I Have this Great Idea By Catherine Dilts


You introduce yourself as an author. Maybe mention a writing credit or two.

“The third book in my series is being released next week,” you say.

Instead of asking where they can purchase your novel, your new acquaintance hits you with an all-too-familiar line.

“I have this great idea for a book.”

Admit it. You’ve been on the receiving end of this conversation, or perhaps you’ve been the person delivering the germ of an idea destined to become a NYT bestselling novel. Whichever role you played, the end result was Awkward.

An author might struggle to be polite as the person rattles off a tedious and convoluted tale based on their experiences, or their neighbor’s, or their cousin’s wife’s niece’s.

A reader or fan, the possessor of the Great Idea, can’t understand why the author’s eyes are glazing over. In generosity of spirit, the information is shared at risk of being stolen. This is real life, true crime stuff. Pure gold. Why isn’t the author pulling out an IPad or notebook, and writing notes?

To really make yourself memorable, place qualifications for use of said Great Idea. (I’ve heard all of these and then some.) Give me credit on the book cover. Share with me the piles of money my idea is sure to generate. I’ll give you credit on the cover after you write it for me.

Here’s the pitfall – I have known more than one writer become drawn in by an intriguing tale, and waste a year trying to write someone else’s story.

On the other hand, authors should not brush off enthusiastic possessors of unique ideas. This person may gain the courage to write the story. How many people have you met at a writers’ conference, dismissed him or her as a talentless crackpot, only to see them win an award or get a mega-contract a few years down the road? There’s this thing called karma, my friend.

For some reason, my own family must think I lack ideas for new stories. I am frequently on the receiving end of suggestions. They typically have nothing to do with the type of characters and style of writing I do. My crazy cat sister regales me with detailed expositions on amusing feline antics. She is disappointed I have not used her ideas. She undoubtedly blames my refusal to write a cat story with my failure to make buy-an-island money.

Let me explain how to escape being either a jerk or a bore.

Readers and fans:

  1. Your experiences are your story to tell. No one can do it justice but yourself. In this age of Indy publishing, there is no reason you can’t tackle the task of turning your Great Idea into a great novel, biography, or true crime book.
  2. If you really can’t face learning how to write a book, find someone experienced with ghost writing. Try a local or national writing group like Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, or your town’s multi-genre writing group.
  3. The author you approached with your Great Idea may not be able to do justice to your story because he or she doesn’t write that type of book. Your idea may be fantastic, but perhaps this author lacks the ability to turn your idea into a great story.


Authors and writers:

  1. Suggest the person with the Great Idea get a notebook and pencil. Write down the idea. Add details. Offer to take a look and make suggestions when they have a notebook full.
  2. Invite the person to attend a writers meeting. Show them where to acquire the skills to turn the Great Idea into a book.
  3. Be gentle. This person might be talking through heartfelt life experiences. From such humble beginnings, great authors are born.


I have finally found peace with my creative but non-writing family members. I can see the Great Idea rise to a relative’s lips, then halt as they remember what my response will be.

“I have too many projects going right now, but here’s what you should do.”

I don’t think even one family member has gotten as far as purchasing the notebook yet.

But I’ll bet some reader or fan will be inspired by this article. Let that Great Idea lead the way as you follow your dreams!



Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, set in the Colorado mountains, while her short stories appear in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Catherine’s day job deals with environmental regulatory issues, and for fun she fishes, hikes, and runs. You canlearn more about Catherine at http://www.catherinedilts.com/



Stone Cold Blooded – A Rock Shop Mystery, published by Encircle Publications LLC, is available in paperback, and in e-book for Kindle http://amzn.to/2d0uMDB and Nook http://bit.ly/2dHtm4G

5 thoughts on “I Have this Great Idea By Catherine Dilts

  1. I run with all writers & very few ordinaries… – solves the problem. My family has barely grasped (after 30 years) that I actually write. OR maybe it is because Canadians consider it bad manners to spill your story to anyone, let alone someone you’ve just met. Our inbred politeness may work in a writer’s favor here. But, I do have one friend who has written a book with a man who was an undercover cop for years, is a riveting presenter who tells oral tales worth writing down. (and she is a strong, strong personality that can keep him on track.) Love your 2 lists – will keep them in mind if I ever get the question.

    1. Kindness is best, but it can be annoying. No, I haven’t got a single new idea in my head. I’d be glad to borrow yours.

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