I really like how you call your preference for reading a historical novel “visiting” the past. Done well, a historical novel takes readers to that era and gives them a tour of that time. A well-done history book is like viewing a wonderful museum exhibit. You may be fascinated by the dioramas and information, but you are still rooted in your era.
Writing a novel is a very different thing to writing conventional history, or to writing non-fiction about the current day. People may well be drawn to read a novel set in the past because of a more or less deep interest in the history of that period, but in the end the overwhelming majority will enjoy it only if it works as a novel. If you simply want to tell people about the past, then it is better to go down the route of non-fiction. Even if your main focus is on an event, it is important to make the characters and their personal experience sufficiently involving to grab and hold on to a reader’s interest.
From the start it is important to know what your story is and then keep focused on it. How far you shape the history to fit the story is a matter of personal choice. …
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