first pass

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.



  1. It is probably better in its original, more raw form anyway. Sometimes things can be refined to death and then they just seem empty or manufactured. Perfect turns of phrase don't get at the heart of things. Let it go, and trust that when you originally put it down on paper the first time, it came from your gut. That is where the good stuff is.

  2. Stephanie,
    All that said, still, you can feel a great sense of accomplishment. Also excitment knowing that Moose will hit the stores in a matter of weeks! Yeah!

  3. I know it's going to be great. Can't wait for the Austin booksigning – 5-27-08 right?

    FROM SK: Yes, love! The very day it comes out. It'll be a book release party, 7pm!

  4. I just sent in my final draft of my first chapbook to the publisher last night and keep wanting to write her back and add something, subtract a little.

    At this point, more than your eyes have looked at it and agreed it's good. Next month you'll have a book in hand. Congratulations!

  5. I feel ya. I do the same thing with my magazine contributions. I keep thinking that it's going to get easier and it never does…Congrats on the book.

  6. Is it even possible to write something that you wouldn't change? It seems like no matter how many edits you do, with each passing day, there is something you could adjust to make it better. It's infuriating. I'm sure your book is filled with plenty of fairies, though, SK!

  7. I can't imagine that kind of decision making. All that tweaking. It would drive me crazy. But what an accomplishment!!! Yay for you. Congrats on book #2!

  8. Reminds me of Star Wars oddly enough. When they did the remakes ('special edition') at the end of the 90s, they got a chance to make corrections too. And in the end George Lucas said that your movie is never finished, but you have to abandon it. Well, I think it's George Lucas, I may be totally messing up quotes here. But hey, just saying that it's not limited to writers, directors and I can imagine musicians must have this too.

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