Advice to New Writers #1: Catching the Idea

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Advice to New Writers #1: Catching the Idea

Let me begin this by saying that this series of journal entries will in no way shape or form address HOW TO WRITE. Also there will many, many, many flaws both grammatical and structural contained within. I am a mess when it comes to finer technical details or writing, not because I am incapable of utilizing them but because my mind moves so fast that I literally do not see them unless they are pointed out to me.

You will hear more about that when I talk about editors.

The idea is the basis for all stories. I do not care what your idea is or how it comes to you. All I care about and all you should ever care about is that you have that fucking idea. Be able to identify it and then be prepared to jump on in and hold it down, forcing it to submit to you, the writer. Ideas are vicious tricky sons of bitches, they want nothing more than to escape your grasp and return to the land of Odd. Thus leaving you limp n and unfulfilled.

Once you have that idea you need to contain it. The only way I have found to contain an idea for any length of time is through words. I don’t mean a fully fleshed out tale that hits all of your story beats and is 100% ready for publication either. Some writers find that notes and outlines are the best way to contain that tricky bitch, the idea. I find those methods less than optimal. That is not to say that those approaches are wrong or bad, for many writers they are the main way they work and they need nothing else.

I work in short stories.

To me a short narrative that encapsulates the essence if not the entirety of the idea in the preferred method of containment.  At first I would write these tales (500 – 5000 words each) and put them away to be expended into longer works as time permitted. The initial basis for the first book of the Shores of the Dead series was a short story taking place in a locked bathroom. If you have read the book you know what I am talking about.

Within the last year my approach has changed.

One day I decided that the Short Story approach could serve two purposes. First, they could allow me to safely contain the bitch. Second, the stories were a type of warm up for larger works. Yes I know hundreds of other authors have said the same things in past years but this was a new revelation to yours truly. Every time a crafted a short tale felt that my writing instincts became sharper and more flexible.

Free Story Friday (FSF) was the end result.

I won’t spend too much of this writing whoring my own work. What I will say is that FSF is my attempt to get the raw ideas out there and take in some feed back without charging people money.

Once you have succeeded in catching the idea and containing it in your preferred way you have to decide what you are going to do with it. I will be honest, 7 out of every 10 of my ideas never make past the containment stage. Either I find that once I look at them in the bright light of day they are not very good, or they prove to be more than a writer of my limited abilities can handle and I turn myself to easier work.

Please do not let this discourage you.

Not all ideas should be expanded, and even if they can be expanded they just might not be the ideas for you. If you look at an idea after you have captured it and it doesn’t excite you, if you don’t have to fight the urge to ignore all of your other obligations in order to work on it. Guess what? You and that idea are probably not a good fit. This is not your fault, and it is not the ideas fault. It is just the way things are.

Next time we will talk about what I have found to be useful when it comes to fleshing out your idea. Also I will point out some pitfalls you may wish to avoid.


- Josh


Josh Hilden

When I was born on August 3, 1976 in the great state of Michigan the hills shook and the sky was swept with fire. These were portents of the greatness for my future that was written in the stars ... I'm still waiting for that greatness. My name is Josh Hilden and I am many things. I am a husband, a father, a son, a friend. These are all important things but at my core I am an artist and the medium that I work in is words. I am a writer of Horror, Science Fiction, Drama, and Role Playing Games. I worked for Palladium Books ( and Third Eye Games ( before striking out on my own and founding a small press publishing company Gorillas with Scissors Press ( I also work for Fat Goblin Games ( In the everyday world I can be found spending time with my family and friends. I have been married to my lovely wife Karen since 1996 and we have six amazing children. We tend to be a family of unabashed geeks and gamers who were geek before geek was chic. If you are really interested in me I am very active online with a personal and a writing blog along with a plethora of social media outlets. If you have any questions or just want to chat hit me up!