First Page Feedback – The Paper Girl Next Door

Here’s the next First Page Feedback! The Paper Girl Next Door is by Elizabeth Cardoza, and aimed at Special Edition.

Finn Patterson balanced a crate of leftover wine under his arm while he locked the door to his now-empty wine shop one last time. It occurred to him he should feel more emotion about this. Locking the door meant he would never have to come back here to his hometown, but the closest thing to a feeling he could muster was relief.

He only opened up shop six months ago, but already he had regular customers, none of whom were happy to see him close. But times were tough, and even the shops and boutiques on Charles St., right in the heart of the wealthy Beacon Hill and Antique District areas of Boston, weren’t immune. His regulars expressed sympathy when his going-out-of-business signs went up, but none seemed especially surprised.

“We’re going to miss you around here, kid,” one customer said when Finn rang up a few bottles of clearance Riesling for him the day before. “My wife and I looked forward to your wine tastings every single week.”

Finn nodded his head and grunted in agreement. “Everything for a reason,” he said, and slid the wine in a brown paper bag before handing it to him. A canned response his mother used to feed him for the sole purpose of offering comfort, met with varied success. It worked when he had to go to his grandmother’s house instead of a friend’s birthday party at a new pizza place, and later everyone who went to the party got food poisoning. It worked less when the girl he had a crush on in the sixth grade liked another boy. As he grew older, it was harder for him to believe more often than not. And after the accident, he stopped believing it all together.

His real reason for closing had nothing to do with money, but he let everyone think that rather than tell them the truth. After everything, closing up shop was the bright spot of the last few months. It meant he could move on. For years, he avoided coming home. He hadn’t been back since he left for college, right after the accident, and he only came back a few months ago because his mother got sick. He could hardly remember anything good happening here. Now, there was nothing – and nobody – to call him back. Two more weeks, some loose ends to tie up, and he was out of here for good.

With the door locked and one last look up and down Charles St., Finn would have been ready to walk the two blocks to the subway, if the window display at Duff Paper Co. hadn’t caught his eye. Or, more specifically, the woman on a stepladder in the window display at Duff Paper Co., reaching towards the ceiling to straighten a floor-length paper spiral, the small of her back exposed where her blouse rode up. Her long red curls brushed the top of her jeans, accentuating her curves. And this woman was all curves.

 Feedback from Carly Silver!

The first page of THE PAPER GIRL NEXT DOOR has a few intriguing hooks and a clear, fluid writing style, but they appear a bit far down the page. It opens on the hero closing his store, supposedly due to the recession, but we only later find out it’s due to family reasons. I suggest the author move that up so that the reader can get an immediate sense of the hero’s true concerns, which appeal to Special Edition readers. As it stands, it took me a bit too long to figure out why this story could be a Special Edition; a hero closing a wine shop in Boston could be work in any line. Only when we hear about the hero’s family issues does this manuscript hint at being a Special Edition.


Only having one page to read is very challenging and some snap judgement have to be made. That’s why it’s so important as to how to hook readers from the start! Hope this helps, Elizabeth!

13 replies on “First Page Feedback – The Paper Girl Next Door”

Hi, Elizabeth! It was a pleasure reading your work and I hope that you submit again to Special Edition in the future.


The writing is nice. However, for me personally, there isn’t enough drama/tension/or sparkle to make me buy the book.

I think it can be easily fixed and I can tell by the writing that this author can do it.


Hi Elizabeth,

The phrase ‘Everything happens for a reason’ certainly got me intrigued about Finn’s mother. I’m thinking.. why has he returned when she’s about to die? Was she a bad mother? Is that why he left in the first place? However, the food poisoning and sixth grade crush was irrelevant to this opening, stealing some of the mystery away. If you hint more on the accident, I think it will work better. Who caused the accident? Was Finn involved? Is he somehow disabled by it? The other point is, in my opinion, you gave too much ink space to a business that is closing? Instead, mention what his occupation is and what he’s been doing until now. I think you have enough in the opening to do make it work. All the best.

Hi Elizabeth,

I really enjoyed your writing style! I did want to read more about the accident. Was it something that happened to him or an accident he was involved in and someone else got hurt? Nice show of his character that he came back when his Mom was sick. I hope to read more of your work! I really like it.

I’d like to know more about the accident and why he’s so relieved the shop can close. I’d have read on to find out more as I was enjoying it.

Nice writing style and raises some intriguing points and questions to answer. I probably would have liked it to start with “With the door locked and one last look”. I’m not experienced with Special Edition however so not sure what “feel” you should be going for. A lot of the information you give could be trickled in later…even while he’s admiring the curves and regretting he wont be around to investigate them. 😉

I thought that it was quite a bit of introspection, flashback and background information for the start of the story. Slows down the narrative progression quite a bit. Voice and flow is good though.

Nice style. I can see where the editor was coming from and you peaked my interest. I’m sorry but I like a bit of background. The accident is intriguing. All learning curves 🙂

For me this story came alive in the last para. The long red curls brushing the top of her jeans really made me want to read on. Good luck with your story and I hope I get to read more!

The story flowed along quite smoothly and your writing style is great, but I agree with some of the others about there being too much introspection in the opening. Still, I would have kept reading as my interest was immediately piqued by that last paragraph!

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