paper cuts

Today, I have had it up to here with my effing novel.  

If I was walking down the street and I saw my novel walking toward me, I’d run down an alley and bury myself in a dumpster.  I would throw myself under an eighteen wheeler to get away.  I would rather be covered in paper cuts than look at it again.  Soiled and blood-stained pages would be an improvement.  I should be eligible for witness relocation.  

From now on, I will no longer claim to have written a novel.  It is laughable, moot, a bald-faced lie.  From now on, I am simply a mother of two who used to dabble. Because my novel is not a novel at all. It is a pile of 65,620 warped, wobbling, slimy, stinking words.  

I’m sorry, words, for making you do that.  I promise never to do it again.  



(How do you know when the relationship is not working?  When is enough, enough?  I think if I can’t make this story work, I’ll never be able to make any story work and then I think I sound like one of those battered wives sticking it out with a loser because she’s afraid to admit she made a mistake.)

About Anna Fonté

Girl in the Hat, aka Anna Fonté, is an author who writes about invisibility, outsider status, everyday monsters, and her attempts to befriend the neighborhood crows. The things she writes want you to look at them.


  1. This to shall pass. That’s what I tell myself whenever the words turn slimy when I look at them (they stabilise when I look away – when I return later they are little pieces of wood which I can either polish or cleanly cut out).

  2. Now just hold it right there Missy! Just because you can’t make it work today (or) you re-read what you have written and were mortified doesn’t mean you have to quit. Your novel know you don’t want to let him go. Good! Those feelings will only make you try harder. Walk across the street, stick out your hand in peace to your novel. Tell him you are going to improve his life and then tell him why you are going to do it and (more importantly) HOW you are going to do it. Then set it aside, get a good nights sleep and everything will be better tomorrow.

  3. Ha. I totally agree with your first line today!

    Maybe you just need to take a break. Go flirt with a short story or a poem for awhile and come back and see how you feel then.

  4. Oh god, do I get it. When I get to that place I do one of two things—put it aside for a few days and read something amazing–and, or, read my entire effort again as if I were not the writer but my next door neighbor who doesn’t like my kind of stories. Then, just like a path I take every day, so often I lose sight of my surroundings, the weeds jump out and the flowers bloom.

    • I spent the weekend immersed in other people– I think that might have helped. Just good to know that I’m not alone.
      Now waitaminute– don’t tell me your neighbor said they don’t like your writing?! If that happened to me, I’d start collecting rocks to build a mighty high wall.

  5. This, of course, means that you’re onto something huge. Put it aside for some weeks then go back and find it. It’s there!!

  6. You can make it work. Take a break and let your subconscious have a shot at it. I’ve been going through a similar crisis with my current novel. Logical flaws in so many places. I just blogged about rules and advice given by famous writers. Many of them said the same thing–when you hit that wall, walk away. Give it time.

  7. Don’t do it! Write something else for a while. You’ll either come back to your book and fall in love again, or you’ll fall in love with the next one–and that’s cool too. Just stay away from 18-wheelers and open flames.


  8. Can I ask a few questions? How long have you been working on this project? Have you taken any breaks? Have you sent out copies to any of your friends to read? Four weeks off might give you the juice to look at this project with new eyes, IMHO. ❤

    • Hey, CB– I’m afraid to tell you how long. I started when my last child was born, and she turned six last week. I don’t take any breaks but they take me, because of the kids, if you catch my drift. I do feel better today (please excuse the brief foray into self pity!) and thank you for the kind words–

      • It’s my pleasure! If I hadn’t been through some similar moments, I wouldn’t have asked the questions I asked. I have two novels that I shelved because they simply were not going to be as good as I wanted them to be.

        Each one was a seriously committed three year investment. I wrote one in undergraduate school (for my double-thesis), and one in graduate school (for my MFA). I gave each one an extra year after I finished school, but I felt they weren’t good enough to shop around.

        Or so I thought at the time. (I have had one book of poetry published by a small, respectable poetry press.)

        I haven’t done a “big” project in ten years. I’ve matured a lot as a writer, and I wonder now (only a little bit) if I hadn’t walked away too soon from both of those projects. They needed— each— a massive six month rewrite, at least. And then…?

        So, hang in there. If you need a big over-all reader, you know where to find me.

        • Saying goodbye to a novel is so painful but maybe it was just “see you later”? I wonder if it’s time for you to go pull them down off the shelf and see what you’ve got. Really. I bet you can really see what they need and do it now, CB. After all, you’ve been sharpening those skills– and they are really dangerously sharp now….

          I don’t have your inner critic, and can’t tell what’s good enough to shop around. This is my second novel. I thought the first was good and sent it off, but got no takers. No wonder– you should(n’t!!) see it– gag– what made me think I, who had never written before, could pull off a novel? I’m an autodidact but didn’t do a very thorough job and I’m afraid I’m going to have to say the same thing about this one.

          But wow. What a generous offer. If I can look at it again, I just might take you up on that.

          (I’m still feeling that song you shared. I might have to steal it for a post about thrift shopping.)

          • Here’s my two measly cents. Henry Miller wrote two unpublished novels before his third— Tropic of Cancer— was picked up by a publisher.

            Some writers get to that place in one novel (like Zadie Smith.) Some writers take two novels (like you, now, maybe?) Some writers take three…. (The second manuscript was so stitched together by the time I finished school, and the first was definitely a roman à clef, unintentionally.) I’m ready to start the third, to be honest.

            Yes, I would love to volunteer to be your reader. Just email me if you think you’d like me to read:

            DO steal that SONG! I can’t post it on my blog because there’s too much profanity. I’m gonna be writing about thrift shops through the weekend, so if you want to post, and link to each other, let me know! (No pressure, though, okay?)

            • I ran to the thrift store when I read this. (I was “doing research” right? HA.) I will see if I can rub two sticks together and come up with something link worthy to put on Optic Nervy and link to on GITH. Some day you will have to explain your philosophy about swearing. And do you have the idea for your next novel?

              • What you wrote on Optic Nervy was… sublime. Really good. And your link post on GITH is fabulous! I’m getting ready to run a wash load of the gigantic haul from my birthday.

                I do have an idea for my next novel! Here’s what’s going on: as you know, I’ve been working on this modern photography project, which I’ve been posting to BB.

                I really think that that project needs to be book-length, and I really think that I’d like to work on a novel. I’ve done two project simultaneously before, but I don’t know if that is wise in this case. Plus, there’s my regular every-other-day gig on BB.

                What do you think?

  9. I think you need to do some crewel or gardening. A change of pace. For a while.

  10. sometimes you need to not look at something for a while. like a month. then go back to it, fresh and without judgement.

  11. I feel you, Anna, and can’t say these feelings any better than you have. Which is why I believe your novel is probably a lot better than you think. And that you should put it in a desk for a week, come back to it, and finish it up with fresh eyes, because I want to read it.

    • Thank you, Leah– maybe my next novel should be about my love-hate relationship with my last novel? I’m picturing dark hair and too many muscles. Hmmm…..

      • Hey, there’s a reason so many books and movies are about struggling writers, even when “struggling” means wildly successful but *still has the psychology of a writer.” Yes, embody your writer in a dark haired, muscly protagonist and will be a must-read!

  12. Ouch … I agree with everyone above who suggests letting it sit for a while — or for as long as you need it to. I don’t know which work you mean, but if it’s the one here, you need time away from it to see all the great writing in it. This writing stuff is hard. Sometimes I wish someone would hand me a shovel and offer me money to dig a ditch. Some days ditch digging sounds like better work.

    I really wish we lived in the same town. I always want to talk to someone who might understand me when I feel this way. I wish I could listen over coffee.

  13. I absolutely agree with all those who say put it to one side for a coule of weeks at least and do something else that interests you. It won’t go away..
    Oh and the rant was beautifully written !

  14. macdougalstreetbaby

    In the words of our very own Averil, move away from the ledge.
    What you need is a beta.

  15. “paper cuts” …God I love that!
    Seriously: You blow me away sometimes the way you put things together.
    I ♥ your writing. Press on!

  16. “If I was walking down the street and I saw my novel walking toward me, I’d run down an alley and bury myself in a dumpster.”

    …a line that is so good it could have been a Brautigan poem.
    Hang in there plz.

  17. aubrey

    I would stop writing and wait. It time – Aubrey predicts – you will not be able to keep yourself away from your novel. If you keep yourself submerged in anything for too long, well, you’ll drown and that does no one any good. Let the left side of your brain stray into greener pastures before handing the reins back to the right side once more. Or the other way around.

  18. sounds like you’ve just about hit bottom. now you get to turn around and go through the whole cycle again.

  19. Artistic angst. No…I’m not making light of the situation. It’s real. Sounds like you need a writing coach or a writer’s group for that added bit of outside perspective and feedback. You know you can’t trust your own judgement when it comes to the words from your own head?!

    Take a break, get some feedback, take a vacation, then come back and hit it again. It’s a work in progress…as we all are.

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