When your book is finally formatted and togged up in its fancy new design, complete with the table of contents and dedication pages, it’s called the "first pass." You’re sent your entire manuscript–by now copy edited, proofed, and vetted–with instructions to read through it, to return it in five days, and to only make grammatical or typo changes, to survey the pages for page breaks you had or hadn’t wanted. Anything else is expensive to change and may be used against recouping your advance. Still, when faced with my last chance to make changes, it’s all I want to do.
Is that the best sentence I can really write? I begin to nitpick paragraphs apart. And then I hate it all. This sucks, I say, I can’t even read anymore. I need more time! But there isn’t any. I reread, laugh some, cry a little, even. But then I get frustrated because really it’ll never be done. I could go on noodling, tweaking pages, graphs, sentences, and words. I like putting on the final touches, like adding the cracked pepper at the table. These kinds of details cannot be added in the cooking. You build up to them and genuinely cannot think of them when you’re churning out the work. They come later, like little fairies with insect wings, flitting about and landing just so. I’ve just sent it back knowing if I had more time, there’d be more "exactly right" turns of phrase. It might be my first pass, but all I do is second guess.