I wrote about how I developed the idea for Chasing the Skip over on John Brown’s blog a while back. I won’t repeat myself, but you might want to check that out if you’re interested in such things.
Here are some other thoughts on the subject.
It’s true that ideas are everywhere, but I’m pretty judicious about what ideas I’m willing to entertain. I don’t write down every idea I have; I wait for an idea to stick with me for days or months or even years. If an idea is good, I’m not going to forget it; if I forgot it, it obviously wasn’t compelling enough to entertain. I usually come up with about two or three ideas per year that I think would actually be worth writing about.
Most ideas come in pieces. I’ll think of a character I’d like to write, but no concept to go with it, or vice versa. So I collect good ideas and let them rattle around in my brain, bumping into one another.
For example, I have an idea for an adult dark urban series that has been rattling around since 2005. I have a concept; I have a couple of characters. The books seem like they would be a ton of fun to write. But they’ve never connected themselves to a good conflict, and without a conflict, I can’t write a pitch or an outline. I’ve actually tried pitching and outlining the book with a couple different conflicts, but none of them have ever been compelling enough for me to want to write them. I could work more actively to develop this idea, but I haven’t felt like it’s a great investment of my time, since none of my other books are adult. I have friends who bug me periodically to write this idea, and someday I probably will. But for now, it rattles.
Sometimes ideas come together in a way that makes me excited about them. I’ll have a concept that when it collides with a character opens up all kinds of exciting possibilities. A conflict will attach itself to them, and I’ll see how that particular conflict with that particular character would be complex and interesting enough to explore over the length of a novel. When I have several ideas that I think fit together like that, it’s time to attempt to turn them into a pitch.