Does a writer need to be right to write?

Karalee’s Post #72 —

Okay, so I’m a perfectionist. As a writer I often feel that this is a disadvantage.

It makes sense that to lead a balanced life everything should be in moderation. This means everything from food intake, exercise, work, play, cooking, hobbies, etc.

But it’s extremes that make a story more interesting. Take Helga’s last post for instance, and how experiencing the (extreme) unexpected was refreshing and added energy and interest to her desire to write. Readers want those extremes in stories they read too.

Does that mean that writers need to know the extremes of what they want to write about? In my opinion I would say no. Not at first. Rather, what writers need to know or research to understand, are the norms.

Then start asking the age old jump-start-your-ideas question, “what if?” Keep asking the question and pushing the normal until you get an extreme that excites you and you can build your story around.

So what’s my problem? Why do I feel being a perfectionist is a hindrance to me?

More often than not I feel such a strong urge to “make sure what I write is right” that it often prevents me from getting out of the starting gate. How can I push the extreme unless I know exactly what it’s all about or how it really works?

Is this a form of writer’s block?

I read the blog The Kill Zone today and it was about this subject and Joe Moore’s opinion about what is behind it. I tend to agree a whole lot with his view.

So no, I don’t have writer’s block, I have writer’s fear. Fear of being wrong about my concept, scientific details, geographic details, etc., etc. It does stop my progress, or rather my beginningness!

How do I overcome my tendency to want to know everything before I start? Are there other writers like me out there?

Research is important, sure, but one can’t research forever, and if you are like me, research will never be enough to soothe me since there will always be more details to learn.

I’ve been working hard on personal issues and growth the last year or so and it has come to light that my reluctance to dive in and expose myself to writing something that might be “wrong” is due to childhood issues of never being good enough, and it has fed a negative loop I’m finding hard to break.

I’m a bright person and can use this to my advantage. I know what this “extreme” feels like and I can use it in my writing. And, as for not knowing “everything” before I start writing, the details I don’t know need to be put into perspective. From the experience of writing my first two books, I know that the details that need to be fixed are usually minor, or an expert can help me with that particular event to make it “real.”

In effect I really don’t need to know it all. Or even very much of it!

The secret is to simply WRITE. Don’t let not knowing the in-depth details of something stop the writing in progress. Leave a blank and keep going. Leave lots of blanks or put in details you think will work and review it later. It doesn’t really matter when you are in the middle of creative output. What does matter is to keep writing!

Fill in the blanks or make changes later. Some plot points may need to be altered, but the important thing is that good progress has been made AND I now know exactly where/what details I need to find out about. In effect, my research has been narrowed down!

I find it very interesting that the blanks are often minor details that are important, but won’t take all your time (days, weeks…) of research, most of which I don’t need to use or know about.

If you are looking for interesting tips on developing your writing skills, I find the following blogs a great read: and

Also, for interesting extreme behaviours and/ or life circumstances, you may want to watch the Dr. Phil show!

Happy writing!




6 thoughts on “Does a writer need to be right to write?

  1. Well said, Karalee. I remember writing my Cold War novel and being stuck for ages in research on nuclear weapons and a bunch of scientific stuff that took way too long and kept me back. In retrospect, I should have just put in a ‘blank’ page and continue with my story. After ‘The End’ I could have just as easily done the researched stuff and plucked in it. Readers ultimately want to follow the characters on their journey. So, next time. Nothing is wasted in the process, we all learn as we go along.

    • Thanks Helga. And when we have group critiques we benefit from input when we are including too much information as well as we can receive great information from experts within our own writing group. (or advice on who or where to go to get information).

  2. Wow, thanks so much for the shout out, Karalee. 🙂 I suspect I share some of your perfectionist tendencies, and they can sap my writing drive, too. And I’d bet the reality is that most readers simply want the details to sound plausible—and manageable. There’s a tendency for writers to want to show we did our research. But if we go overboard…. Well, I’ll bet you can think of some books where the depth of detail had you skimming to get to some action. We have to make sure we don’t fall into the same trap!

    • Thanks for your comment! Our character’s story is what readers relate to and is what writers need to get right. The setting and other details enrich our stories and are important too, but can be stretched somewhat as long as they are believable.

  3. Karalee, you’re so right. I think a lot of us misinterpret the advice “write what you know” to mean “you’re not allowed to write about what you haven’t personally done yourself.” Yes, it’s great to have a “platform” that relates to your genre … like a lawyer writing legal thrillers (and I’ve been told by a lawyer-who-writes-legal-thrillers that no one but a lawyer with courtroom experience should ever dare attempt it). But what we ALL know is what it’s like to be a human being, and to feel emotions. That’s at the heart of every story. We can acquire the details, but the story and the characters come from within. Thanks for this reminder … I’m in the same boat with you and suffer that fear of being wrong (or maybe fear of seeming foolish). Only cure: keep writing!

    • Haha! You also hit a vulnerable spot of mine – feeling or looking foolish! I’m finding that part of learning and growing as a writer is allowing myself to be uncomfortable about what I’m writing and ignore the fact that my mother, writing group, and friends will read it!(and embrace the feedback from my writing group to fix what doesn’t work up front!)

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