Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest Blogger!

Our guest blogger is Hannah Rogers, literary agent. Her website is here.

Hi! I'm Hannah. It's a thrill to talk to the famous "Evil Minions." I wish I had minions, although I wouldn't call them that. Maybe Hannah's Flunkies. I'd prefer something that rhymes, but all I can think of is Hannah's Bananas.

Anyway, I'm known as the first agent to accept manuscript submissions of only the first sentence. It's a big time saver. Not only does it save me reading time and you writing time, but I'm able to respond within hours, sometimes minutes. Depends on whether I'm at my computer when your sentence comes in or out to lunch with my unpaid intern, Chelsea.

I have a theory about writing. My theory is this: If you can come up with a fantastic first sentence, the book will practically write itself. That means your manuscript doesn't need to be complete to submit to me. In fact, all you need is one sentence.

Why write a whole book, only to have agents read the first sentence and reject it? I say there's a better way. Write the first sentence, submit it to me, and if I give you the go-ahead, write the book. If I don't, you've saved months of futile work.

Being a twenty-first-century agent, I'm into digital everything, including responding to submissions on my Twitter account. I post your sentence and tweet my reaction to it. Tweet tweet! What this means is that if your first sentence is more than 140 characters (For instance: The package that came in the mail contained the diary of a man I'd never heard of, but what intrigued me even more was the two missing pages.), it won't fit, and if it's much more than 100 characters, there may not be room for me to say something like, I love that sentence; please send me the complete manuscript now or whenever you finish the book. See, that was 97 characters. So Hemingway those first sentences, don't Tolstoy them.

You may be thinking, I'm not a twitterer, so how will I see your response? You can become a twitterer (tweep), which requires only a fake name and an email address.

You may also be thinking, Since when are "Hemingway" and "Tolstoy" verbs? That was my way of saying, If you make Hemingway and Tolstoy verbs on page 1 of your manuscript, most agents will reject you immediately, but not me, because I've done it myself.

You can submit your sentence as a comment to this post. I challenge every Evil Minion to send me one fantastic first sentence today. Who knows? I may be tweeting you a book contract tomorrow.


Phoenix Sullivan said...

As Hannah is my ONLY choice for an agent, I have been diligently working on my first sentence since she opened shop. Since I'm not sure she reps my favored genre, I want to be sure I submit something -- anything -- she can relate to. Sadly, my sentence is not Twitter friendly, so it looks like a simple business model change is about to shatter my dearest dream.

Unless ... Help me, Evil Minions. You're my only hope! How can I edit my sentence to meet Hannah's twit of a guideline?


It's time to tell her it's over between us, Wolfgang, the ex-neo-Nazi-turned-alfalfa farmer, thought as, in the ethereal glow of the Californium-251-fueled reactor, he embraced Rhoda, svelte heiress to the Silverstein fortune, who ran her tongue over his broad, muscular chest, reaching down with one long-fingered hand to stroke his hard, rigid piece that he always kept strapped in the leather holster at his side because you never knew when or where the Mafia would skank, especially now since the drought meant the bottom had fallen out of the timothy market on earth and demand for low-G alfalfa like the kind he was raising on his lunar plantation, Tara, had sent the price of alfalfa soaring higher than an exploding shuttle and you never could trust those sons-of-bitches wise guys anyway even in the best of times, and besides, there was always that incident with Hikaru -- where had the blood come from? -- to be considered, though he never liked to think about it too long because it always gave him one of those terrible headaches that felt like someone clamping a vise around his head, and then the visions would begin -- those prescient nightmares that had foretold the deaths of several of his closest friends (like Tex, the Oklahoma cowboy who'd bit the dust after bein' bucked off o' th' meanest, loco-ist bronc this side o' th' Pecos; McDuff, the shy brewer who had choked to death playing "Greensleeves" on his beloved pipes; Alfonso, the bullfighter and international drugrunner who had been devoured by that great white while diving off the coast of Australia; and Lucky Pierre, the New Caledonian rebel leader whose head had been -- but no, he wouldn't let himself think about them), and Wolfgang was afraid that the next time he dreamed, he would dream of Rhoda, and he couldn't bear to see her dead and lifeless body laid beneath the cold, cold earth of the moon.

Melinda S. Collins said...

Hi Hannah! I guess I'll be the first evil minion on this one *smile*

"Today was a day I wished I had the gifts of my immortal characters."

Melinda Collins -- @LurchzPrincess on Twitter

none said...

You're going to share with us when she gets her first real submission, right?

Laurel said...

I went to your website where it said to click on "Post a Comment", but I couldn't find the "Post a Comment" button.

What am I doing wrong?

vkw said...

All you need is a period, Phoenix.

It's time to tell her that its over.

That's it.

Stick and Move said...

Not many people posting their first sentences here? What the heck, I'll take a crack at it.

Chuck Truett watched from behind dark sunglasses as people streamed in and out of the bank.

Stephen Prosapio said...

Simple. Just change it to "It's time." And then the rest of the sentence becomes sentence two.

I'm sure Hannah would have been a bright enough bulb to figure that one out eventually...

Scott from Oregon said...

Waking from a coma was much easier than all of just about everything I ever did.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Phoenix, a sentence like that should go straight to a publisher. Why give an agent 15% of it?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Why give an agent 15% of it?
Why that's heresy, AR! I'm surprised either agent or editor allowed that comment through.

OK, here's my edited sentence:
It's over.

See how that embodies everything from the essence of the problem at the heart of the story to an observation about my writing career after submitting this?

And it leaves plenty of room for Hannah to include all the pertinent deal points she'll be strong-arming a certain editor for.

Now show this banana some love, Ms. Hannah!

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

The problem is "it's over" doesn't work in most of the genres you've got in your original sentence:

Romance: It's over... or is it?

Erotica: It's over. Shall we do it again?

SciFi: In a sense it's over, but time is a kleinbottle.

Western: It ain't over till the last man eats dust.

American Saga: It's sort of over, but the plains stretch on forever. Time to milk the elk.

Laurel said...

Well, this is not a twitter worthy sentence, but here goes anyway:

It was bad enough our new high school’s colors were orange and black, its mascot was a raven, and it was dedicated on October 31st, but when Mr. McKay discovered the body of a student on the third floor landing, there was just no way our town’s new school was going to escape the nickname Halloween High.

Dave Fragments said...

Here's my opening line:
In the year 2055, Ulysses Walker-Evans ran to the airlock of Warehouse Three on Moonbase Alpha and climbed through as fast as his small feet would carry him.

Evil Editor said...

Sentences of more than 140 characters just aren't gonna make the cut. It's Tweetie's rule, not mine.

Dave Fragments said...

Well then, use your fingers and toes.
Here's my opening line:
In the year 2055, Ulysses Walker-Evans ran to the airlock of Warehouse Three on Moonbase Alpha