Margie Lawson

Changing your Writing World

The Art and Science of Historical Research

When writing historical fiction, the research aspect can be overwhelming. Do you dread it— find it dry and boring— or do you love it--but get caught up in the unique “finds” and neglect the more obvious points? Most likely it is a combination of both.

I see historical research as both science (systemized knowledge) and art (aesthetic and subjective creation). A combing of systemized knowledge for facts related to your story as well as seeking and incorporating the interesting and unusual to color your story. But the task is often daunting. We need to find, organize and use our research.

In this class we will explore resources—both traditional and unusual—for historical research as well as consider how to use historical fact for more than just description of our characters or their world. We will focus on categories of resources that will yield benefits for all time periods and give assignments to help you begin to find the information you need. We will also discuss ways to organize your research so that you can actually use it!

Whether you are at the beginning of your research or trying to flesh out a manuscript already written, your story can benefit from a closer look at both the art and science of historical research.

What You Will Learn

  • Research for resources
  • Use traditional research resources
  • Discover and mine nontraditional research resources
  • Organize your research to be usable
  • Infuse history into every aspect of your novel: plot, character, description

Lesson Plan:

Session 1: The Art & Science of Historical Research

  • Introductions
  • Define Art
  • Define Science
  • Define how they apply to research and historical fiction

Session 2: Traditional Research Resources and Methods

  • Online vs. Physical research
  • Traditional beginnings
  • Primary sources
  • Secondary sources

Session 3: Out-of-the Box Research Resources and Methods

  • Brainstorming
  • Rabbit trailing
  • Redefining search terms
  • Non-written sources
  • Non-academic sources

Session 4: The Art and Science of Researching Language

  • Etymology
  • Time Period Appropriate Metaphor Words
  • Time Period Appropriate Dialogue

Session 5: The Art and Science of Organizing Your Research

  • Traditional methods
  • Virtual methods
  • Hybrid possibilities

Session 6: The Art and Science of Using Research

  • Description/world building
  • Character
  • Plot
  • Motivation
  • Language

Lesson 7: The Balance between Art and Science

  • Avoiding the research black hole
  • Personalizing your plan
  • Finding your balance


Anne Mateer

D'Ann Mateer has loved the marriage of history and fiction since she first began reading. Armed with a B.A. in history from Southern Methodist University, she has authored four traditionally published historical novels, including one Carol Award finalist. This past September, she published her first indie historical novella, No Small Storm, with another scheduled to release late spring. D'Ann is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers’ League of Texas, and Historical Novel Society. She enjoys helping other writers through freelance editing, judging writing contests, and teaching online classes. D'Ann and her husband, Jeff, enjoy reading, exploring historical sites and historical homes, and visiting their grown children—and granddaughter!—in Texas and Massachusetts. D'Ann and Jeff are currently living their empty nest adventure in a high rise condo in Austin, Texas.



History in the making

Rated 5 out of 5
October 1, 2021

A must-have if you're writing historical novels! Actually, this is a winner for all genres because what genre DOESN'T require at least some research at some point? D'Ann Mateer has you covered. Insightful lectures and eye-opening assignments await. D'Ann is quick to respond to any and all questions.

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Stacey Jackson

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