Behind the Scenes: “The Advice that Created a Story” by Gregory Barrington

Authors get advice from all sorts of people – their family, critique partners, agents, and editors. Sometimes it takes a while to nail down exactly what’s needed, and the path to publication can be long. Here, Gregory Barrington shares how he stayed the course and put the advice he received to good use, turning his idea into a book called COW BOY IS NOT A COWBOY.  

And…we have another GIVEAWAY! Thank you, Greg, for offering a copy of your book!

The winner of Oscar’s American Dream from Barry Wittenstein is …..Lindsey McDivitt!!

I want to extend my appreciation to all the authors, illustrators, and publishers who’ve given away copies of their books through my blog! Being able to share books in giveaways and get books into the hands of kids has been a bright spot in 2020. I’m thankful for all you writers, illustrators, publishers, and most of all the READERS! 

CowBoyIsNotACowboy-CoverThe Advice That Created a Story by Gregory Barrington

September 2016

The first Dummy for COW BOY IS NOT A COWBOY was created in September of 2016. The idea played around a little goat (Goat Girl) asking a bull (Merle) if he was a cow boy. Merle thinks she means Cowboy—something he is not. The entire story (and I now use that term lightly) had a little bit of an Abbott & Costello Who’s On First sense of play. This draft was entirely dialogue and had A LOT of faults (something I had a hard time seeing at the time), However, the plus side was an editor encouraged me to pursue the story because she liked the characters and their voice.


February 2017

I’m now on book Dummy #8. No you’re not seeing double, the opening sequence is essentially the same as the original. All the major story revisions have been occurring in the middle and end. Why? Because that’s where the critiques were focused. It made sense to directly work on those areas and leave the opening alone…Right?


March 2017

This is dummy #12. A second editor from a different house was also interested in the book and I had a whole new set of suggestions (also all focused on the middle and/or end of the book). So the opening of the story remained basically the same. I think in this version I was trying to cheat around the choppiness of some of the later transitions by intentionally chopping the book up into scenes/acts.


The Rejection and the Advice.

So while I’m not showing them in the above examples there were actually a lot of big changes between all of the dummies. But all of the changes were the same type of edit…dialogue. There were no changes in structure and my 12 dummies and countless manuscript revisions didn’t hit the mark.

The second editor passed on the book and the first editor who still liked the characters gave me some advice: Ground the story. Try incorporating a narrator and/or setting.

August 2017

I’d like to say I spent the whole time between March and August working the story. But I didn’t. I let it rest. I needed really fresh eyes. In August I reviewed my notes. A Narrator. A Setting. .. I need to change everything. The problem was the beginning of the book.

That Fall the Humdrum Farm was born. It was a setting but it also created a tone essentially becoming another character in the book. As you can see below it also made me finally change the opening sequence and push the main “cow boy” dialogue further into the story.


Howdy Cowboy

Success. Cow Boy Is Not a Cowboy was Acquired in 2018. There were a few more edits but the new core was sound. While I sacrificed dialogue, I added heart and layers which transformed a lot of fun jokes into a story.

Below is a peek at the first few final pages. Thank you for reading.  I hope you enjoyed a look at the process and have a chance to check out the full story of Goat Girl & Merle in Cow Boy Is NOT A Cowboy.


Don’t forget to leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of the book! 
(Cont. US addresses only, please)

7 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes: “The Advice that Created a Story” by Gregory Barrington

  1. Congratulations! Thank you for sharing your revisions. It’s interesting through all of it, it was the beginning that no one commented on. This looks like a funny book. I can’t wait to read it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I’m so glad the narrator and setting addition proved to be the right key to unlock a “yes” for this story! Thank you for these insights into the evolution of this book! I think this may solve a problem I’m having with a dialogue-driven story that’s been getting rejections. Cheers!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Howdy! Congratulations! Cow Boy is NOT a COWBOY is a Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee (Arizona Reader Award Program) for the 2022-23 school year! It fits perfectly with the western theme I have in my library this year! I am looking forward to reading it to my K-2 students in library! I think they will love it!

    Liked by 1 person

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