First Page Feedback: Untitled #1

First Page Feedback: UNTITLED by Ashley B.

Copies of Lorin's feedback are available for download in the Resources for Writers section under Extras. If you're interested in submitting your first page (up to 250 words) for Lorin's feedback, please email a Word doc or text file copy to erin_anderson@free-expressions.com. 

Original:

It had been three months and seven days since the door to Hailey’s father’s office had been shut. It was strange, the way Hailey felt she was invading the privacy of a dead man, a man she knew wouldn’t be coming back for anything inside. No one would notice if the books were alphabetized, if his files were slightly askew, that there were fingerprints left behind in the dust that had settled like snow.

Hailey's Grandmother seemed to believe that if they kept the door to his room shut, they could continue pretending that he was still in there. That he was alive and well and simply holed up in his room, working on another story, not wanting to be disturbed.

Hailey had almost made herself believe it, too.

The sound of the door creaking open seemed to echo through the house, as if the universe was determined to make sure that everyone knew that this was it. The seal was breaking. Hailey Leeds was going in.

In a way, it was overwhelming how unchanged everything was, the fresh layer of dust aside. Some small part of Hailey had expected the room to be completely empty, as if when her father had died, everything he owned had been taken with him. Which was a ridiculous thought — it wasn’t as if this room would be the one thing able to defy nature and physics, when everything else had remained as her father had left it. His office didn’t know that it could feel free to pack itself up, that its purpose had been served, that it was free to shred his paperwork and empty its shelves and move on. It was another job passed off to the people he’d left behind.

Lorin's Feedback:

It had been three months and seven days since the door to Hailey's father's office had been shut. [This is a bit lackluster, especially for an opening line. The use of double possessives too (Hailey’s father’s office) is a little jarring as well. I wonder if you might make use of the second sentence, which is more compelling, in my view. Perhaps something like, Hailey felt strange, like she was invading the privacy of a dead man.” Not that I think it’s great at all, but play with it, see if you can come up with something a little more tantalizing.] It was strange, the way Hailey felt she was invading the privacy of a dead man, a man she knew wouldn't be coming back for anything inside. No one would notice if the books were alphabetized, if his files were slightly askew, that there were fingerprints left behind in the dust that had settled like snow. [Nice]

[This might also be a good launching point for the story.] Hailey's Grandmother grandmother seemed to believe that if they kept the door to his room shut, they could continue pretend ing that he was still in there. That he was alive and well and simply holed up in his room, working on another story, not wanting to be disturbed. [I would consider eliminating the opening paragraph and beginning with this one, which feels more emotionally resonant.]

Hailey had almost made herself believed it, too.

The sound of the door creaking open seemed to echoechoed through the house, as if the universe was determined to make sure that everyone knew that this was it. The if to alert everyone that the seal was breaking. Hailey Leeds was going in. [Good. I do wonder, though, if this simple act of opening the door to her father’s office has been overdeveloped at this point? Another reason to consider cutting the first paragraph.]

In a way, it was overwhelming how unchanged everything was, the fresh layer of dust aside. Some small part of Hailey had expected the room to be completely empty, as if when her father had died, everything he owned had been takenwent with him. [Compelling idea] Which was Aa ridiculous thought. -- it wasn't as if this room would be the one thing able to defy nature and physics, when everything else had remained as her father had left it. His office didn't know that to it could feel free to pack itself up, that its purpose had been served, that it was free to shred his paperwork and empty its shelves and move on. It was another job passed off to the people he'd left behind.


Thanks so much for sharing your page, Ashley! You have a passage of great emotional impact here, as it speaks to what many readers will have experienced in the wake of a loss.

As mentioned above, the opening seemed to spin its wheels just a bit, taking several paragraphs to really communicate one central idea. I’d challenge you to pare it down to its most powerful expressions of that idea. It seems you can likely cover that in just a paragraph or two.

Further, I’d love a stronger sense of what Hailey’s desire is in this moment. We don’t need to have it stated outright for us, but some intimation of her mission—entering her father’s office—as important and directed toward a specific end, would help enliven this quite a bit. If you can communicate some sense of urgency or some sense of the forbidden, something to tantalize and draw reader interest, all the better.

Again, thanks so much for sharing and best of luck with your work! 

-- Lorin