On the Upside, You Don’t Have to Cast it into a Volcano

You know what is difficult? Querying an agency that asks you to include “a favorite sentence from the manuscript you are submitting” in your submissions package. That is difficult.

What kind of sentence does one choose? I looked back over The Dogwatchers to pick one.

A pretty description? Hmm, I bet lots of people choose bits of description. Plus, I’m not sure I want my ONE SENTENCE TO RULE THEM ALL to be one in which nothing actually happens.

A funny line? Risky. If they don’t think this is funny, it’s a total flop. Plus, it’s hard to find one sentence that’s funny out of context.

My action scenes use mostly short, to-the-point sentences, no one of which is a show-stopper, and many of which make no sense out of context. Dialogue, probably my favorite part of my writing, can be hard to convey well with just one sentence. Besides, the most eloquent characters of The Dogwatchers don’t necessarily talk about things that make for a good One Sentence. (The sentence I ended up choosing does, however, come from dialogue.)

It occurred to me that if the submission guidelines asked for a paragraph, I’d be stumped because I had too many I’d like to send, rather than for the opposite reason. I’m sure the agents do take into account that lots of great lines require setup, but this was still highly unnerving.

What about you guys? Does anyone feel like it WOULDN’T be terrifying to pull out one sentence from a novel and say, essentially, “In my opinion, there isn’t a better line in here than this”?

In other news, I finished making my Halloween costume!

I’m a werewolf! I’m going to be a werewolf of London, but this is just me with the ears and tail that I made. I have a complete outfit, but it’s waiting for Sunday.

Aaand, thanks to the the backgrounds available in Photo Booth, I’m an American werewolf in Paris! Rowr!

Just wait until I get the whole outfit together and wear it to work. That’s what you get for scheduling me for Halloween, Carrboro Branch Library!

8 thoughts on “On the Upside, You Don’t Have to Cast it into a Volcano

  • Awesome costume! Your library comment reminds me that at my interview (which went very well, I expect to have a second telephone interview next week), the library circ staff was dressed up AS ZOMBIES for the day. …I really need to get this job.

    The favorite line is hard! “Favorite” doesn’t necessarily mean “best,” but unless you remember your own writing in extreme detail, it would take forever to decide. And generally sounds like it’s biased toward people with very colorful writing styles. I think a nice bit of active description would work well, though – something that shows clever writing but isn’t just pretty.

    Of course you could always ADD such a sentence to your novel. 🙂

    I tried to do this quickly with my second novel, and immediately settled on something from the middle part where Kallias is being angsty in his flashback diary. I feel like this is cheating, though, because it’s first person, and thus somehow more conducive for super pretty prose (and also not representative of the rest of the novel).

    • Oh, and your costume is appropriate because I’m rereading Prisoner of Azkaban (somehow it’s actually been like 3+ years now since I’ve read most of the books, so I decided it’s time). Yay for werewolves!

  • Hooray! A non-threatening werewolf! (I am a huge werewolf sympathizer and will no doubt write my own epic someday about an angsty loner werewolf who is Just Misunderstood. But at least s/he’ll beat out the damn vampire in the end, I am sick of them always winning.)

    I’m dying to know which sentence you chose! Maybe as I have not read The Dogwatchers I could offer my oh-so-valuable, nearly-a-professional opinion on it.

    • The phrase “damn vampire” kind of makes me laugh. Those damned vampires! . . . Which is most of them!

      The sentence I chose is, “If you should happen to go there, and you should happen to learn anything while you’re there, I would thank you to never discuss it with me.” Since my query plays up the mystery element of the book and the fact that the protagonist and her friends are investigating it, I find this line – which is part of a secondary character’s reluctant guidance toward a clue – appropriate, and I like how it sounds.

      . . . Although, annoyingly enough, I am just now having thoughts about possibly flipping the order of the words “to” and “never”: “. . . I would thank you never to discuss it with me.” After, like, three full edits. 😛 Thoughts?

      • Haha, I actually just mentally edited the line that way while reading it. But that’s just my split infinitive detector going off. I can’t decide which way actually sounds better. Leaning toward the edited version, though.

        • Hmm. I think it works. I know very little about the overall story, and the line is completely out of context, but I’m intrigued. The line by itself reverses some usual conventions and expectations, and I like that about it: the idea of, “Let’s not talk about this obviously important plot point.” I’m entertained.

          And I like it the first way. “To never” sounds better to me than “never to.”

          • I’m glad you like it! Particularly since, as you noted, you haven’t read The Dogwatchers. It’s also nice to know that the word order isn’t one of those things where oops, EVERYONE likes it better the other way. 😛 Thanks!

  • I wonder if that is something better left to someone else. Though if you ever have to for “Dragons over London”, send in the first line, it was pretty awesome.

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