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The Art of Finding & Developing Ideas

Developing your great idea is a piece of cake. LOL, just kidding. It’s hard. The world is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. But when you find an idea that captivates your soul, you become obsessed. Or at least that’s what happened to me and my pilot script.

The idea for my pilot script came to me in my screenwriting class. My professor, Ms. Kennedy, required us to pitch ideas in front of the class. So, I pitched two ideas that no one seemed to like. In fact, I remember Ms. Kennedy really hating my first idea. Out of desperation, I pitched an idea that had been dormant in mind for months. When I finished pitching the third idea, the class went wild. The room got so loud with chatter that Ms. Kennedy had to shush them.

That afternoon, I sat down and started writing my pilot script. The idea had been simmering for so long that it almost wrote itself. However, it took many drafts to get the story right. I’m not going to mention the exact number because it’s kind of embarrassing. But I was obsessed with the story and knew it had potential.

Here are a few things I learned along the way about ideas:

  1. What scares you? What topic is the most troubling? What topic do you least want to face in your writing? Find 3 to 5 fear or discomfort points, write into it and build a world around it. This is the easiest way to find good ideas that turn into great scripts.

  2. Watch the news. As a writer, I’ve found that watching the news and reading articles can inspire me and expand my thinking. This is critical if you have writer’s block or can’t think of any ideas. Fun fact: according to the show's creator, the concept for Breaking Bad was formed because of a New York Times article.

  3. Get excited. If you have five ideas, focus on the one that excites or scares you the most. Being emotionally connected to the story is key in making a great script. It’s also helpful because writing is a long process from the draft to the pitching stage. If you are lucky enough to pitch to executives, that natural excitement will ooze out and pull people in.

  4. Don’t follow the crowd. If you’re a new writer, you don’t need to mimic what you think Hollywood is buying. Let that influence how you pitch, not what you write. What’s most important is that you emotionally connect with your concept and that your script is authentic to your voice. This project will be your baby; it will thrive if you love it, believe in it, and are willing to fight for it.

  5. Write it. This is the hardest part. You can have the greatest idea ever but if you don’t put your fingers on the keyboard…you have zero, zip, zilch, nada. Force yourself to write. What helped me complete my script was fellowship deadlines.

  6. Join a writers’ group. A writers’ group is great because it gives you a support system. I found my group on MeetUp. By the time I joined, I finished my script and wanted opinions. Not only did I get to workshop my script for free, but I also met great writers. If you can’t find a group in your area, try posting in our collaboration forum and create a remote group. When you find a few members you click with, we can setup a virtual space for you.

  7. Look for opportunities. Once your idea has blossomed into a beautiful script, send it out into the world! Submit it to fellowships, REPRESENT Mentor Sessions, etc. But do your research and only apply to reputable programs. There’s a lot of contests that prey on emerging writers.

Great ideas are awesome, but the execution matters the most. So, push yourself, believe in your characters, and don’t stop when the going gets tough.

Sana Hussein is a recent college graduate from Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business. After graduation, she decided to chase her dream of becoming a screenwriter instead of going to law school. In her free time, she enjoys travelling to countries on Trump’s travel ban list.


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