First pass pages are DONE, BABY! FPP are the first time you see your book as a book, laid out and type set. The author gets these pages to proof them and make light edits. Now is not the time to change the gender of your main character and switch a sad ending for a happy one. Now is the time to fix typos, grammatical errors, small slips in logic. Here’s a few common mistakes I found in my work: by looking out for them in yours, your prose will be tighter and more readable.
1. Delete word repeats: Generally speaking, you want to avoid word repeats – using the same phrase, be it a noun, verb or (commonly) adjective – as much as possible. We all have our fallback words that we overuse. Or, commonly, we find a word we like and then unconsciously use it again right away, drawing attention to that word and undercutting its power (like I just did with commonly.) When proofing, replace words that have worn out their welcome. (Hint: do a search for just. It’s just crazy how often we use this slippery little sucker!)
Can you guess which word I deleted twice from this paragraph?
2. Your commas, your way: There are a lot of technical rules around the use of commas but honestly, screw that. This is my approach: they are a pause. Use commas to create the meter of your prose. Even if there's supposed to be one, feel free to delete it. This is my approach to copywriting in general: readability is more important than rules.
Technically, I’m meant to have commas after Hi and fuck off, but that’s not how I imagine the greeting spoken. So I took them out. I’m crazy!
3. Suddenly, I realized I didn't need suddenly. You can almost always delete suddenly from fiction. It’s part of telling yourself the story, as you imagine it playing out, but whether it’s a lightbulb moment/knock at the door/fist swinging to someone’s face: it all happens suddenly as far as the reader is concerned. Create surprise and urgency from having the moment appear on page with no introduction, then it will be sudden as opposed to you telegraphing to the reader it is sudden. Falls into show don't tell, generally.
4. Delete doubled-up ideas. Lacey’s breast surgeon, Dr Laura Williams, is described thus: six feet and almost disconcertingly beautiful; a tall Kerry Washington, in a white coat. Later, Lacey meets a couple of gay guys outside a fashion show she’s attending:
Wow, do I think every black person is six foot tall? Looks like it: I deleted six-foot from this.
5. Double-check foreign language: To end on, a fun, narrowly avoided disaster. Here’s the Mandarin my friend Nat translated for me: “Xièxiè nǐ, wǒ de lǎo péngyǒu,” Elan says. “Měi yīcì dōu měiwèi.”
And here’s how it somehow appeared in the FPP:
Literally gibberish. And that, ladies and gents, is why we have FPP.