Huffpost Books
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Linda Howard Urbach Headshot

One Novelist's Nightmare - Please Don't Forward to Your Friends

Posted: Updated:

The following is all true and very revealing so I'm trusting you to keep it in confidence. It's the kind of thing I would tell my shrink if I was seeing a shrink. This was my dream last night:
I am riding my bicycle in New York City and I call my old agent and say:

"My book is finished." In truth, in the dream, I've only written the first and last chapter but I want to get him "on board" early because he is the kind of agent who never gets too excited with my-novel-is-finished kind of news. In fact, he has always been pretty indifferent to my literary efforts. But in my dream he really surprises me.

"Oh, God! That's great! I'm calling Bruce right now." Bruce is a movie guy in Los Angeles (his name comes to me in my dream as if I actually know someone like that.) My agent puts me on a conference call with Bruce. Meanwhile, still on my bicycle, I am dodging taxis and pedestrians. It occurs to me this was not the best time for me to call my agent.

"She's finished her novel!" my agent says to Bruce.

"Oh, man! Terrific! I'm calling the studio people as soon as I hang up." Then the nightmarish questions begin.

"What genre is it?" my agent asks.

"It's a thriller," I say. "I'm trying a new genre."

"Good, excellent." In my dream world this is my third genre change. In the real world, I've changed my genre the same number of times.

"What name are you going to publish under?"

"I don't know but I think I'll change my name."

"Good thinking," he says.

"So, what's it about?" my agent asks. The question I've been dreading and what makes this dream a nightmare. I don't have a clue what the rest of the book is about. I dodge the question by saying:

"Guess what? I'm on my bicycle."

This does not impress him. Now the conversation goes from bad to worse. In order to avoid any more specific questions about the plot of my "just finished" novel. I bring up the name of a mutual friend of ours -- someone he has had problems with in the past. Now, I really like this person but I start saying terrible things about him which he (my agent) agrees with. Then, in order to keep him distracted from my newly uncompleted book I start telling him terrible things about my dear ex-husband and finally, about myself.

"I don't know if you know this but I was a drug addict and alcoholic once upon a time."

"Interesting," he says,

This dream does not require analysis as far as I'm concerned. It was caused by the kind of literary-focused day I had the day before. I attended a four-hour workshop on how to publish an eBook. I took notes like crazy. It was a very good workshop but it brought me some bad news. For instance, I never knew you had to pay for Kirkus reviews. I was wondering why I never got a Kirkus review for my last novel. Is it too late to get it now? Can I afford the $500 it would cost me? Another disturbing thing I learned in the workshop: Apparently, I didn't need to pay $250 to the company that "stripped" my first two novels to make them eBook ready. There turns out to be a "clear" option on Word that does it automatically. (Meanwhile, I have recommended this company to many writer friends because I thought their prices were so reasonable.)

I took tons of notes about creating, marketing, distributing and promoting an eBook. I ended up with a headache and a deep feeling of inadequacy. I said to a friend:

"This is harder than writing a book in the first place." Then that night I went to see The Words. If you haven't seen it, don't. It's all about plagiarism and literary prizes and asks the question, does crime pay? (The answer is yes, if you're Dennis Quaid.) The other element in the movie that contributed to my nightmare was Jeremy Irons. (Does he really look that old or was it makeup? Please God, tell me it was makeup.)

After the movie I went over my notes from the workshop. I had trouble falling asleep and when I did my nightmare was waiting for me. Just like a bad dream.