How much description should go into a historical romance? Usually I start like this:
OK, I have my great premise
Then I focus on a time and a place for this story
NO, no, no.
Let's re-think that.
In historical fiction, the setting should be essential and the first thing I think about.
If readers feel my story could have happened anywhere, at any time, then I’ve failed at the very first hurdle. The historical setting must come first. I need a story that could have taken place nowhere but the one place where it did happen.
Once we have a time and place sorted, how to describe it?
I aim to make it vivid, but I remind myself not to overdo it. Especially not to do description in huge chunks. Today’s readers are impatient creatures, and won't tolerate long descriptive paragraphs as they did in the past.
So instead, I should drip-feed descriptions of the setting into my story.
I should keep descriptions short and powerful and use every sense I have. We smell and hear places as well as see them. Some places have an atmosphere and sometimes it is peaceful and sometimes it is threatening.
I should not forget to describe the social and cultural morals of the time. Gin Lane without the gin would just be inaccurate.
Use metaphors and similes where Ican but I must make them original. Clichés are not what I want. If there is movement in the scene, that is better than a an unmoving one. If I can remember all this when I'm writing, then I should be well on the way to achieving my aim!