First Page Feedback – The Silver Cord

Here’s our first feedback!  Everyone please keep in mind that this is one editor’s feedback on the first page–and it’s what happens in the overall manuscript that makes the sale. 

@JeanAMead is writing a light paranormal women’s fiction story that does have an engrossing opening…


Against the corner of the house, veiled by shade and neglect, a sprout stretched its slender stem out of the parched clay, and a glossy leaf unfurled.  The old Victorian settled with a faint groan and the smell of sandalwood filled the air. After hundreds of years, it was time.


The air was molasses on my tongue, thick and indistinctly sweet. My future stood before me in the shape of a used-to-be-white Victorian house that I’d driven over nine hundred miles to move into.  The front yard consisted of dried orange clay, broken up by large patches of scraggly brown grass.  The shingles peeled away from the roof and most of the windows needed glass. I bet it didn’t have central heat and air.  I looked at the grass that desperately tried to grow and the house that desperately tried to die and decided to walk towards the house anyway. My kids followed suit.

My best friend stood on the porch with a coltish boy who fidgeted around her; he longed to greet his new roommates. Jess gave him the go-ahead and he shot off the porch. She followed behind in a few quick dancer-like steps and came up to my chin.

“Hi honey, I’m home,” I said.

Jess gave me the once-over then looked at the house and back to my face. “So, whattaya think Kat? It’s great isn’t it?  Lots of space, big yard in front… how was the drive?” she asked, in her usual machine gun style.

“Long and whiney,” I said. “I would love a glass of water.”

The children patrolled the front yard in a cluster, they chattered with hand gestures and animated expressions while we talked. Jess led me up the splintered stairs of the porch and opened the front door; unbelievably, it stayed on its hinges. The children joined us at the threshold and we all followed her into the small, dark parlor and looked around. The dense, stale air made the kids scrunch up their faces when they walked in.

We walked past what I assumed was the living room; it had a large brick fireplace with an old briarwood pipe and matchbooks on the dusty mantle.  Across from the fireplace stood a floor to ceiling built in bookcase flanked by two windows, which had most of their panes missing.

Jess led us down the hall, the wide plank hardwood floors felt gritty under my feet. The walls either dingy grey or beige, but it was hard to tell.

The morning light shone through the windows in the dining room and you could see the dust motes floating around as we walked. It was stifling hot in there, not a breeze in sight and the few panes of glass left magnified the heat of the sun.

She pushed through a swinging door and swished into a cavernous room.


First Page Feedback from Mary-Theresa Hussey

A lot of intriguing ideas here, and some great uses of words and images. The opening line’s description does bring up something Southern and gothic and the description of the house is fascinating. Love the comparison of house and grass—it’s visceral and particular. I have to admit, though, upon meeting Jess, and finding out she’s a new roommate (in a house with broken windows?) and needing water, it lost a bit of my attention. Curious about the hand gestures—some or all are deaf? A minor point for the prologue, but Victorian houses aren’t two hundred years old (though getting a bit closer, perhaps!) That little intro is some foreshadowing and I’m not entirely sure how useful it is, though it might become important later.

I’m glad it opened up as she entered, and not with a lot of the drive and prep time!

So the narrative bits are more intriguing to me than the dialogue. It’s flatter, more clichéd and not as intriguing. I’d encourage you to rethink those aspects and make the dialogue more effective and connected to the style of the rest of the writing. 

Thank you, JC for being our first test subject! Hopefully the feedback is useful and gives you–and everyone else!–something to think about.  

Does anyone have other points to share?

17 replies on “First Page Feedback – The Silver Cord”

I agree that we lost something with the switch from the house to the people. The lovely tension building as we developed the relationship with the house, which from the Intro seemed to be important, was broken by the mundane nature of the human interaction. Maybe if we’d got inside before the everyday world came between us. I think I’m in love with the house…

I was immediately excited by the gothic feel of your intro: “Against the corner of the house, veiled by shade and neglect” –these phrases you wrote are sooo cool–LOVE!

In the end when you wrote, “She pushed through…” Is this another character? A ghost perhaps? I’m curious and wondering what your story is going to be about?

Keep writing.

Fiona, That is an interesting point…perhaps I will consider her going into the house before any interaction with her friend.Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it.
Anne, thanks for the compliment! It was Jess who pushed through the door btw but yeah, there’s a ghost 🙂

There’s a lot of wonderful imagery here. I adore the house, but I have to agree with the others about the dialogue. I almost felt like it broke the beautiful spell you’d created around the house, though I wasn’t turned off by the characters themselves. It just felt like an abrupt change. You did a wonderful job, Jean! By the way, as a mother, I totally related to the “Long and whiney.” comment!

Wow, I LOVE the description. Unique and beautiful and real. Love the molasses comment, and the descriptions of the house and property. If I read this first page, I’d buy the book.

Hiya JC!

Read this on Monday, but I couldn’t quite find time to comment. First off, -hat tips-. It takes courage to do this sort of thing! Hopefully I’ll be brave enough to hit send on my own 1st page. 🙂

I agree with the larger consensus of comments, you lost me with the dialogue as well. It didn’t match the somber tone set up around the house and its new owners.

But I loved, LOVED your description. The little introduction up top is wonderful haunting and “hook-y”. This line: “I looked at the grass that desperately tried to grow and the house that desperately tried to die and decided to walk towards the house anyway” made me stop and re-read it twice because it was just -makes inarticulate noise-. And I laughed and cringed at the same time at the image of a “long and whiney” car ride. Need I say more?

Best of luck! Are you considering the Shivers line by any chance? I do think SYTYCW 2013 was open to Shivers submissions. Yes anyway, I hope to hear good news of a sale soon.

Hey JC, Congrats on the being the first. What a great intro. I did like the point of going into the house alone first. It gives the opportunity for some creepy feelings to emerge which I think will follow nicely with your engaging descriptions of the house. It could help introduce her character a bit as well. Keep writing. 😀

I’m delighted by all the enthusiasm and comments as well. It’s wonderful to see the energy and support and helpful comments.

Thanks for the interaction–it helps us all!

Like everyone before me, I think the description of the house brings it to life. You paint a very vivid picture. So realistic, I wouldn’t go near it.

Loved the imagery and tone of the first two paragraphs, but am on board with everyone about the dialog and descriptions of the two legged characters. I found myself wishing that they were introduced with more of an air of suspense and darkness than the casual banter.

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