Aug 4, 2011

Query- Cure (third revision)

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

Well, this is the last one for now. Thanks for the comments and though I've tried to shrink the word count, I feel the more I take away, the more confusing the story sounds. It's totally different from #1, so what do we think now? Better? I cut out the intro/bio for crit purposes only.

What if the pathogen responsible for zombie infection could cure cancer? What if the cost was human experimentation? What if that experiment led to outbreak? And one infant’s life could stop it?

Miranda Penton 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.

Dr. Howard Nixon, a brilliant scientist and wealthy physician who is conducting experiments on the pathogen that causes zombie infection, hopes to transform the virus into something that will cannibalize tumors in cancer patients. The problem is, he needs to temper it by way of a living hybrid to avoid infecting those he’s treating. The condition that caused Miranda to lose her baby, secretly the reason Dr. Nixon recruited her, makes her the perfect candidate to carry an undead’s offspring to term.

Miranda becomes Dr. Nixon’s next victim, but her imprisonment at the Center is short-lived. A rescue team led by Scott, 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 an experimental 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 holds the cure to the outbreak ravaging the U.S. population. How far will Miranda go to keep her daughter safe and at what cost to the world?

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


Stephanie M. Lorée said...

First off, I really think this story has promise. The premise is intriguing and I'd be interested in it if only for the concept.

Now, on to the critique!

Never start with rhetorical questions. Just delete them. You can read dozens of articles about it, but Bransford summed it up best in 2006 here.

I like the next paragraph, it has a good character description and exposition. I'm not opposed to the slow-build, but some people will argue to start right away with the hook. Your mileage may vary.

Then, in paragraph 2, you switch characters on me. Stick with the same protagonist throughout the query, even if your manuscript is multiple PoV. You need to tell this through Miranda's perspective. A simple fix: "Unfortunately, her new boss is conducting experiments on the pathogen that causes zombie infection..." Simply make Miranda the subject, NOT the doctor. His name isn't even important to the query.

Also, the husband's name isn't necessary. Keep characters limited to the protagonist, and reference other characters as they relate to the protagonist. IE: estranged husband, boss, etc. The exception to this is if if you're writing Romance, then both Hero & Heroine are important. At most, name 2 characters in a query. That's my rule of thumb.

I'm usually not big on ending questions. How far will they go? What will they do? Etc. But for some reason, your question works for me. I think because it's personal about the daughter and the effect on the world.

Your title should be in all capitals. "CURE is a..."

Finally, I'd keep some of your original author bio. The most important parts only. Here's what I suggest for your close...

"CURE is a zombie horror novel complete at 65,000 words.

My work has appeared in Shroud Magazine, Dabblestone, and Tales of the Zombie War. My short story, “The Look-alike” earned an honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest 76th Annual Writing Competition. I am a member of the HWA and SCBWI.

Thank you for your consideration."

I argue that the HWA and SCBWI are professional organizations and show your dedication to serious, professional writing. Some may disagree with me, so in the end go with your gut.

I hope this helps you. Best of luck and happy writing!

Anonymous said...

Well, SCBWI is the Society of Children's Book Writers. So not really relevant to the query.

Anonymous said...

ps-- and Illustrators. Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Stephanie M. Lorée said...

Anon makes a good point about SCBWI. I didn't consider that.

Anonymous said...

yankinfrance here...

As someone who's been highly critical of the first iterations of this query, I have to say I really enjoyed this version.

I think she carries off a much greater sense of urgency here, the voice seems more solid and more focused.

I'm not bothered so much by the rhetorical question. Yes, I realize it's one of those query no-nos. But if you read through various agents blogs where they provide examples of what worked for them, you'll invariably find at least one query using a rhetorical question as a hook.

In this case, I think there are just too many questions. Something pithier like

"What if the pathogen responsible for the zombie outbreak could also cure cancer? Only Miranda Penton's infant daughter holds the answer. Now Miranda must choose who to save -- humanity or her daughter's life."

I wasn't bothered as much by the switching of focus to the doc this time out. But again, that paragraph is too wordy, and then loses the suspense going into the next paragraph.

The query is still too long but it has become much tighter.

I agree with the comment about the bio paragraph -- at least for the published stories and contest. Bring that back in, trim a few words from the rest of the query.

At this point, however, I strongly recommend taking a couple of weeks off from this. Work on something else. Come back to the query with fresh eyes and energy.

Anonymous said...

I would also kick out the mention of series potential. It sound somewhat pretentious to tell the agent before they can form their own opinion.

Mark said...

So this brings up a question for anyone, regarding Anonymous's previous series comment-

I can understand that the comments "has series potential" may be construed as being too arrogant/ confident- by some- when referring to your own work.

But if your book really does have series potential, and you include the blurb "first in a series"- is that not an inherently good thing? Of course your manuscript has to stand on its own- but let's say it IS good- and well received- would not an agent like a book with series potential more than a stand-alone book? I would guess this COULD help and CAN'T hurt- comments?

Stephanie M. Lorée said...

Mark: Opinions vary on the mention of series in a query. The issue is mainly that you are querying for one book, and that book should be your only focus. If the agent is interested in your book, and you get "the call" you can discuss a series with them. First though, you need to get them to respond to the query.

This is a larger problem when someone puts, "This is book 1 in a 7 book series, which I have completed." And the agent doesn't have the heart to tell them that they've written 7 books that aren't marketable.

Personally, I think saying that your book has "series potential" is fine. It's not too much.

Not everyone will agree with me. In the end, do what you think is best. It's your query.

Anonymous Author said...

Mark, I have sold a series. It's much tougher than selling a single book. You're asking the publisher to commit to a much greater risk of resources than they would on a single book.

"Series potential" has an advantage over "first in a series". It suggests an awareness of the risks inherent to the situation, and a willingness to put your all into the first book and to be flexible.

Mark said...

Anonymous and Stephanie- thanks for your comments/ advice- it helps, I appreciate it!