IWSG 61: Lost and Confused


This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.



Diane Burton | Kim Lajevardi | Sylvia Ney | Sarah Foster | Jennifer Hawes | Madeline Mora-Summonte

OPTIONAL IWSG Day Question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

I read everything, but have spent most of my writing life trying to figure out what genre I prefer to write in. Everyone that knows me knows I love mysteries. I read them and dabble in them. Sometimes it goes pretty well.

The IWSG question got me thinking about what I’ve been doing.

So far, I’ve jumped from sci-fi, fantasy—even tried magical realism—and mixing up my POV from first-person to third-person omniscient.

I hope I’m not sharing too much, but I have a huge fear of success, and change.

I thought I was rolling with it, but here’s the thing. A while back I started writing a magical realism and had a hard time pinning it down, so I returned to my middle grade. I’ve been working on it for years.

It looked good and I firmed up its middle. Left it to rest and it still needs a read through. Started a fantasy-mystery that with a non-magical detective. It’s fully outlined and I’ve written three chapters.

First chapter went really, really well.

But when put chapter two before my critters at the Grand Forks Writers Guild, it was not so good. The group is always supportive and kind. Chapter two fell flat. The emotion wasn’t there and I was left with trying to figure out how to find it.

I did in chapter one. I know it’s possible.

I feel like someone lost in a labyrinth. There’s a way out, but I just seem to go deeper.

Is the answer more knowledge? Is it facing my fear? I don’t know, but I’m back at reading how-to writing manuals to put the emotion into a scene and yeah—topping it off—I’m using omnipotent POV. Because I need a challenge or because failure is where I want to live.

I know one thing for sure: I’m lost and confused.

Anyone gone through this. What did you do?


86 responses to “IWSG 61: Lost and Confused

  1. Sometimes these things are hard to figure out. With one of my novels, I was told my protagonist didn’t seem upset enough about a particular revelation. So I rewrote the book, heightening her emotional response throughout. I was just told again yesterday by an editor at a publishing house that she STILL doesn’t seem upset enough.

    Other than having another, well-trained pair of eyes take a look, I’m not sure how to get past this kind of obstacle. Sometimes you just need help to see what you can’t.

    • I’m glad the truth came out. It’s been a slow process figuring out what to do. At times like this, I understand why some writes quit. It does test what we are made of. 🙂

  2. I love the idea of a fantasy/mystery. Those are my two favorite genres to write in. Do you have critique partners who can help with chapter 2? I have a few early chapters in my fantasy that may not be exciting. I’m trying to just on for now and know that I may have to fix them later. Maybe that would work for you too.

    • I don’t have a crit partner. If you are volunteering for round two on chapter two, the answer is yes. No pressure though. Glad to reciprocate. 😉

  3. One of the short stories I’m working on for my next book hit that same problem. I’ve set it aside to work on another story and I’m hoping when I come back to it, the answers will be clear.

  4. Loni Townsend

    Emotions are one of those areas I completely suck in when writing. I usually have to ask my friends “okay, what specific emotions am I missing here?” and then I analyze with that in mind and the emotion thesaurus at hand. It doesn’t always work, but almost every time, I need someone else to point out what it’s missing. Then I work through KAV cycle with my characters (see David Farland for more info). It seems to help me. 🙂

    Best of luck with you writing!

  5. I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling so much. I don’t really have any answers, but I will be rooting for you. You CAN and WILL figure this out! 🙂

  6. I struggle with writing emotion as well. Probably why I focus on more light-hearted cozy mysteries, rather than try to tackle something more challenging. Maybe put it aside for a while and come back to it? You will figure it out, but maybe your unconscious mind just needs to noodle on it for a while.

  7. I would never present early-stage work to my critique group — and I belong to a stellar group of pro writers who understand that drafts are rough. But people are going to critique what’s put before them, and it’s too easy to get sidetracked, or completely derailed by other writers’ opinions during the drafting stage. I suggest you hold the work close until you’ve at least finished–and edited–the first act, and have a rough outline of all the major beats. Good luck!

  8. I think it’s helpful to go back and ask what that chapter is really about, then figure out how all the characters feel about that. Are any of them reluctant with the path chosen? Will it cause trouble for any of them? Is someone too eager to start? Is the MC eager to start this quest, or does he have to be pushed through that story door? That’s how I’d go about looking at the chapter.

  9. Maybe, just maybe, you’re reading too many how to manuals and as CV Grehan has said presenting your work to the group too early. In your posting you said that you have a great fear of success and change. Could it be that this fear is driving you to seek approval too soon and also from the wrong people. A small example – when I started working on my novel I was in a small group of five writers and we worked with a former acquisition manager who I now consider as excellent. But I didn’t think that way in the beginning. Because of my own insecurities which were huge at that time, I looked for confirmation or approval which I was not getting from this small group. I got to the point where I thought I couldn’t write and was about to give up until this particular person who always ripped everything I wrote apart wrote me an email. That email I still have today. She helped me get on track by talking with me about a number of things and one of them was that reading how to manuals isn’t always beneficial to a new writer. Needless to say, I stayed in her group and later on she coached me for two years and that is something that I will be forever thankful for. So, in one short sentence, I’m saying maybe you need to connect to you, face your fear and get your draft on paper before seeking approval from others.
    Wishing you all the best in whatever you decide.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

    • Pat are are very insightful and thanks for sharing part of your journey. Because I know that presenting early can be hard on my ego, I polish each chapter to a shine before moving on.

      I’ve done too many rough drafts that I learned to hate because I found whole mess overwhelming.

      My process is ass-backwards but it works for me. 😉

  10. Chiming in with the others, I agree that having others’ eyeballs on your manuscript (icky image, eh?) is crucial–and so is not taking critique as a condemnation of your abilities. It can be damn hard to hear someone criticize the story that’s lived in your brain and gut and heart for so long, but we need to know if the squiggles on paper are accurately communicating the story that lives inside us.

    • I’m up for honest feedback any day. It’s the only way to improve. It’s finding the answers that’s hard for me.

      A few more suggestions on where to start or what to try would have been very welcome. 🙂

  11. It’s comforting to read that others jump around in search of the right project to tackle and stick with. I’ve been having a terrible time settling on what I want to do next.

  12. In the past, I had readers give me feedback as I was writing the first draft. What a colossal disaster. I’ve decided that my book will not be ready for anyone else’s eyes until I am a least through the first revision. “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” Terry Pratchett. Move on to the next chapter and just tell yourself the story. You can fix it later. Strike that. You WILL fix it later.

  13. I live in that place of fear as well. I’m so close to getting my nonfiction project out in the world, and that makes me want to retreat from it all as quickly as I can. I hope Chapter 2 works itself out – if not, go on – you can always fix it up later! Good luck 🙂

  14. I’ve never stopped reading the writing manuals and taking classes. Yup, fear works against me every day. Deeps breaths, shake off and keep on…

  15. A quick way is to put yourself in the position, write what you’d feel. Often that works for me!

  16. I wish I had a fix for you, but I too end up going back to the basics when something is falling flat for me. That seems to help, I always look at my work with fresh eyes afterwards. I’ve been doing well with looking at things from Deep POV, it’s 3rd person but a very ‘show’ style of writing at the same time. I find articles about writing in deep POV very helpful, maybe they’ll be useful for you too. Best of luck!

  17. When I get lost and confused I research. Maybe search for stories similar to yours and the genre. Read and study the books. Then using what you’ve learned from your reading to improve where you’re failing. And to try something new and uniquely you.

  18. Reading your doubts/insecurities, seeing all your completed creations, and then reading all the insightful comments, I sense that you know what to do but need to focus on the positives. You’ve got the talent, Anna.

  19. It’s hard being lost. Trying to find your ‘writerly legs’ as it were to nail down what you want to write is no easy task when your ideas range from one genre to the next. Have you nailed down some sort of common theme in the mist of them all? Which was was your super first love? Too much noise can get in the way. We put added pressures on ourselves which adds the the muddled feelings. Take a breath and think about what calls to you the most and go from there. Hope you find your way.

  20. David Powers King

    Oh yes, definitely been through this. Perhaps the thing did I ever did for my writing was going to places where writers are, writing conferences or writing chapters in the area. From there I learned I wasn’t alone and learned a lot from seasoned writers about the craft and process. It’s okay to feel out the genre that matches your voice, so maybe lean toward what makes you most excited. You got this! 🙂

  21. I’ve definitely felt lost and confused before. Pretty much all the time with my current WIP, actually, and I’ve been working on it for years. But you know what? I always figure everything out eventually. Sometimes it takes a while, but the answer always comes to me somehow. Don’t give up!

  22. It is always hard when you feel this way, ‘lost and confused’, but you’ll find your way out of that labyrinth of yours, I’m sure. What helps me sometimes is reading. Books often give me inspiration. Sometimes you see a character of another writer struggling, and suddenly you know what your own character needs to move forward.

  23. I just went through the lost and confused stage on the WIP I just finished. It was only after figuring out the missing piece of the plot AND re-reading several writing books that I got it. But once I had it , though, I had it. I have never been more proud of a piece of writing than I am of this book. I just finished it last week. Good luck! You can do this!

  24. I just finished reading Debra Dixon’s GMC book which helped me since I’m a terrible pantser and can’t outline at all. Not every chapter needs tons of emotion. It needs a goal, motivation, and a conflict. The cherry on top is emotion.

  25. “huge fear of success, and change” That’s me as a writer, in a nutshell. I need to try and get out of my own way. I hope you find the direction you’re looking for soon!

  26. Wow. Too much coffee??? I used to bounce around more but now I’m mostly in two genres and am staying there for now.

  27. It’s quite amazing that you’re pushing yourself with these different genres and POVs; and accomplishment in itself. I’m sorry you’re struggling with how to continue. Hurray for critique groups/persons, though, as they might be able to point out what doesn’t read/sound right, but also give you suggestions as to improvements. What’s an omnipotent POV?

  28. Right there with ya. Emotion can be hard to nail down when you aren’t in the moment. What books are you reading on it? I’m always on the lookout for well written ‘writing books’. Are there any that really stand out for you?
    I have found that some of my worst chapters turn into my best because I’m forced to give them extra attention. It also helps me when I get away from the problem, even if its only for a few minutes and let my subconscious work on it. I’m thinking when you go back and rework Ch 2, it’s going to be the best chapter ever.

  29. I love the sound of your Middle Grade Project. For me, it’s spending time immersing myself with the competition I’d like to compete with. I study the craft of their paragraphs and highlight the parts that move me. On another note, I might even visit some middle schools. I have a great resource on character development I just purchased. K.M. Weiland Creating Character Arcs Workbook. So far I’m impressed 🙂
    You can do this Anna 🙂

  30. mlouisebarbourfundyblue

    Hi, Anna! I’m sorry that you are lost and confused in a maze. I think anyone who writes gets caught in that maze sometimes. There are some great suggestions in the comments to your post, and I’ve tried a number of them when stuck myself. When I’m stuck it usually helps me to do something mundane and totally different from writing, like dragging the stove out from the wall and scrubbing the floor and walls, then scouring the stove. If I’m lucky, an idea will surface, and if not a full idea, then enough to get me moving again. Wishing you success as you negotiate the maze. You can do this!

    • I didn’t do the stove, but I have been playing a video game: Jurassic World Evolution. It’s much like Zoo Tycoon. It’s helped me let things go for now. 🙂

  31. Why bother with picking just one genre. I don’t believe writers should only write in one genre, or writers are better at writing one genre. I write in whatever genres float my boat. Don’t restrict yourself. Let the muse pick the genres.

    Emotion is tough. I always have to go back during my revision stages to find places where there needs to be more emotion/details.

  32. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.
    Mystery is a genre that’s growing on me.
    Emotion is hard to write because it’s something we experience so naturally. It’s like trying to write about breathing, but for me, I tend to go back after I’ve completed a story to figure out where emotion needs to be emphasized, added, or altered.

    • I tend to do things backwards. It’s my natural state. hehehe.

      If I can’t resolve soon, I’ll come back to it later. I just hate leaving this over my head. 🙂

  33. It’s hard sometimes to figure out what to work on. I always feel like I have to be haunted by an idea to work on it, but sometimes you don’t have time to wait for that haunting to hit. I don’t tend to struggle too much with emotion, but I like to write in first person and really put myself in my MC’s shoes while I write – down to talking out loud to myself when I’m working (my partner sometimes looks at me like I’m crazy). Even if you’re working in 3rd person, try writing the scene from a first person POV to see if you can better capture the emotional response. Then you can rewrite it in 3rd.

  34. I made a big mistake sending out a story for critique that I hadn’t worked through. Way too soon. I often go back to earlier parts of a story when I’ve worked out something later. Then things fell into place. I’d say finish the story then let it rest, reread, before letting anyone critique it. Hope you have a great month.

  35. It’s weird when you do one story or scene really well then the next one it’s like you forgot how to write. I think it’s our muses being evil. >.>

  36. I think all of this hemming-and-hawing is good when you’re really learning the craft of writing fiction, but the readers you ultimately sell to don’t really notice or care about the quality that much. Unless you’re disappointing them by breaking the rules of your genre or riddling your novels with grammatical errors. If you entertain, you entertain!

  37. I seem to remember getting a similar critique – that text lacked style/energy and after thinking about it a while my insight was that 1) I was burned out and 2) I had simply edited that text way too many times. It was perfect in terms of plot and grammar, but it lacked that something. I basically scrapped the text and wrote from scratch. Learning from all my previous edits but without staring at the old text. For me, writing fresh copy is almost always easier, so it was no bother to do it. Hope this helps! Sorry that you’re struggling. We’ve all been there.

  38. Victoria Marie Lees

    Anna, you are an amazing writer. Never forget that. Try asking yourself, as a writer, why what’s happening in the story is important to your characters. All the luck with your work in progress.

  39. I definitely get it! I’ve recently switched from writing nonfiction to fiction. It leaves me lost and confused most days but I’m determined.
    Are you submitting your middle grade to the anthology?

    • No it’s book length. I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. Sometimes I think agent. But when I read it over, I think it still needs some work. 🙂

  40. Sometimes I think we’re in too deep with our characters. We feel what they feel, so it seems like that ought to come through on the page. When it doesn’t, I try to find a little distance, try to read what I’ve written as if someone else had written it and I had to study it for class, identifying the structure and techniques used so I can identify where it falls down. People won’t just automatically love my characters; I have to give them a reason to: on the page. @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  41. I’m sorry to read that you are struggling. I’ve been dealing with similar feelings and have just started finally getting back to writing a bit. I don’t have any advice as I’m still clueless myself LOL but I am rooting for you! I’m sure you will figure it out. Take care!

    • Thanks, Julie. I thought you were pretty quiet. I’m at the point I wonder if I’ll ever write again.

      I hope I’m just taking a break. Fingers crossed. 🙂

  42. I’ve often felt lost and confused and my writing career has suffered from my literary meanderings. I’ve got so many unfinished projects that got stalled somewhere on their journeys.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

If you're new to writing, ask me anything and if you're experienced, feel free to share what you know. Learning something new in the craft is always welcome.

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