I’m not sure why they call them first pass pages, since this is the last time I get to go through the manuscript.
First pass pages are also called galley proofs, or the proof. At this point, your manuscript has been through edits (larger content changes), and line edits (nitty gritty grammar fixes and the like.) The manuscript has been typeset and looks exactly as it will look in the published book.
Now, it’s your turn.
For some reason, this step really knocked me on my tuchus. Maybe it was seeing it laid out so book-like. Maybe it’s the finality of it. Maybe it’s the fear of reading through it and finding mistakes. Or not finding mistakes but wanting to rewrite it all anyway.
As I go through mine, I’ve learned a few things I thought I’d share.
1. Only Make Up That Which Can Not Be Verified
For instance, make up a whole town and no one can challenge a single detail. But if you’re writing about a gardener planting geraniums in Phoenix in June, you’ve got a problem. (Geraniums don’t grow in Phoenix in June.) Oops. I didn’t know that. I just thought geraniums sounded nice. When the book comes out in May, the gardener will be planting zinnias.
2. Beware of Repetition
If your character shrugs once in a scene, it’s a nice touch. If you character shrugs seven times, the reader will begin to worry if she has a medical condition. Same with eye rolls, nods, etc. If you edit in bite-size pieces, you might miss this. To be extra safe from now on, I’ll try and do a complete read in a short time for an overall picture.
3. At this Point, Your Book “Is What it Is”
Because the book has been typeset, you won’t be allowed to make many changes. And really, at this point, you shouldn’t need to. I know that’s easy to say and hard to follow. From the authors I’ve spoken to, it’s normal to read your own work with a critical eye. The urge is always there to be perfect. But you have to let that go, and remember one thing:
Your book Is What It Is. And what it is, is a book that an agent loved enough to send out into the world. And an editor believed in enough to champion. And a publisher believed in enough to invest their money.
It is what it is. Which is a pretty amazing thing. With warts and geraniums and all.