Wednesday, August 20, 2008

#66-Revised

Revision

Dear Query Shark:

After nearly dying in childbirth, physician Maddy Edwards can speak with the dead. But when the dead warn of murder, will anyone believe her?

Boston internist Maddy Edwards is a hypochondriac with one big worry-- she's more-than-a-little-bit pregnant, and afraid she won't survive the delivery. Maddy's fears prove justified when her heart stops momentarily in childbirth, the result of a serious medical error. When additional deadly errors occur at the same hospital, Maddy is invited to join the oversight committee reviewing the apparent medical miscues. But Maddy, plagued with
psychic abilities since her near-death experience, soon realizes the truth-- the seeming mistakes are being deliberately staged. As the attacks continue, hospital authorities ignore Maddy's warnings and doubt her sanity. Maddy begins tracking the killer herself, knowing another attack could strike the hospital at any time. The ghostly clues lead Maddy to a surprising culprit-- a grieving mother who wants to bring down the hospital in revenge for her
daughter's death after surgery. Exposed, the woman escapes with Maddy's baby, a replacement for the stricken woman's lost child. Now Maddy and her husband must find their baby or they too will lose a daughter.

DEATH BY ERROR (86,000 words) combines the sensibility of a Lisa Scottoline novel with the plot arc of medical thriller. It should appeal to readers who enjoy suspense novels with a strong female protagonist. My background as a physician and published author in medical journals brings realism to the story. I am seeking your representation because I love your blog.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Yup, that works!




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ORIGINAL

Dear Ms. Shark,

Physician Maddy Edwards sees dead people, and not just at work.

Cliche alert! There's no way to say "sees dead people" unless you mean it sardonically and not have people think instantly of the movie. I mean really now, who doesn't see dead people these days!

Boston internist Maddy Edwards is a hypochondriac with one big worry-- she's more-than-a-little-bit pregnant, and afraid she won't survive the delivery. Maddy's fears prove justified when her heart stops momentarily in childbirth, the result of a serious medical error. After her near-death experience, Maddy is troubled by strange encounters with transitioning
souls, with whom she can now communicate. These wronged spirits confirm what Maddy already suspects-- the deadly medical errors that continue to plague her local hospital are really a series of vengeful murders. Skeptical at first, Maddy begins to accept her power as clues from the dead lead her to the killer. When the killer responds by kidnapping Maddy's infant daughter Grace, Maddy and her husband must find Grace before she becomes the killer's
next victim.

There's a list somewhere of "If I Were The Killer I Wouldn't" and it captures one of the biggest problems with a lot of thriller queries I see. If I were the killer, and Maddy was after my hide, I'd KILL HER. What the heck does he hope to accomplish by kidnapping her kid? For starters, what's he going to do, keep the kid forever to keep Maddy from investigating? If he kills the kid, his leverage is gone.

This kind of "kidnap the girlfriend/daughter/wife/dog/Kindle" motif is as old as Aaron Spelling TV scripts. In other words, NOT fresh and new.

Also, you mention "vengeful" but it would really help if we had more of a sense of the plot. And why Maddy (mother of an infant!) would risk all to investigate.

And was the serious medical error during her delivery really an attempt to kill her? And why?


The plot has to make sense in and of itself. A lot of times you'll see the word "organic" and it means just this: the plot has to adhere to its own internal logic requirements. You can't just say "she'll get kidnapped!" to create tension. That's the stuff of bad romance novels and soap operas.


DEATH BY ERROR (86,000 words) combines the sensibility of a Lisa Scottoline novel with the plot arc of a medical thriller. It should appeal to readers who enjoy suspense novels with a strong female protagonist. I am a physician and published author in academic journals, currently writing full-time. I am seeking your representation because I love your blog! If you would like to read more, the completed novel is available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

11 comments:

Lehcarjt said...

Been here. Done this. 'Ghost Whisperer' comes to mind as soon as you say that she is helping ghosts cross-over. It just isn't very original, and I didn't find the story line compelling.

Just_Me said...

Hurting kids or kidnapping them is not something I like to read. I'm over-sensative. I have two small kids of my own and books like this are tramautizing.

The idea of a serial killer working at the hospital is interesting, focus on that and run with it.

Southern Writer said...

You're a doctor with the potential to make really big bucks, and you gave it up to write full time? Do you realize how little money writers make, or that we can go years without a payday? And don't you have student loans to pay? Sorry; I know it's none of my business, but it strikes me as really odd. I thought doctors were dedicated to their work and smart. Don't you watch House?

Sarah Laurenson said...

Oh No! Don't kidnap the Kindle!

benwah said...

Southern Writer: Not to speak for the author, but as a doctor myself, I write as an outlet. Instead of, say, playing golf or snorting Vidodin like Hugh Laurie's character.

Your financial argument is a specious one: surely you don't think everyone chose medicine for the money?

Snow falls in may said...

I'm not trying to be a wanker, because Lord knows I haven't been able to write a decent query letter, but there is nothing in this one which lifts it above the "made for tv" movie cliche. The book may actually have it, may be interesting and well written, but the query does not reflect it.

Julia said...

Here's a good compilation of the Evil Overlord List and its spin-offs.

magdalune said...

I immediately thought of 'The Eye." After the obvious, of course.

Southern Writer said...

Benwah, no, of course I don't think all doctors chose their profession for the money. I think they probably come in two varieties: those who are in it for the money, and those who are truly dedicated to healing. But either way, writing is a big step down from there, imho. Don't get me wrong, I love writing, and I'm not knocking anyone who chooses it for a career, but I can't imagine med school is easy or cheap, not to mention residency, and to struggle like that for so long and then just chuck it is unfathomable to me. I'm all for writing as an outlet, but you didn't give up your career to do it, did you? Okay, I'm going to pick my chin up off the desk now and shut my mouth before someone tells me to. I don't mean to offend anyone; I'm just nonplussed.

Ver: dr c gos

jeanoram said...

Cliche or no cliche. Done or not done...I like it. A new mom forced into a mystery? A SMART woman forced into solving a mystery. I'll take it.

I could be biased because I've had the privilege of reading the first page...and loved it.

Don't give up, you can do this!

Rachel Redmond said...

I have just one small nitpick with the revised version: there are two different epithets two sentences apart used to refer to the same person. Even with the name mentioned both times I skimmed and had to go back to tell that it was the same person. Maybe it's because I'm not a doctor, but when I see "physician" I don't think of the same thing I do when I see "internist."