Aug 9, 2011

Query: Cure 4th Revision

Click here to read the original query.
Click here to read the first revision.
Click here to read the second revision.
Click here to read the third revision.

Ok, I know I said the last one was the last one, but some new comments caused some significant changes. Hopefully this is it. Thanks, everyone!

Dear Dream Agent,

When it is discovered that the pathogen responsible for zombie infection can cure cancer, human experimentation leads to an outbreak of infection. Miranda Penton’s hybrid infant holds the key to stopping it and Miranda must decide between saving humanity or her own child’s life.

Miranda gave up her budding military career to marry a fellow soldier but when their first child is stillborn, it’s more tragedy than their new marriage can handle. In the midst of a painful divorce, Miranda accepts an unexpected job offer as a member of the security team for the Nixon Healing and Research Center.

Her new employer has proof that the zombie pathogen can heal cancer, but the cure comes with the risk of infection. The solution: tempering the virus by way of human-zombie hybrid. The condition that caused Miranda’s baby’s demise makes her the perfect candidate to carry an undead’s offspring to term. She becomes the experiment’s next victim, but her imprisonment at the Center is short-lived.

A rescue team led by her estranged husband reverses the hospital’s lock-down and releases not just the human victims, but the infected on an unsuspecting population.

Impregnated with the hybrid and instinctually driven to keep it, Miranda and Scott contrive a cover story that he is the father. The problem is, not everyone believes it. As the infection spreads, Miranda’s infant daughter is targeted. A defected group of Nixon’s clinical staff believe that her baby’s DNA can stop the outbreak and it’s up to Miranda to save her.

CURE is a zombie horror novel complete at 65,000 words and has series potential.

My short stories have appeared in Shroud Magazine, Dabblestone, and on Tales of the Zombie War’s website. My short story, “The Look-alike” earned me honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition. I am a member of the Horror Writer's Association and New England Horror Writers. I would be happy to send you a partial or the full manuscript of CURE. Thank you for your consideration


Belinda Frisch


Rick Daley said...

This is the best opening yet, I think it's a solid hook.

At first it seemed the story description was too long, but I copied and pasted into Word and you're only at 251 words...that's not too bad. You can still probably distill paragraphs 2-5 into 2 paragraphs though, focusing more on the central conflict and less on the exposition.

Good luck, this version is a definite improvement over the early drafts!

Belinda Frisch said...

Thanks, Rick. I appreciate you commenting. It's been a long work-in-progress. I love writing, but hate querying. It's like kryptonite. Constructive feedback is so hard to come by and I'm glad for everyone here that pitched in.

Stephanie M. Lorée said...

Great query. I would read this book. I only have a couple nit-picks.

1) P1, "holds the key to stopping it": I don't know what "it" refers to. The human experimentation? The infection? Cancer?

2) P5, "A defected group of Nixon’s clinical staff believe that her baby’s DNA can stop the outbreak and it’s up to Miranda to save her." These two clauses don't logically track. What is Miranda saving the baby from? The group believes the DNA can stop the outbreak, and that seems like a good thing. You need to clarify the cause--effect of this sentence. Also the double "her" prounoun use leads to confusion.

Example: A defected group of Nixon's clinical staff believe her baby's DNA can stop the outbreak, and it's up to Miranda to keep her child from becoming a guinea pig.

That's not great, but you get my drift.

3) Finally, you don't need this sentence, "I would be happy to send you a partial or the full manuscript of CURE." Of course you would be, otherwise you shouldn't be querying. Cut it.

Everything else looks stellar to me. I prefer a bit of exposition to get to know characters in a query, and this is very clear, concise, and intriguing. The exposition makes me understand Miranda a bit and why I'd want to read about her. It's applicable.

But your mileage may vary. I prefer the slow-build. Not everyone does.

I hope this helps you. This is a book I'd like to read some day. A new take on zombies and what sounds like a strong female protag, my kind of story. Best of luck and happy writing!

Rick Daley said...

It's easier to critique a query than to write your own, IMHO. You've done a good job revising this one. I wish you luck, you certainly do have an intriguing premise.

Mark said...

Great improvement- nice work- but still it can be better- don't be discouraged-it took me until draft 16 (I am slower than you) before I got a query that an agent responded to- I agree with all comments here- and it is still a bit too long- shoot for 250 words max.

The first sentence is very good in terms of content, but stylistically it might be better if it was more active and less passive- something perhaps like "Agent X (pathogen) is humanity's worst curse- and biggest hope. It is the bug that creates zombies- and cures cancer. Miranda Peyton's hybrid baby..."-you get the picture.

Also- you can cut this and save 29 words- "I am a member of the Horror Writer's Association and New England Horror Writers. I would be happy to send you a partial or the full manuscript of CURE." - I don't think these memberships mean anything, in the whole scheme of things, to an agent- and to me they distract from the essence of your query.

Pare it down to around 250 words- it will stand out more and be much more stark.

Lastly- have you read "The Passage"- the premise is similar- virus that has medicinal properties to cure cancer- creates vampires- just pointing this out in case you have not read and you get agents who ask/ question your premise.

Great job in re-working this query, best of luck to you!

GLJ said...


This is improving, and you are doing the right thing by hammering away at it. But I think it could be tighter yet.

The first paragraph is a two sentence distillation of your plot. Then the subsequent paragraphs say the same thing, just in more detail. That is the problem with a logline-type query letter, it is repetitive. Some agents point this out in their blogs. I think the first paragraph is good, but I personally prefer that the first sentence of a query doesn't sum up the entire query. I would hope most query readers could be patient enough to read the entire thing.

The sentence "A defected group of Nixon’s clinical staff believe that her baby’s DNA can stop the outbreak and it’s up to Miranda to save her." has a problem, in addition to the pronoun problem a previous commenter noted. I'm not sure you mean "defected", which implies that the staff were born with or given a defect or flaw. I'm sure you mean they defected from the doctor, with defecting meaning to leave or flee. But the "ed" suffix seems wrong. I think "a defecting group" would be correct.

Anonymous said...

yankinfrance here...

Your current total word count, minus salutations, is still 333 words. The 250-word limit is not arbitrary : it's the amount of words that fit on a single page. And sticking to this limit will help you focus the query.

I still find the writing here to be a bit flat -- the sentences are rather lifeless and lack a sense of urgency and flow.

The first paragraph goes in the right direction: you get immediately to the crux of the conflict. But it's still not a hook -- it's just an introduction. I find it too wordy and impersonal (which is part of why it reads flat).

It's also confusing -- nothing prepares us for the introduction of a hybrid infant (the rest of us understand this part only because we've read four iterations of this query).

Then the query slips into plodding backstory. The entire second paragraph is unneccessary, for example. None of this information matters for the query.

Get to the point right away:

"A zombie plague is quickly running out of control -- and only Miranda Penton's infant daughter (insert name here) holds the key to stopping it.

"(Miranda's child) is unlike any other. A team of scientists, led by Dr. Howard Nixon, has discovered the pathogen responsible for the zombie infection may also be able to cure cancer. The only safe means to produce the pathogen is to develop a zombie-human hybrid. But Nixon's experiments have all failed -- until his team impregnates Miranda against her will.

"Miranda's husband Col. Scott Penton rescues her from Nixon's facility, only to cause an outbreak of the zombie plague. Quickly Miranda becomes the target of a manhunt -- for only (her infant daughter)'s hybrid DNA can stop the plague.

"Now Miranda must choose: Save humanity -- or her child."

With your bio paragraph and salutation, this gets you below the 250-word limit. It captures the most necessary plot elements with no backstory, while introducing the major characters -- and especially the villain, whom you left out in the last iteration.

I suggest providing the child's name (because Miranda gives birth during the book, right?), which is why I put these in parentheses.

I also took the liberty of identifying Scott as "Col." (but perhaps he has a different rank in the novel) which very succinctly establishes his military background.

Lastly, look at the query process as an opportunity, not as a burden. It will help you to perfect the novel.

The title, for example, could be much more evocative and can also help to provide more depth to both the query and the novel. "Cure" could go anywhere and be slapped onto anyone of dozens of books in many different genres, including non-fiction. Find a title that only YOUR novel can use. (While recognizing, of course, that titles often get changed during the publishing process.)

And finally, I find critiquing other peoples' queries to be very helpful in examining my own. In case anyone was wondering. ;-)