Susanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, says she got the idea for the popular disutopian novels one day when she was channel surfing. All of the channels were either showing coverage of the war in the middle east or reality TV shows. She said that it all started to merge together in a very distributing way. Ideas can happen anywhere around us. Anytime. You just have to keep your mind open in order to let ideas flow in.
I'll admit, I'm lucky. I've had the idea for Onyx Moon ever since I can remember. I would stay up late at night telling myself stories before I fell asleep. Sometimes they would bleed into my dreams. I began to "go" to the same place every night, and on the long bus ride to school. Over the years, characters developed and a plot eventually followed. By the time I was in high school, the story was bursting out of my brain. I didn't do to well in my classes. I was too busy day dreaming for all that nonsense. I finally got a hold of a bulky desktop and managed to get out the first few chapters. I took a semester off from college, where I only paid attention to my writing courses anyway, to focus on the rest of it. Boys and a social life ultimately got in the way for a while, but I finally finished it about a year after I was married. During those years, I had changed a lot as a person. I tried to edit the manuscript to reflect those changes to morals and spiritual beliefs. Looking back at the "Book" file on that bulky desktop, it was just a skeleton of the story I am proud to call my own.
I still have a long way to go with Onyx Moon. Two more books - at least. But I've had a long time to flesh out the story and I know if I concentrate, the plot holes will fill themselves. I specifically chose a part-time job where I would have a lot of time to let my mind wander.
It wanders too much. I have an idea for another fantasy series that has been nagging me lately. A few months ago, I was scrolling through Pinterest when I stumbled on a subject that seemed to be getting a lot of attention on my pin feed. My husband was engrossed in a fantasy video game at the time and I imagined a world where my latest Pinterest fascination could be widely explored. The idea spread as I went to work that day. I found characters and conflict and began to map out the cities on the concrete floor I was forced to spend 8 hours on. For days after that I couldn't sleep. Scenes played out in my head instead of dreams. I overheard countless conversations of people that didn't exist. But the more time went on, I couldn't deny their existence any longer. I finally sat down and mapped out the story and started the first three chapters. Since then, other projects have called my attention, but I can confirm that these new books will happen. They will just have to wait their turn.
In short, coming up with ideas are hard. Don't force it. Just do what you do in your daily routine and always question how things could be different. Keep your mind open to possibilities and don't ignore those random thoughts that might seem ridiculous at first. And it helps to have an annoying brain that never shuts up. :)