Aug 1, 2011

Query-Cure Revision #2

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

I'm striking out here, but am taking all opinions into account. Here's a revision I think is along the lines of the character versus plot critique theme. I hope it's more in-line with what everyone's looking for.


Dear Dream Agent,

Miranda gave up her budding military career to marry fellow soldier Scott Penton but when their first child is stillborn, it’s more tragedy than their new marriage can handle. Desperate to forget the pain of the loss, Miranda files for divorce and accepts an unexpected job offer at the Nixon Healing and Research Center.

Dr. Howard Nixon, a brilliant scientist and wealthy physician, is using his facility as a cover for human/zombie experimentation and believes that the pathogen that causes the zombie infection can be used to cannibalize tumors in cancer patients, curing them. The problem is that he needs to temper the virus by creating a hybrid to avoid infecting those he’s treating.

Miranda becomes one of Dr. Nixon’s victims, but her imprisonment at the Center is short-lived. A rescue team led by Scott, her soon-to-be ex, reverses the hospital’s lock-down and releases not just the human victims, but the infected on an unsuspecting population.

Miranda realizes she’s pregnant with an experimental hybrid and after battling to keep her pregnancy a secret, her maternal instinct convinces her to keep the baby. The infant is born healthy and normal-appearing, allowing her and Scott to contrive a cover story that he is the father. The problem is, not everyone believes it. As the infection spreads Miranda’s infant is targeted. A defected group of Nixon’s clinical staff believe that her baby holds the cure to the outbreak. How far will Miranda go and at what cost to the world to stop them?

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 the author of an independently published novel, Dead Spell, which has received great reviews and am a member of the Horror Writer's Association, New England Horror Writers and SCBWI. I would be happy to send you a partial or the full manuscript of Cure. Thank you for your consideration

Regards,

Belinda Frisch

5 comments:

Rick Daley said...

I think this sounds like a cool story, and I like the twist in the plot, i.e. I'll cure your cancer but you may get turned into a zombie as a side-effect. That's a very cool concept.

I think the query needs a stronger hook. The first paragraph is all backstory...it's a query for a zombie book but you're 72 words in before "zombie" is mentioned.

I reccommend a strucxture like this:

Salutation,

Hook sentence.

Paragraph describing protagonist and her plight.

Paragraph describing antagonist and challenges for the protagonist.

Bio.

I am querying you because... Thank you for your time and consideration.

Closing / sample pages / etc. according to the agent's guidelines.

NOTE: Some agents prefer to have the personalized "I am querying you because" at the front of the query (Nathan Bransford was one, although he is not longer an agent), while others prefer you get right to the heart of the matter (e.g. Janet Reid, a.k.a. Query Shark). Move this around based on the agent you are querying.

gj said...

A lot authors try to squeeze their stories into "high concept" pitches, when the stories just aren't high concept, but I'm thinking this query/story might work better with a really, really really short, high-concept pitch.

I'm no good at doing high-concept myself, but something along the lines of: Ten years ago, a child was created by a mad scientist, who crossed human DNA with zombie DNA, and now he wants his experiment back.

That's way too long for high concept (I did say I was bad at it), and doesn't quite get it right. But I think it could be done. If nothing else, it would help to chisel away all the stuff that doesn't matter to the query, which is currently loaded down with backstory and explanations that really don't matter at this stage.

See if you can get it down to a single "what if" type of sentence.

Anonymous said...

yankinfrance here...

Hmm. My feeling right now is that you're too close to your material -- too much of what's in here is important to the NOVEL, but not to the query.

For example Miranda (who is the only one here with no last name?) is important to this query -- but her military career is not.

Her being pregnant with a zombie hybrid is important -- the stillborn (and the breakup of her marriage) is not.

Filing for divorce, accepting the job, etc. -- not important.

Evil Mad Scientist (EMS) dude -- important. Brilliant and wealthy -- not important.

Experimenting with a human/zombie hybrid to cure cancer-- VERY important. The details (pathogen, tempering virus, etc.)- not important.

EMS secretly impregnates Miranda -- important. Soon-to-be ex rescues her and accidentally frees the infected (see? I've adopted the lingo ;-) ) -- important.


What's Missing: the hook/tagline that places Miranda squarely at the center of the action. Something along the lines of : (hook/opening line) "Miranda Penton is pregnant with the world's first human/zombie hybrid -- and holds the secret to stopping the zombie plague threatening to destroy us all." and (tag/closes novel description) "Now, she must choose -- save her baby, or save the world."

What's really missing: The sex. The edge. This is a zombie novel, dammit. But you've made it read like a Cengage textbook (I write for them too, and damn it gets dry sometimes).

Issues to resolve: Is EMS really evil? On the one hand, he's trying to cure cancer. on the other, you call Miranda his 'victim'. On the one hand, he needs to track her down to cure the zombie plague. On the other she's afraid to be caught.

Anyway the premise of the novel is great, so don't give up.

More nagging about the bio section: I'd get rid of "has received great reviews." Instead, what agents expect here are the numbers -- how many copies did you sell and how long did it take to sell them. If the numbers are not large enough and impressive enough, then you really really should consider dropping this.

Your bio section only needs to be this:

"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 will be happy to send you the full manuscript, at your request.

Thank you for your consideration. (Don't forget to punctuate!)

Sincerely,
BF (F? ;-) ) "

The only reason you'd want to include the novel credit is if you've sold 50,000 copies (or some appreciable number). In that case, you'd LEAD the bio section with it. Otherwise, stick to the things that have been published by third-parties.

Lastly, the suggestion of boiling down your novel into a single sentence (I believe Anonymous Author suggests something like 30 words or less?) is a great exercise for getting to the root of the novel -- and building the query from there. This will help you to stick to the 250-word limit too.

Dominique said...

This is much better. I think if you cut a lot of the backstory from you're opener, you'll be well on your way.

GLJ said...

This reads well, but is rather long. I would suggest trimming it a bit. Is it important that her husband was a soldier? Is it important to the plot that she was a soldier? I suspect the answer might be “yes” for Miranda, but am doubtful about her husband. And I don’t feel it is important enough to put in the query.

I'm glad you are continuing to work on the query. The story has real promise, and I like the basic idea of using the virus/pathogen to cure cancer.

Below is a suggestion of how it could be trimmed and tightened up. This is still rather rough, but I present it as an example of how some detail could be dropped. I hope this is helpful, as I do not know your story and guessed at a few places, where a corner needed to be turned.


Miranda gave up her military career to marry a fellow soldier, but when their first child is stillborn, Miranda files for divorce and accepts an unexpected job offer from the Nixon Healing and Research Center. Dr. Nixon, brilliant scientist, is using his facility for human/zombie experimentation. He believes the pathogen that causes zombie infections can be used to cannibalize tumors in cancer patients, curing them. The only problem is that cured patients turn into zombies—and healthy, vibrant zombies at that. He must temper the virus by creating a hybrid to avoid infecting those he’s treating. And Miranda, desperate for a child, is the perfect test subject.

Dr. Nixon impregnates Miranda and keeps her in his facility. But a team led by her soon-to-be ex breaks into the Nixon Healing and Research Center and pulls her out. The rescue also releases other patients, including some infected by the zombie virus. An outbreak spreads as Miranda and her soon-to-be ex wait for the birth.

To Miranda’s relief, the baby is born healthy and normal. But as the infection spreads, rumors grow that the baby holds the cure to the outbreak—and extracting the cure will likely kill the infant.

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