Hello, friends. A few weeks ago, I wrote about re-reading; I’m here today to talk about a different kind of re-reading.
Recently, I went through the first pass pages of “The Legendary Garrett Girls”. That’s the title of my short story in Jessica Spotswood’s upcoming A Tyranny of Petticoats – a collection of 15 short stories about girls in American history, to be published by Candlewick Press next year. (Here’s its Goodreads page, if you want to add it to your reading list.)
“First pass pages” (also called “page proofs”) is the stage at which an author sees something resembling the finished book. At this point, the manuscript has already been substantively edited, line-edited, and proofread. It’s then laid out (or “typeset”) using the appropriate number of lines per page, in the font we’ll see in the finished book. It’s a terribly exciting moment because until that point, the manuscript is a Scrivener or Word file (usually with a ton of tracked changes). When you receive the first pass pages, it suddenly looks like a book.
It’s also a pivotal moment because some months have elapsed since you, the author, last fiddled with the book. Seeing it suddenly re-framed (new font, new layout) after a gap like that makes the story seem like a faintly familiar stranger. Previously, depending on your writing process and personality, the story might have been a best frenemy of many years’ standing.
Sometimes, this distancing effect is delightfully liberating: I freely confess to having laughed at my own jokes. At other times, you gasp with horror because you suddenly realize that you’ve omitted something really important. In the case of “The Legendary Garrett Girls”, I had a moment of genuine queasiness when I noticed the omission.
Happily, this is why the various editorial stages exist. (First-pass-pages is NOT the time to add/strike a character or rework the plot, but small emendations – a sentence or two – are usually okay. This varies from publisher to publisher, of course.) I added two sentences to the story and a line to my author’s note, and we’re now good to go.
I’ll have one more chance to check the story for uncaught errors, when the advance reading copy (ARC) is printed. At that stage, though, our book will also be in the hands of reviewers and booksellers, so it’s much better to have corrected my oversight in this round.
I’m so grateful to work with passionate editors and proofreaders who lend me their expertise and make us all look good. And, as you can tell, I’m a big fan of re-reading.