For me, stepping away from the story after finishing a first draft is one of the most important parts of rewriting. The story has to be cold enough for me to see the big picture. That usually means at least two weeks, ideally a month.

I started to read my work ten days after I finished the rough draft. My experience has taught me to read the entire manuscript over a few consecutive days. Unfortunately I had a couple of major interruptions. One was the arrival of 750 bulbs that needed to get into the ground now. (Did I tell you I love gardening?)

One of my rules that I try to follow is to not start tinkering with the work at this stage. I think it’s dangerous because you will lose sight of the big picture which is what this stage is about. Occasionally I will fill in a missing word, but other than that I keep my note-taking in my notebook. Wonderful things will happen at this stage if I don’t judge myself harshly. That’s why some people call this the discovery draft. I think I will start adopting that as my reference to my first draft.

Reading a discovery draft can be painful if we get into a negative mindset, but this is where we should be childlike and in awe of the possibilities of our story.

Here are some of the possibilities that can happen when reading a discovery draft:

  1. Holes can be identified. Big gaping holes where we need to add a part of a subplot or a character flaw or running thread (the note box indicates a thread above). When I happen upon the holes, I’m not discouraged because I realize I’m finding my way.

  2. Finding a place for humor. We all love to laugh, and if a serious story has some humorous moments that can be a beautiful thing, even if they are small moments

  3. Realizing something that was going to be important isn’t or vice-versa—realizing something should become more important.

  4. Another scene forms in our minds that strengthens the one we’re reading

  5. The ending becomes more clear

  6. The theme becomes more evident

  7. And much more

You can’t rewrite without rereading your draft. If you approach your first read as an exploration on a path to the heart of the story, finding possibilities for a stronger draft can be abundant. Then you do it again. And again.



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Quite a few of you expressed interest in following the revision process for my book that will be published in 2020. I’m excited about that because I love rewriting. Over twenty years ago, my editor, Christy, wrote in her first editorial letter to me, “Rewriting can be truly magical.” Those words come to me every time I begin to revise my newest manuscript.

By sharing my rewriting process as I go along, I hope to give you a clear vision of what it’s like for a writer, at least this writer as I return to the same story, again and again, attempting to make it better with each draft until is good enough for you, the reader. Warning: It may sometimes be an emotional journey because I haven’t learned to write any other way.

Before you jump on the train and head down the revision tracks with me, I thought you might want to know about how I came up with the idea of NOWHERE, TEXAS.

I never planned to write a sequel or a companion novel to WHEN ZACHARY BEAVER CAME TO TOWN. I never wanted to. I had said all I wanted to say about that story. Recently though I wondered what happened to Toby? Who did he marry? Did he have any children? When I started to think who he might have married, I laughed, thinking, “Of course!” Then a new story started to ignite. I could write about his son, I thought and Cal’s son. They could be friends just like Toby and Cal. Thank goodness I quickly realized that would be the wrong story to write. It would have been hard not to write the same book.

But what if Toby had a thirteen-year-old daughter and Cal didn’t have children? Who would be her friend? And what if we found out what happened to the good folks of Antler and Zachary Beaver? The story started to form. When I did the math on Toby’s and his wife’s ages, it put the story in the early part of this century. My hopes are to show how 9/11 cast its shadow on a small town, not unlike the way the Viet Nam war did in WHEN ZACHARY BEAVER CAME TO TOWN. And like her father’s story, Rylee Wilson learns that true friendship endures.

That’s how it began. And now together, we’ll see where the journey takes us.


If you know a tween (9-12 year olds) in the Arlington, Texas area who likes to write, please encourage them to take my writing workshop. It will be part of the Arlington Public Library's Grand Opening, June 16, 2018, 4:00-5:30, 100 Center Street, Arlington, TX 76010. Go early and enjoy some of the other activities the library will be having.



My new book, Blooming at the Texas Sunrise debuts March 28, 2017, but you can preorder it now at your local or online bookseller. Please check my schedule page to see if I'll be touring to your area. If so, I hope you'll drop by and see me. 



This last fall I visited Central Primary School in Gonzales, Louisiana. Journalist Dorothy Kendrick with the Louisiana Public Broadcasting Station joined me there and did this nice piece on me. My work has always been connected with the love I have for family and place. I thank Dorothy for highlighting that. If you'd like to watch the video, click on the link below.

Here's a quick quick snippet.