Contemporary Versus Historical
From ancient civilizations to some as recent as the Second World War, the readers of historical single-title romances want to be magically transported back in time. While historical single-title novels contain the same elements of their contemporary counterparts — bigger-than-life-plots, lots of secondary characters and subplots, and a richly textured love story — the back-drops and settings become even more important.
Historical writers should always check the publisher's guidelines to know which houses publish which time periods and settings before sending out their work. Submitting a story for consideration that doesn't fit the publisher's guidelines is not only an unneeded expense and waste of the author's time, but will label the writer as unprofessional.
For most new writers, the decision to write either historical or contemporary fiction is pretty easy. Generally, that decision is based on what they love to read and whether or not the plots running amuck in their heads are set in this time period or in the past. However, there are other things to know and ask yourself before jumping into writing about the world of yesteryear.
Historical single titles have a tendency to run a little longer. Most authors in this genre feel the word count is needed to paint the scenes with the vivid details of the past. Yet for authors who prefer the shorter format, historical single-title romance might not be the best choice.
Does your voice lend itself to the historical tone? Just as an actress playing in a period film will present herself differently than she would in a film about a modern-day love story, a writer must pen her words and stories in a way that fits the time period of the book. For some writers, this comes easily; for others, it may be more difficult.
One way to understand the tonal difference between historical and contemporary fiction is to read aloud the first few pages of a historical and a contemporary. Note not only the difference in language, but the difference in sentence structure. Pay attention not only to the difference in descriptions, but to the importance of details.
Are you a fan of research? While every novel, be it contemporary or historical, will require an ample amount of the author's time checking and rechecking the accuracy of her facts, writing the historical romance novel brings to the table even more research requirements. For example, words have birthdays. To use a word before its time period is a no-no for historical writers. And it's not just the words. Every tool used, every piece of furniture sat upon, every article of clothing worn, must be period accurate.
Just as subgenres and hybrids exist in contemporary romance, they also exist in the world of historical romances. Plots with paranormal elements, mystery elements, or historical plots that are in themselves romantic comedies are common in the market. Balancing different genre elements can be tricky, especially when you consider that in some cases the setting/time period is an element in itself. However, most editors agree that when two or more elements are blended seamlessly, it can amplify the quality of the work and make the story even more marketable.