading list in preparation for Unit 1:

  • The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
  • Clytemnestra - Costanza Casati
  • A Gentleman in Moscow - Amor Towles
  • Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
  • Pachinko - Min Jin Lee
  • Beloved - Toni Morrison
  • Ivanhoe - Sir Walter Scott

Materials to bring:
Your usual writing equipment, notebook and pen, and laptop.

Unit 2: Characters & Place
31 May–1 June 2025, 11am-5.15pm | Intermediate | D2D33814 

This second unit will include: 

  • Creating memorable character 
  • Understanding and experimenting with point of view 
  • Crafting effective dialogue 
  • Understanding the environment (using the Bloomsbury location) 
  • World-building 

Suggested reading list in preparation for Unit 2:

  • Katherine - Anya Seton
  • Cold Mountain - Charles Fraser
  • I, Claudius - Robert Graves
  • All the Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
  • The English Patient - Michael Ondatjee
  • Homegoing - Yaa Gyasi
  • The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco

Materials to bring:
Your usual writing equipment, notebook and pen, and laptop.

Unit 3: Writing Your Book
6–7 September 2025, 11am-5.15pm | Intermediate | D2D33815 

The third and final unit will include: 

  • Using suspense to create drama 
  • Pacing – keeping your reader engaged 
  • Scene structure 
  • Revising and refining – editing and rewriting 

Suggested reading list in preparation for Unit 3:

  • The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer - Patrick Suskind
  • Washington Black - Esi Edugyan
  • Fingersmith - Sarah Waters
  • The Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
  • The Poisonwood Bible - Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock - Imogen Hermes Gowar

Materials to bring:
Your usual writing equipment, notebook and pen, and laptop.

Final Writing

At the completion of the final unit, students will submit the first 5,000 words of a piece they have developed on the programme within two months for feedback from the programme tutor. Feedback is given the following month. 

Completion

On successful completion, students will receive a Certificate of Completion and be offered an interview for the MA in Creative Writing and Publishing, should they want to continue their studies and project. The MA is set up to facilitate the production of a completed novel. 

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School of Arts

Explore and expand your work in a uniquely immersive environment with its own connections to art history. Our School of Arts students enjoy specialist studio spaces dedicated to painting and drawing, sculpture and tapestry and textile-based work as well as exceptional exhibition space.

School of Arts

Entry requirements

The following qualifications will be considered for entry to the course: 

  • A commitment to attending all three units 
  • Some experience of writing or attending a short writing programme 
  • An interest in and awareness of the historical fiction genre 

Please read our standard Terms and Conditions for short courses.
Specific Terms and Conditions for this course include a commitment to attend all three weekend course dates listed, as alternative course dates cannot be offered for any that you are unable to attend. Therefore, no refund can be made for the course fee for any weekend you are unable to attend. 

Fees

The course fees are payable in advance of study.

Course fee: £800 (payable in one instalment covering all three units) 

We may routinely increase our course fees from year to year for one-year courses and may review and change such course fees without notice.

How to apply

Online
Book this course online following the payment link below

Email
Email the Bookings Team [email protected]

Phone
Call us on (01243) 818 300 and select option 2

 

Tutors

Adrienne Chinn - tutor at West Dean College

Adrienne Chinn

Adrienne is a tutor at West Dean, Bloomsbury and Sussex campuses. She has taught interior design courses at West Dean KLC for many years and is also a published author of historical fiction.