If you want to write a novel, you are going to have to begin with an idea. If you are thinking about writing a novel, you probably already have an idea. I guess the question is, is it a good idea?
Ideas for novels come from everywhere for me. Often, they are sparked by a vivid dream, or by spoken words that hit me hard or make me laugh. The words often bring an image of a place or a character. Once those characters begin to develop, they never leave my head until I finish writing their story. I imagine what they sound like, what happens to them, why it happens, how they react to their circumstances and surroundings, etc.
When an idea comes to my head, the next task is to mull it over for a few minutes. It only takes that long to know if the story is going anywhere or if it's just another idea resulting from being the owner of an overactive imagination. I give every idea at least a few minutes. If it dead ends quickly, I throw it out. If it begins to evolve and I like what I "see," I WRITE IT DOWN. If it is a dream, I write down as detailed as I can the contents of the dream. If any plot has evolved, I jot as detailed an outline as possible. With the idea on paper (or computer) I know it isn't going to slip away. Ever. Unless I get Alzheimer's. To give you an example of the power of these ideas, I'll share a little bit about my next project. It is a fairy tale that has to do with a certain princess who sleeps a lot. The idea for this story came from a dream I had over 15 years ago. I wrote it down in my high school English composition book. Because I wrote it down, I'll always have it, even though it has taken this long to do anything about it. The time we have to work on writing won't always be sufficient for the ideas we have, so keeping track of them ensures they will be ready and waiting when we have the time.
I keep a zoo of notebooks in my house. When I have a keeper of an idea, it gets its own notebook. That way, as the story progresses in my head, I have a specific place to keep track of it. If you look closely to this picture, you'll see my notebook for Snow Whyte on the bottom. Now that it has been published, I've ripped out the pages with notes and given the leftovers to my children who never seem to have enough paper for drawing, writing, and composing music.
It's also a good idea to keep notebooks handy in case you have an idea at random. I try to keep a notebook in my car and in my purse. I've also written down scenes or dialogue that came unexpectedly on napkins and the back of receipts. Use whatever works to get the ideas out of your head, which for writers is a vast pool of images and situations that will drown ideas that don't get written down.
Where do your ideas for novels come from?