Dr. Kate Tilton learns about medical fraud the hard way—as a victim. Her recovery from disfiguring cancer surgery at the hands of a trusted colleague, Dr. Stephen Berg, is complicated by a growing suspicion that a mistake was made. The surgical findings contradict the X-ray and biopsy reports that led to her diagnosis.
Your writing is very passive here. "A growing suspicion" is greatly improved by making it "her growing suspicion"; "a mistake was made" to "her doctor made a mistake."
And correct me if I'm wrong here but medical fraud is commonly used to mean billing errors, not surgical errors. Surgical errors are called malpractice. I'm pretty sure they're two very different things.
When Berg dismisses her concerns as groundless, Kate insists on obtaining a second opinion.
Again, tighten this up: Berg dismisses her concerns (dismisses implies groundless) so Kate gets a second opinion. She doesn't insist on it. Insist implies she's making Berg do something.
She herself gets the second opinion, not Berg.
But when her X-rays and pathology slides vanish she is convinced that she has been the victim of a cover-up in a lucrative scheme to justify unnecessary surgery that she now fears took the life of one her own young patients months earlier.
There are 43 words in that sentence. Too many by half.
Also, if you can diagram this I'll eat my x-rays. I cannot over emphasize the need for simple, clear writing in a query: subject, verb, object. Start with that. Embellish as needed. Don't start with hilariously long convoluted sentences and try to edit them down.
Lacking evidence, she is about to abandon her case against Berg when she recalls that a single lock of hair, suitable for DNA matching, may still be contained inside a tiny locket worn by her deceased patient’s grieving mother.
And here is where you lose me completely. What the heck does DNA matching have to do with unnecessary surgery?
"contained inside" is a classic example of over writing. Either word works fine by itself: you don't need both.
Berg is tried in the girl’s death when DNA testing proves intentional manipulation of surgical evidence in her case resulting in surgery for a nonexistent malignancy. By inference, Kate is presumed to have been a target as well.
Implication not inference. I'll spot you that error this once, but this falls in the homonym category: errors I don't tolerate because writers should know better.
Berg’s conviction enables Kate to begin healing both emotionally and physically.
I am a retired family physician and I am seeking representation for The Bandaged Place, a literary novel that explores the sense of betrayal and outrage experienced by victims of medical fraud and traces one woman’s battle for retribution. It is complete at 80,000 words.
Thank you for your attention and consideration.
Query word count: 591 (in other words, too long by half) The 250 word limit forces you to focus and pare down. If your query is too long it risks sounding like a synopsis, and that's a disaster.
Dear Query Shark,
Human error is commonly invoked as a defense against the litigation of alleged medical fraud when, in fact, the crime is deliberate and it is motivated by greed. Dr. Kate Tilton learns this the hard way.
Start with your main character: Dr. Kate Tilton learns the hard way that yadda yadda yadda.
In The Bandaged Place, Dr. Tilton reluctantly closes her medical practice in order to relocate with her husband, Peter, to a remote northern New England community where he has accepted a position with an expanding regional trauma center. It isn't the move that concerns Kate; it's the marriage. Peter is characteristically reticent and their relationship is distant. Nevertheless, Kate considers it her sacramental duty to stick it out.
Ok, but what the heck does that have to do with the first paragraph? Answer: nothing.
This is all that expensive medical training and practice rearing its head. As a physician, you learned to write things down in chrono-order, starting with "a patient came into a bar" and write down everything the patient mentions. Integrating all the information is the best way to reach a correct diagnosis.
(QueryShark learned about this by reading Dr. Lucy Hornstein's most excellent book Declarations of a Dinosaur)
This is not true for writing novels and, more to the point here, REALLY not true for writing queries.
You already know what's important (the diagnosis) since you wrote the novel. Focus on the key pieces of information that will entice a reader. I don't need to know the patient has hangnails if the problem is a shark bite to the nose.
Before long Kate finds herself clearing away the overflowing ashtrays and empty shot glasses that litter Peter's desk every morning. He refuses to admit that there is a problem but Kate knows better.
Right here is where the story almost starts.
Peter finally concedes that his partners are under investigation for insurance fraud. He worries that his career may be in jeopardy when he is summoned to testify in court. At the same time, Kate discovers a small lump in her breast.
If this is such a small town, how is it she (and everyone else) don't know the partners are under investigation for insurance fraud.
Kate schedules an examination and a mammogram before she shares any of this with Peter; he has enough to contend with. But when her X-ray report is suspicious for cancer, an urgent referral is made for a biopsy. Kate has no choice but to place her care into the hands of Peter's colleagues. This is a small town; no one else can do it.
And she can't drive to Boston?
This isn't important.
However, Kate's recovery from disfiguring cancer surgery is complicated by a nagging intuition that something is wrong. At first, she is elated to learn that her surgery was a success. But elation turns to doubt and doubt, to despair when it dawns on Kate that the surgical findings are inconsistent with her X-ray and biopsy reports. Although she has no proof, she is certain that a mistake was made--a mistake that led to a grave misdiagnosis and to needless surgery.
This is where the important info is, but again, pare it down until you have one sentence: Kate realized the surgical findings are inconsistent with her x-ray and biopsy reports.
With the support of her friends, Kate summons the courage to confront her surgeon, Dr. Berg, about her concerns. When he dismisses her misgivings as groundless she turns, instead, to a former colleague and friend for a second opinion. But before she can see him Kate discovers that her X-rays and pathology reports have vanished. This confirms her growing conviction that she has been the target of a lucrative cover-up that she fears may have taken the life of one of her own young patients months earlier.
Lacking evidence, though, Kate realizes that it is futile to pursue her case against Dr. Berg and his associates and thereby, to clear her husband of complicity. She is about to admit defeat when she learns that a solitary piece of incriminating evidence may be contained inside the tiny locket of a grieving woman hundreds of miles away, if only she can convince the woman to relinquish it.
We don't need to know the entire story. Final clues, solutions, secret info--none are needed. The purpose of a query is to entice me to read the book, and that's IT.
The Bandaged Place, a literary novel, is complete at 75,000 words.
I'll eat my hat and yours too if this is a literary novel. My first choice is women's fiction, but you might actually have a medical thriller on your hands.
I am a retired physician, having practiced family medicine for over thirty years.
I'm sure you hope they will, but honestly, no one reads novels to learn about misconduct in the health care system. That's what the National Enquirer is for. People read novels for entertainment.
And truthfully, a good novel simply can NOT be an accurate presentation on medical misconduct. Life is not a novel.
I hope you will, too.
Thank you for your attention and consideration.
I'm pretty sure the novel is going to need work after reading this. I don't think you've fully recovered from writing like a doctor. I see this with lawyers too.
Really good novels don't have everything on the page. Really good novels are like spiderwebs: the filaments, words, are important but the space they create, the unspoken, is what makes it beautiful.
You must trust your readers to make intuitive jumps with you and to know some of why things happen. They'll be able to do this easily if you write it by SHOWING, not telling.
This is a form rejection.