One of the aspects I love about fiction writing is doing research. When I settle on an idea, I tend to go look for similar historical themes, stories that I can weave into my novel. I get excited about finding an inspiration that introduces a new character or overall enriches my story plot. The problem is that I can't get out of the research stage.

Every time I try to focus solely on writing my novel, I find myself besieged with anxiety. What if I missed something that would've made my novel better, richer?

For example, right now, I'm very comfortable with the plot of the novel I'm working on. I arrived at it after reading multiple primary texts covering an important period in American history. As I write, I can't shake off the idea that if I expand my research and continue reading from different sources, I might find more intriguing, complex narratives that could transform my novels.

Is this healthy? How should I treat the research part? And how can I overcome my anxiety?

2 Answers 2


Do your research, but only after the first draft

The first draft is usually written to be butchered anyway. A big problem in writing is being too precious with your first draft, and not changing major problems because you don't want to redo the work. Kill two birds with one stone, and do the research specifically to poke holes in your first draft.

This stops you from never getting anything on the page because now you're writing without the constraints of research, and afterwards it helps you to deconstruct the first draft in a structural way by doing research. It also makes the research more targeted, and more efficient. You're not just researching the domain of your story in general, you're checking whether specific aspects of your story are realistic, and working around that.

Finally, since you're already rewriting to fix the problems that the research uncovers, you might as well fix any larger problems with the story structure.

Some research may be necessary before you put pen to paper, but restrict yourself here to research that inspires you. Look for little ideas, facts and characters that help you put the story together. Anything that worries you, put it aside until after the first draft has been written.


First: I apologize if anything I say makes light of or dismisses mental/emotional distress. As someone who struggles with AD(H)D, someone telling you the equivalent of, "Get over it," is not helpful.

That being said: perhaps at least some of the anxiety is fear of failure masquerading itself as FOMO. You don't want to fail, so you latch onto reasons to not write, legitimate or otherwise.

For your specific scenario: sure, there may be "better" stories to incorporate that you haven't discovered yet. But those stories already exist; if I wanted to read them, I'd go read them. You are presenting a different story that, while it may share elements or pay homage, is nonetheless a different story.

If and when you find something "cooler" down the road, incorporate it into the next story. I'm sure any writer would tell you that going back and reading previous works would highlight numerous different ways that something could've been done "better". But letting perfect be the enemy of good only serves to stifle your expression and creativity.

Short answer: get out there and write.

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