6) The Last Day With the Pass Pages

I finished writing the first draft of DEPOSING NATHAN on September 30, 2016. I remember that night distinctly, because I’d spent the day writing about 60 pages in 8 hours. When I finally reached the last few sentences, I could feel it—that realization that the thing I’d been creating was about to be…well, created. And then I typed “The End,” even if you’re not supposed to do that, and after I dried my tears, I went for a long run in the pouring rain.

And just over two years later, the first week of October 2018, a box showed up on my doorstep. Inside: ARC’s—advance review copies—of my book. (We hadn’t figured out the new cover yet, so these had the original design).

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Exciting stuff, but—like always—still not room for too much of an exhale. Because over the next month, two things were going to happen: my publisher was going to start distributing the ARC’s to reviewers, and I was going to sit down with the physical pages (formally called “Pass Pages”) and make any final, final corrections with a red pen.

I was required to mail the corrected pages to my publisher no later than the end of the month, at which point I wouldn’t be allowed to access my book again. I wouldn’t even be sent back a final pdf to confirm how my edits were incorporated, so for the love of God I’d better write legibly (lest I pick up a copy on pub day to find a giant header titled DESPOSING NATHAN).

Before I knew it, the month had flown by, and I was down to the last 24 hours. I sat down Friday morning to begin my final round of corrections (the ms was due in the mail by noon Saturday). The following hours were honestly so stressful, emotional, and chaotic, that I took breaks every now and then to write quick personal notes to myself on my phone. Tonight, nearly six months later, I thought I’d share those notes with you.

9 AM Friday: Here we go! The final day—I’m so excited (but also STRESSSS). Just got back from the Michael’s store to get stuff for the Halloween party tomorrow. Then I went downstairs to the basement with the manuscript and—much like high school me—I am not coming out.

Let’s bring this home, shall we!

12 PM Friday: So far so good! Got almost all the pink notes done with. Allowing for time to Xerox the pages as I go.

3 PM Friday: Taking a quick break to rest my brain juices. Haven’t had time get away from me like this in a while. Legit thought it was 1:30 until I looked at the clock. Done w/about a third of what’s left.

6 PM Friday: WHOA. Have not had time move this fast in a while. A little over half done. May not be time to totally finish. Got Rocky Horror tonight at 11:30 (brain will be fried by then either way).

8 PM Friday: Boyfriend is a wonderful saint who brought Chipotle. Still have not been upstairs since this morning. Definitely won’t be time to finish everything. Got through the pink notes. Orange somewhat.

9 PM Friday: Legit starting to worry if I’m writing legibly. Almost just misspelled a word (no clue if they’d catch that? What’s procedure there lol). Going to have to get up early tomorrow morning. Only a few orange stickys left. Green next.

10 PM Friday: That’s all. Done all I can for today. Brain is FRIED. Will get up early tomorrow to finish (after Rocky Horror, RIP sleep lol).

I got up the next morning at 6 AM. I didn’t write any personal updates on my phone this time, but here’s a reconstructed summary of how the morning went for me.

6 AM Sat – 6 Hours Until Deadline

I made my coffee, same as always, and sat down with the pages. Listened to the pattering of the rain outside the window as I put on some nice classical. The rest of the house was empty—it was too early for anyone else to be awake.

8 AM – 4 Hours Until Deadline

My suspicions turned out to be correct: I wouldn’t have time to fix everything. I’d be turning in something less than my best. And you know what? If I’d been given an extra week, I’d probably have been saying the same thing.

9 AM – 3 Hours Until Deadline

I flipped through each page—Jesus, there were so many PAGES. That line is going to have to stay. Damn it, I hate that Biblical argument on page 218. Should that last line be “carved into the stars” or “painted into the stars”? Too obvious or symbolic?

10 AM – 2 Hours Until Deadline

Literally screw it.

God—I’d said this for so many college assignments. But these? My pages? My book?

11 AM – 1 Hour Until Deadline

We’re done here. Let’s get moving.

Not yet. In a minute but not yet.

It was like that feeling at the end of a final exam, when there’s nothing more you can do but there are still a handful of minutes left on the clock. I was almost out of time, but I didn’t want to get up and submit my work yet. So instead I just flipped through page after page after page and I looked at this blabbering, beautiful collection of words I’d created as I held them in my hands one last time.

11:30 AM – 30 Minutes Until Deadline

Come on.

This was it. The words would be out of my hands and I would never get them back. My little brainchild will have graduated high school and gotten into a really good college and now it was my job to let it go and turn it loose on the world to make it a better place like I hoped it would.

I had the box ready. My jacket on my shoulders and car keys in my pocket. I mean—come ON, man. I’d been with this story for years.

Oh, how I wish this book was better. God, do I wish it was better.

This manuscript and I had been together for so long; seen so many different places…we started our journey together in my old bedroom at my parents’ house, the night I made that list of everything I wanted NATHAN to be. This story followed me to my summer apartment where I got my offer of rep, then to my shitty solo apartment thirty miles north, then back down a year later when I moved into my first house. We’d sat together revising in lecture, at work, in hallways, the morning of college graduation…all those nights I came back to my dorm in tears because some cute boy or girl had ghosted me on Tinder. NATHAN was my go-to. We discovered new songs together. Explored new emotions and stayed up all those nights together in the beginning.

And now we had sat together for the last time…drinking our usual coffee as I thumbed through the pages, getting my little caterpillar all spiffy in its final days, preparing for its emergence as a beautiful butterfly on May 7, 2019.

I took a picture in the hopes I would never forget the caterpillar days.

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“Okay. Okay,” I said, holding the pages in my hands. And that was all.

I packed everything up and took the box down to the post office. But before I did, I wrote one last sticky note—and this one was staying here, because it was just for me. And as I wrote it, I remember smiling even though I wasn’t exactly happy, and tearing up even though I wasn’t exactly sad.

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