I think there’s even a flash-sideways…

Posted on 05 January 2011

Ever see the movie Funny Farm? Where Chevy Chase’s character gives his novel-in-progress to his wife? Who proceeds to burst into tears after reading it and orders him to burn it?

There has to be a word for the fear of handing over your new manuscript to your spouse and having said spouse hate it with such a passion that he/she starts sobbing and threatens to throw it onto the fire. Wifethinksyourwritingsucksaphobia? Novelfailurobia? Giveitupevenyourhusbandhatesitobia?

(Which makes me think of those writer marriages. You know the arrangement — both spouses sit around writing in separate studies and then come together to share their work in a nurturing, non-competitive, productive way. Maybe that’s nice for them, but it seems a little bizarre to me. I like being the only writer in the household, thank you very much.)

If you haven’t seen Funny Farm and would like to know exactly how the aforementioned scene went down, I transcribed it for you! The things I do for you guys. (Also, okay, I couldn’t find a clip on YouTube.)

Elizabeth has just finished reading the opening chapters of her husband, Andy’s, novel:

Andy: Okay. I’m ready. What’d you think?
Elizabeth: [hides her face in her hands, begins to sob.]
Andy: I guess that means you don’t like it.
Elizabeth: [Nodding, sobbing.]
Andy: You think it’s lousy?
Elizabeth: [More nodding, more sobbing.]
Andy: The whole thing?
Elizabeth: It’s all those flashbacks. You never know when anything’s taking place. In the first 20 pages alone, I counted three flashbacks, one flash-forward, and I think a page in, you have a flash-sideways.
Andy: What about the story?
Elizabeth: The story?
Andy: Yeah, four poker buddies knocking over a casino? The perfect crime?
Elizabeth: [sobbing]
Andy: What are you saying I should do? Take out the flashbacks, rewrite the opening? I can do that.
Elizabeth: [Shaking head.]
Andy: Then what?
Elizabeth: Burn it.
Andy: You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. You don’t know a damn thing about writing. You’re a goddamn school teacher, you’re not an editor.
Elizabeth: [still crying] It’s obvious. I read the whole thing. An editor would have stopped reading after the first paragraph.
Andy: Okay, you want me to burn it? That’s what you want, me to burn it? There. I hope you’re happy, Mrs. Critic. It’s burning now, okay? It’s burning! Shit!

That’s all I have the energy for today. Happy Wednesday!

8 responses to I think there’s even a flash-sideways…

  • glasseye says:

    I forgot all about that movie. Hilarious!

  • Deb says:

    It’s starting to ring a bell… They moved to the farm so he could write?

  • KrisSquared says:


    I like being the only writer in the household too. Sometimes I wish my husband was excited to read my stuff, but other times I’m kind of thankful that he side steps it. He’s never read more than an opening paragraph of anything I’ve written because he’s just as scared as I am that he’ll say something I don’t like. But he’s great at helping me brainstorm in the car or under the covers (though brainstorming with him often involve space robots).

  • lisahgolden says:

    I loved that movie!

    Oh. I just had a flashback to handing my novel in progress to someone to read (not my husband, but someone who had a vested interest). He read it, emailed me that he thought it was excellent but hard to read and promptly defriended me on Facebook.

    I guess I should be glad he didn’t tell me to burn it?

  • Downith says:

    “An editor would have stopped reading after the first paragraph.”

    Love it.

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